Flashback 1983: An urban school: Thirty or more children sat attentively in precise rows; walls were decorated with Spelling Awards adorned with Scratch-n-Sniff stickers (Mmmmmm skunk). Armed with basic credentials, teachers marched in with a passion to teach that outweighed any advanced degree. Typical assignments consisted of tissue paper Mexicos, celebratory pen-pal letters attached to balloons, and the quintessential state reports culminated with a potluck of the regions' native foods. Traveling to field trips in the back of the teacher's Datsun replaced any memory of where the field trip was actually to.
Ah, the good life. School was a place where the students found safety in the familiar environment and respected the efforts of their benevolent leaders. They left school being able to read. Once the school experience was over, graduates were quite capable of passing high school and college proficiency exams, made moral and ethical decisions befit successful, productive members of society, and quite possibly, even became a teachers of others. There was no harm done in their education. Ultimately, these were NOT children "left behind". They were prepared to be competitive in world markets and contributed to making America a "superpower". Fast forward 2008: Urban school...same building, now 40 to 50 years old (hopefully the asbestos and lead paint has been successfully removed). Uplifted squares of olive-green and mustard-yellow linoleum cover the floors in a room with peeling paint and minimal light. Cobwebs and the occasional daddy long-legs blow across the floor like a tumbleweed in an abandoned town (no money to beautify, to update). Termite droppings have to be brushed away to make use of the ledge; a ledge that now supports a hundred pounds of mandated, scripted teacher's editions (I'm sure they'll be programming robots to do the job soon). Any program that might have motivated a student to think of school as fun has been eliminated; no art, no music, (no money) no fun. No technology; one donated computer sits idle, too old to run software. Teachers: fatigued, overwhelmed, and fed-up with being told they are not doing an adequate job of raising other people's children (yes I am a teacher).
A corrupt, bureaucracy of overpaid, uninformed personnel run the districts telling the teachers that they have to be "highly-qualified" if they want to keep their jobs without pay increases. Surely the leaders KNOW what the children need even though they, themselves, are not "highly qualified". And finally, the accountability doctrines. No Child Left Behind, which basically states that all children need to be proficient by the year 2014...or ELSE!!!! (Anyone who has had basic statistics knows that according to the theory of Standard Deviation and the Bell Curve, 70% will be proficient and the other %30 will be split between advanced and failing; %100 proficient would be improbable).
Meanwhile, according to Congressional Budget Office estimates, $9-13 billion is being spent on war. Concerns over leaving a country damaged keeps us fighting...does that make sense? The rebuilding of their country and schools must take place if we are to be viewed favorably by the world (even though we took part in destroying the place). Yet, according to a recent report by the California Teachers' Association, the current California and Los Angeles school budgets require $4.8 Billion to be cut from from our very own schools.
So, in a nutshell, our teachers aren't "qualified", our schools are substandard and antiquated (especially when compared to news schools being built for other countries), and our students lack the ability to compete against the influx of foreign students who had their schools rebuilt for them or whose countries and families put priority on education. These are the battles in the war against education.
A war is fought in the classrooms when we plead for the children to behave and pray that they or their parents don't bring their own weapons. War is fought in the classrooms when we defend ourselves against the tirades that denounce our efforts in impossible situations, with impossible expectations. A war is fought in the classrooms when we have every resource taken away or its improperly funded.
For information on how you can make a difference in Los Angeles schools, or to support your local schools or educators, please visit UTLA.net.
Recent News: Governor proposes slashing almost 5 billion from education budget UTLA Actions to Protest State & Local Budget Cuts: Wednesday May 14 Day of the Teacher - Informational picketing at schools Week of May 26 Parent leafleting at schools Friday June 6 1 hour a.m. action read more... May - June Fight Against State Budget Cuts Calendar Send a letter to your Legislator to protest State Budget Cuts. Read the UTLA letter presented to the Governor on May 4 Legislator contact info