In Fall ’08 I entered a state school teaching credential program and completed one quarter. I struggled with many things during that period but a feeling of frustration that there was a missing piece somewhere became one of the main themes. All the classes were meant to teach us students to become certified teachers in public (government) schools. There were many professor-led discussions, critical of aspects of government schools, yet always with an underlying loyalty to the system in both the students’ and professors’ minds. Discussions asking questions such as “Why are schools failing? Why aren’t we turning out educated kids?” So many times the classes talked about “problems” with government schools– poor teaching methods, teachers, and curriculum. Antagonistic administrations, lack of money, stupid parents. The list goes on.
I couldn’t understand why we just didn’t fix the problems. I know, it can sound simplistic, but sometimes it is. I especially couldn’t understand the gripes about curriculum, or why so many schools use lousy textbooks when there are tons of great books out there. REAL books. Curriculum that works! I know, because I’ve used it. I learned from books like that. I know lots of other people who have, as well. I’ve read the catalogs that offer such materials. These things are not that hard to find. Why can’t these presumably smart teachers, administrators, and curriculum committees find these books?? And that is just one of the problems. There are solutions out there, but nobody was capable, apparently, of discovering and using curriculum that was glaringly superior and easily found.
During the weeks when I was most frustrated, I happened on a book by John Taylor Gatto called “Dumbing Us Down”. Finally, I got it. I understood why there are so many “problems” with government schools and why no one can find solutions. It was all summed up in one radical thought. A piece of information that sounds like heresy to most who hear it. All the politicians, teachers, and even plenty of parents who are all searching for solutions to all the “problems” will never solve them.
Government schools aren’t failing. They’re doing exactly what they were created to do! And they were not created to educate.
Although a small feeling of frustration remains, I no longer spend hours trying to figure out why people in education don’t just buckle down and do better. They believe in the system. They are loyal to it, and while they will spend their lives criticizing and trying to improve “problems”, they are incapable of questioning the entire system. Criticism is okay from those who trust the government schools and are attempting to improve “their own”. But criticism from those who question the system and say that the schools are not, in fact, failing, but triumphing gloriously, are only heretical lunatics. Ultimately, the only “problem” is that most people think that government schools were created to educate. Once you realize that that is not true, it makes more sense. There is still the whole issue of whether we want government schools to do what they’re doing, but the whole disconnect between a “place of education” being incapable of educating is resolved.