Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Greetings, Educators

I've been a high school English teacher since 1997, mostly in the City of New York, and over the years I've seen and heard some pretty amazing things in public schools. I've been a law student since 2005 and found that studying the law, in addition to making the world a good deal easier to sort out, has helped illuminate for me some of the more absurd conventions of secondary education which have unfortunately permeated today's high schools.

So much of the law, particularly civil law, revolves around the concept of what is reasonable that even a rudimentary understanding of the concept reveals just how unreasonable so much of today's educational policies, and the arbitrary edicts of supervisors, administrators and educrats, can be. The common-sense principles of basic fairness, economic efficiency, cost internalization, risk-benefit analysis, negligence liability, even corrective justice, where they should be applicable in a public school setting in the proper context, they very often are not. The main reason for this is the ubiquitous "self-esteem movement," the policy that "everyone's an achiever" in today's public schools, which has sadly reached an extreme which requires us to suspend logic and reason to avoid bruising the children's (and their parents') fragile egos. This admittedly oversimplified and overgeneralized paradigm forms the undercurrent for much of what I'll be writing about here.

I have been fortunate since 2003 to be teaching in a high school administered by good, decent, honest, reasonable, practical individuals who understand what is important and don't waste their energy on what is not. However, prior to that I taught in two different high schools, one in the suburbs and one in the city, which from my experience and observation epitomized everything that is wrong with public education, at least on the high-school level, in today's America. In both places I was subjected to the irrational and arbitrary edicts of deeply misguided administrators (one of whom was a dangerously delusional sociopath) who cared about all the wrong things and could not see how unreasonable and counter-intuitive their policies and directives were. I'll be writing about them as well but without naming names, since I'm concerned not with the people but with the problems they represent.

The essential problem I see with the schools boils down to this: they are far too conservative with the teachers, and far too liberal with the students. I don't use those terms to indicate any political affiliation; I use them in their most basic denotative sense. What I mean is that the tendency in schools has been to severely limit what and how teachers may teach, a phenomenon which would particularly affect me as a teacher of English Language Arts, but at the same time be unreasonably generous and lenient with students in terms of grading standards, academic and disciplinary accountability, etc.

I'm going to start by posting some of the writing I've already done on some of these topics, and add new material once the blog picks up some traffic. Thanks for visiting, and please feel free to comment.

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