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Teacher Backlash: A Symptom of Systemic Decline

Teacher: For today’s lesson we will learn about electrical currents and solar energy…

Student: Why? Is this how we will restore power to Puerto Rico?!

Lesson: Unless knowledge has practical applicability to real-world dilemmas – it is useless information. #TeachableMoment #EducateToLiberate

As a general rule, educators are charged with ensuring that our students are engaged in an authentic acquisition of knowledge which derives from inquiry, research, explicit instruction, spirited discussions and hands-on experiences gained in an environment conducive to learning. However, all too often our classrooms reflect common standards, and ultimately daily lessons – which have no practical applicability beyond the latest (and ever-present), high-stakes standardized test. This eliminates virtually all opportunities for relevance and creativity in classroom instruction and otherwise renders our current educational climate as one preoccupied with ‘busy work’ rather than real knowledge acquisition. This is merely one common teacher grievance and component of an increasingly dysfunctional educational system. Surely, the most significant measure of the systemic decline of American education is represented in the diminishing and utterly dissatisfied teaching workforce.

Many educators would likely agree that through no fault of their own, the joy of teaching has been systemically replaced with a sort of robotic and mechanical uniformity that leaves much to be desired from teachers, students and parents alike. It is no secret that the for-profit standardized testing industry is now indistinguishable from the agenda of high-ranking education officials and these combined forces have collectively dictated federal K-12 education curriculum and even policy; a dilemma which has increasingly disillusioned teachers. As the political and profit-margin obsessed entities place increasing faith on the value and frequency of high-stakes assessments – the myopic focus on ranking the worsening performance of both students’ and teachers’ is a universal sign of the decline of authentic education. This fact seems lost on those engaged in education reform measures, but is glaringly apparent to scores of teachers across the nation – who are revolting en masse for a wide variety of justifiable reasons. A common thread observable in the states where teachers have recently launched formidable walkout movements (W. Virginia, Oklahoma, Arizona and Kentucky); is that these are Republican-dominated districts suffering the debilitating loss of school funding, collective bargaining rights and pay freezes of an already meager living wage.

Adding insult to injury, the teaching profession suffers the pronounced loss of future talent from college graduates admittedly unwilling to enter a field so synonymous with disrespect, low pay and even lower levels of job satisfaction.
In the end, teachers have been disallowed an opportunity to actually do what they love and have devoted their lives to: teach. Around the country, the discontentment of our teachers is showing and those who suffer the most pronounced loss? Our students, whose academic performance thrives when their education is primed for authentic knowledge acquisition rather than the ‘busy work’ that marks our present dysfunctional educational system.

No other world-class nation imposes as many testing mandates on its students, while inflicting even greater performance edicts on its teachers, than does America. The systemic methodology which unrealistically judges the aptitude of learners and the quality of its teachers on a single, non-transparent, and high-stakes assessment is fundamentally flawed. Educators should be regarded as both supremely qualified, and considered the front line of defense for a thriving educational system. Yet in 2009, educators had no discernible input in designing the national standards now being universally taught; nor are they allowed to revise the glaring imperfections of the Common Core curriculum and its accompanying testing mandates (at least until after 2021). In this nation’s current, dysfunctional educational system affluence has sadly become the ultimate arbiter in the wide disparity of the academic fate of students, the corresponding evaluation rating of teachers and ranking of all public (or DeVos inspired, for-profit charter) schools. Ultimately, despite popular, unfounded claims that the current wave of teacher walkouts and backlash is driven by greed-driven salary demands, or unrealistic demands for increased school funding – the crisis in America’s public schools is not exaggerated. It is real, worsening and headed for a yet unseen, dramatic climax.

Teachers in this nation are unsatisfied, grossly undervalued and represent merely a symptom of an eroding educational system on the brink of demise…from within.

2 thoughts on “Teacher Backlash: A Symptom of Systemic Decline

  1. Wonderful Analysis. Thank you, Dr. Nkenge.

    1. Thank you very kindly!

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