Rick Stansberger (email@example.com)
Sun, 12 Nov 2000 17:18:54 -0700
Bruce Smith wrote:
> You can't have it both ways. Either you work for reform, or you conclude
> that the system is beyond reform, incapable of being reformed, and you
> revolt. Either you remain within the system to do whatever you good you
> feel is possible (and prolong the system's existence), or you walk.
Bruce, I agree that the system is beyond reform, and I also get nervous in the
presence of either-or thinking. It's been my experience that there's just
about never only two choices. For instance, you can work at a traditional
school and a sudschool simultaneously, part time. You can work in a trad
school and then a sudschool, and vice versa. You can stand outside of both and
apply pressure. A revolution doesn't just take soldiers. It also takes cooks
and file clerks. There's lots of room for many different modes of revolution.
Also what about the millions of kids who are still stuck in trad school? Don't
tell me it does no good for them to see a teacher who's "way out" and who
exposes the foolishness of the system, because I know it does do good. I've
been told so many times by my own students. What if they NEVER heard a
dissenting voice? When it comes time for them to vote and pay taxes, how are
you going to reach them? "I went to public school and it was OK for ME,"
they'll tell you. If they remember a cool teacher who helped them discover and
explore their passions in spite of the system, they're likely to give you a
I can't find it in my heart to condemn anyone who stays in trad school to help
the kids. A couple of my own teachers provided a whiff of fresh air, and I'd
be a sadder and weaker person without them.
The irony is that these teachers are treated as outcasts or crazies by their
own colleagues, and many of their students take up the cry. Come the
revolution, when the trad schools disappear and sudschools take their place,
these humane, honest, caring individuals will be scorned by yet another group
of people, the Victorious School Revolutionaries.
And I disagree with you on another point. They don't keep the old order
running. They continually weaken it with questions and challenges. The ones
who keep the old order running are the unquestioning, incurious, humorless
functionaries in classrooms and offices -- AND the parents and kids who trust
and obey them.
For balance -- when I talk to my friends in the schools, I make sure they know
that I think reform is impossible, and WHY I think it's impossible. No sense
in having them waste their time and hope trying to change a self-defending
system. Still, I'm convinced that it's a waste of the human spirit not to give
the good ones their due, and also to recognize that some folks just get trapped
in their jobs.
These folks are not the enemy. If you search your memory, you'll know who the
enemy is. They're the folks who call students "units" or "fte's," who hid
behind words saying things like, "We don't teach TO the test, we teach FOR the
test." They're the folks who think it's peachy to hand out drugs to antsy kids
while pushing "Just Say No" and calling in the drug dogs. They're the people
who think it's more humane to say that a kid has Oppositional-Defiant Disorder
than to say he's disruptive. Save your ammo for the enemy, my friend. The
good teachers would join us if they could.
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