It hurts to write those words, since I have had the privilege of teaching in public schools for the past 11 years, but a thorough examination of the legislation that has been passed, both on the state and federal levels over the past couple of decades can lead to no other conclusion.
Federal programs such as No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top target the classroom teacher when students fail to achieve at a certain level.
Undeniably, the classroom teacher is the most important ingredient in the educational recipe, but I have yet to see any of the other important contributors to children’s success even addressed. Apparently, such factors as poverty and poor parenting should not even be considered. The 50 minutes a classroom teacher has the student each day (if the student is able to make it to school, or shows up for the class) outweighs any other factor that might keep a child from learning.
When someone dares mention that these conditions play a role in the child’s education, he is immediately slammed as a slacker who is trying to avoid taking responsibility. Then someone will find one of those rare poverty area schools where test scores are above average and use it to show that it is indeed the teachers who are at fault.
What I have always found fascinating is that, despite the seeming contempt legislators have for classroom teachers, every time there is some public crisis that needs to be addressed, it is thrown to the teachers to handle.
The most obvious example of that has been sex education, where educators are supposed to overcome the home and cultural environments to teach about sex (or not having sex, as the case may be).
And now the latest cause du jour is bullying.
You won’t find a classroom teacher anywhere who is in favor of bullies, but apparently legislators think the responsibility for curbing the problem is another one that should be handed to teachers.
That is the case in Massachusetts, where the legislature unanimously passed a bill this week, which calls for a massive crackdown on school bullying, following the suicides of two students.
The bill calls for each incident of bullying to be reported. No problem there. That is being done in most school districts on an everyday basis.
This bill, however, goes far beyond having teachers and administrators control what is going on in their buildings. Consider this passage from this morning’s Boston Globe article:
The bill defines bullying as repeated acts that cause physical or emotional harm, place students “in reasonable fear of harm,’’ or create an “unwelcoming or hostile environment at school for another person.’’
It prohibits bullying on school grounds, on school buses, at school-sponsored activities, and through electronic communications. Bullying via e-mail or social networking sites such as Facebook would fall under the purview of the schools when it creates a hostile school environment, legislators said.
So now, teachers are going to be asked to be responsible for children’s behavior at home?
One more time, legislators have taken the easy way out. They have taken another societal problem, handed it to the teachers, and now they can pat themselves on the back and get back to the regular business of blaming those same teachers for low test scores.