30 August 2011

New School Year

A new school year has begun.  Usually at this time of year I enjoy a palpable change in the cosmic energies of the universe. The usual flow of things alters, and the physical and spiritual currents churn and give the air a strong electrical charge. At this time of the year I begin again to see and hear children in the streets, home from summer camps and employments and family vacations; and when I drive on the roads I trail behind school buses practicing their routes in anticipation of the official start of school. In the early mornings, where I run high school football practices fill the air with shouts and grunts, and school parking lots begin to fill with the cars of administrators readying student schedules and of teachers preparing their rooms for the flood of students soon to arrive. All the stores about towns are stocked with school supplies: pencils, pens and paper fill the baskets of mothers and fathers anxious for the start of school. Clothes stores are running Back-to-School Sales, even furniture stores advertise desks and chairs suitable for budding students.  At this time I feel that a change in the direction of the universe is imminent. The air is charged with the nervous energies of the directed activities that mark the Fall tradition of school openings. School will soon be back in session: millions of people will re-direct their lives suddenly and disappear into the caves of the Pied Piper. The public world will experience a tidal shift; there will be a dramatically different dynamic out here. 
But the news is all bad. Though polls report that most parents love their local school, the same polls report that few approve of the school system as a whole. Books attacking the public schools, teachers and their unions pop up overnight like poisonous mushrooms, and the government initiatives, policies and programs offer little respite and more critique.  Too many in education walk about with their spiritual lives at risk. 
There are almost 3.5 million public school teachers in the United States; there are perhaps another 60,000-70,000 more teachers in private and independent schools and almost 1.7 million teachers in higher education. And almost daily I hear someone not engaged in the schools or education decrying the incompetence of most of these teachers. Since at least 1983 and A Nation at Risk, teachers have been the object of the vitriol of the politicians and businessmen in the United States. Everyone who has no knowledge of education but a great political (or economic) interest in it has weighed in on the poor quality of the whole system and particularly the ineffectiveness, nay, the incompetence of the teachers. And many of those teachers skulk about almost ashamed. And that is a terrible shame. 
The usual change I sense in the universe is gone, and as the school doors open I see too many teachers steal through the doors ashamedly; they have been labeled the enemy and their effort denigrated and condemned. It is they who have caused the imperial decline in the United States; it is they who produced the economic downturn and they who have caused and ill-fought two wars. The decline of the Cities, the return of segregated education, the growing gap between rich and poor lies at the feet of the incompetent teachers. It is all a terrible, stinking lie. 
Sometimes, as I drone on and on telling my daughter exactly what is wrong with her and how she might rectify herself, she turns to me and says “Will you just stop and get out.” I think that this is a strategy we teachers might assume. And we should enforce the order. We ought to assert out authority in the classrooms and do the work we used to love before it got ruined by people like them.


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01 September, 2011 05:55  

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