DiigoNotes - In Defense of Public School Teachers in a Time of Crisis - Henry Giroux

Gee, all I can say is "AMEN!!"

What's a classroom teacher to do? Or an administrator?

    • In Defense of Public School Teachers in a Time of Crisis - Henry Giroux

    • teachers are being deskilled, unceremoniously removed from the process of school governance, largely reduced to technicians or subordinated to the authority of security guards. Underlying these transformations are a number of forces eager to privatize schools, substitute vocational training for education and reduce teaching and learning to reductive modes of testing and evaluation.

    • Indications of the poisonous transformation of both the role of the public school and the nature of teacher work abound. The passage of laws promoting high-stakes testing for students and the use of test scores to measure teacher quality have both limited the autonomy of teacher authority and devalued the possibility of critical teaching and visionary goals for student learning. Teachers are no longer asked to think critically and be creative in the classroom.

    • On the contrary, they are now forced to simply implement predetermined instructional procedures and standardized content, at best; and, at worst, put their imaginative powers on hold while using precious classroom time to teach students how to master the skill of test taking.

    • Nor are teachers praised for their public service, the trust we in part to them in educating our children or the firewall they provide between a culture saturated in violence and idiocy and the civilizing and radical imaginative possibilities of an educated mind capable of transforming the economic, political and racial injustices that surround and bear down so heavily on public schools. Instead, teachers are stripped of their worth and dignity by being forced to adopt an educational vision and philosophy that has little respect for the empowering possibilities of either knowledge or critical classroom practices. Put bluntly, knowledge that can't be measured is viewed as irrelevant, and teachers who refuse to implement a standardized curriculum and evaluate young people through objective measures of assessments are judged as incompetent or disrespectful.

    • Any educator who believes that students should learn more than how to obey the rules, take tests, learn a work skill or adopt without question the cruel and harsh market values that dominate society "will meet," as James Baldwin insists in his "Talk to Teachers," "the most fantastic, the most brutal and the most determined resistance."

    • As the space of public schooling is reduced to a mindless infatuation with the metrics of endless modes of testing and increasingly enforces this deadening experience with disciplinary measures reminiscent of prison culture, teachers are increasingly removed from dealing with children as part of a broader historical, social and cultural context.

    • teachers no longer have the option to think outside of the box, to experiment, be poetic or inspire joy in their students.

    • School has become a form of dead time, designed to kill the imagination of both teachers and students.

    • Knowledge is now instrumentalized and the awe, magic and insight it might provide is stripped way as it is redefined through the mindless logic of quantification and measurement that now grips the culture of schooling and drives the larger matrix of efficiency, productivity and consumerism shaping the broader society.

    • teaching was always directive in its attempt to shape students as particular agents and offer them a particular understanding of the present and the future. And while schools have a long history of simply attempting to reproduce the ideological contours of the existing society, they are capable of much more, and therein lay their danger and possibilities. At their worst, teachers have been viewed as merely gatekeepers. At best, they are one of the most valued professions we have in educating future generations in the discourse, values and relations of democratic empowerment.

    • teachers should be viewed as engaged intellectuals, willing to construct the classroom conditions that provide the knowledge, skills and culture of questioning necessary for students to participate in critical dialogue with the past, question authority, struggle with ongoing relations of power and prepare themselves for what it means to be active and engaged citizens in the interrelated local, national and global public spheres.

    • public school teachers must be allowed to shape the conditions that enable them to assume their responsibility as citizen-scholars, take critical positions, relate their work to larger social issues, offer multiple forms of literacies, debate and dialogue about pressing social problems and provide the conditions for students to conjure up the hope and belief that civic life matters, that they can make a difference in shaping society so as to expand its democratic possibilities for all groups.

    • On the other side are those anti-intellectual and residual religious and political fundamentalists who view schooling as a threat to orthodoxy and tradition and want to silence critical forms of pedagogy as well as eliminate those teachers who value thinking over conformity, teaching over training and empowerment over deskilling.

    • As critical and public intellectuals, teachers must fight for the right to dream, conceptualize and connect their visions to classroom practice. They must also learn to confront directly the threat from fundamentalisms of all varieties that seek to turn democracy into a mall, a sectarian church or an adjunct of the emerging punishing state.

    • public education should be about more than learning how to take a test, job preparation or even critical consciousness raising; it is also about imagining a more just future, one that does more than replicate the present.

    • a critical education demands that its citizens be able to translate the interface of private considerations and public issues; be able to recognize those anti-democratic forces that deny social, economic and political justice; and be willing to give some thought to their experiences as a matter of anticipating and struggling for a better world. In short, democratic rather than commercial values should be the primary concerns of both public education and the university.

    • If the right-wing educational reforms now being championed by the Obama administration and many state governments continue unchallenged, America will become a society in which a highly trained, largely white elite will continue to command the techno-information revolution, while a vast, low-skilled majority of poor and minority workers will be relegated to filling the McJobs proliferating in the service sector. The children of the rich and privilege will be educated in exclusive private schools and the rest of the population, mostly poor and nonwhite, will be offered bare forms of pedagogy suitable to work in the dead end low skill service sector of society, assuming that these jobs will be available. Teachers will lose most of their rights, protections and dignity and be treated as clerks of the empire. And as more and more young people fail to graduate from high school, they will fill the ranks of those disposable populations now filling up our prisons at a record pace.

    • In short, those individuals and groups concerned about the promise of education need to reclaim their commitment to future generations by taking seriously the

    • Protestant theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer's belief that the ultimate test of morality for any democratic society resides in the condition of its children. If public education is to honor this ethical commitment, it will have to not only re-establish its obligation to young people, but reclaim its role as a democratic public sphere and uphold its support for teachers.

    • Teachers have a responsibility to engage critical pedagogy is a an ethical referent and a call to action for educators, parents, students and others to reclaim public education as a democratic public sphere, a place where teaching is not reduced to learning how to master either tests or acquire low level jobs skills, but a safe space where reason, understanding, dialogue and critical engagement are available to all faculty and students.

    • Viewing public schools as laboratories of democracy and teachers as critical intellectuals offers a new generation of educators an opportunity to understand education as a concrete reminder that the struggle for democracy is, in part, an attempt to liberate humanity from the blind obedience to authority and that individual and social agency gain meaning primarily through the freedoms guaranteed by the public sphere, where the autonomy of individuals only becomes meaningful under those conditions that guarantee the workings of an autonomous society.

    • Teaching in this instance is not simply about critical thinking, but also about social engagement, a crucial element of not just learning and social engagement, but politics itself.

    • Teachers are more crucial in the struggle for democracy than security guards and the criminal justice system. Students deserve more that being trained to be ignorant and willing accomplices of the corporation and the empire. Teachers represent a valued resource and are one of the few groups left that can educate students in ways that enable them to resist the collective insanity that now threatens this country. We need to take them seriously by giving them the dignity, labor conditions, salaries, freedom, time and support they deserve.

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