Don’t just blame the teachers

When it comes to cheating in our schools, don’t just blame the teachers. While we’re at it, let’s give the students a break as well. As the great philosopher Michael Jackson said, “We need to look at the man in the mirror.”

What adult amongst us can say that he or she never put pressure on schools to perform better; never demanded more of a student when he or she had given just about everything he or she could? In many ways, our schools are very democratic; they carry out the will of the people. And you know what, that will of the people is in many ways a very ugly sight, pocked with pressure from all directions to do better and to do more. The moral compass is terribly skewed as millions of adults who have cheated in numerous ways on numerous occasions are deploring teachers and school administrators for in many ways acting both in ways that the public wants and the public behaves.

Education is a very curious issue for progressives because we love it, honor it, and support it in many ways. At the same time we seem to view it through the cloudy lens of amnesia. Most adults, including progressives, don’t remember well what it was like to be a student. We took the tests, wrote the long papers about books we didn’t read, and wished for our peers to perform poorly. Those cannot be pleasant memories, but rather than trying to put fewer excessive demands on today’s students we choose to buy into the misguided pedagogy of our parents’ generation and inflict more of the same on today’s students.

It’s time that we back off of that. Our concern should not be focused on cheating in Atlanta or dictatorial rule in Washington, DC under Michelle Rhee, but rather how we can humanize education and make it relevant and meaningful to students, teachers, and parents alike.

Below is a chart of our “race to nowhere,” as we go around generation after generation changing the cosmetics of our schools but keeping the same values in place, including cheating. Fortunately it’s not all a monolith as there are some schools that focus on learning without pressure. Some retain their spirit of compassion, innovation, and meaningful education. However the path ahead can be a treacherous one as parents, particularly those who are upwardly mobile, can easily fall prey to mistaking image for substance. The glamour of image is very tantalizing to students, and too often they move away from the principles of that school. Improving our school requires constant compassion, innovation, and vigilance for the early steps of moving away from being child-centered and instead become bragging rights for parents, teachers, and administrators.



For more on working to minimize the standardized nature of our schools, you may find it of interest to read the author’s book, Standardized Education – Moving America to the Right.