There has been a long, though declining, tradition in the United States in which public school teaching was embraced as an important public service. It was assumed that teachers provided a crucial foundation for educating young people in the values, skills and knowledge that enabled them to be critical citizens capable of shaping and expanding democratic institutions.
they remain the most important component in the learning process for students, while serving as a moral compass to gauge how seriously a society invests in its youth and in the future. Yet, teachers are being deskilled, unceremoniously removed from the process of school governance, largely reduced to technicians or subordinated to the authority of security guards.
poisonous transformation of both the role of the public school and the nature of teacher work abound
eachers 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.
Questions regarding how teachers motivate students, make knowledge meaningful in order to make it critical and transformative, work with parents and the larger community or exercise the authority needed to become a constructive pedagogical force in the classroom and community are now sacrificed to the dictates of an instrumental rationality largely defined through the optic of measurable utility.
able 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.
teachers no longer have the option to think outside of the box, to experiment, be poetic or inspire joy in their students.
Great ideas, modes of knowledge, disciplinary traditions and honorable civic ideals are no longer engaged, debated and offered up as a civilizing force for expanding the students' capacities as critical individuals and social agents. 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.
Moreover, it turns the curriculum into a tool box for ignoramuses
We need a new language for understanding public education as formative for democratic institutions and for the vital role that teachers play in such a project
Central to fostering a pedagogy that is open and discerning, fused with a spirit of critical inquiry that fosters rather than mandates modes of individual and social agency is the assumption that teachers should not only be critical intellectuals, but also have some control over the conditions of their own pedagogical labor.
critical learning rather than training,
, 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.
recognition of the importance of public schools teachers
mistakes students for products and learning to the practice of conformity and disciplinary mindlessness.
Such pedagogical practices are based on the presupposition that it is not enough to teach students how to read the word and knowledge critically.
the most important role of teachers is not only to educate students to be critical thinkers, but also prepare them to be activists in the best sense of the term - that is, thoughtful and active citizens willing to fight for the economic, political and social conditions and institutions that make democracy possible.
While I believe that public education should equip students with skills to enter the workplace, it should also educate them to contest workplace inequalities, imagine democratically organized forms of work and identify and challenge those injustices that contradict and undercut the most fundamental principles of freedom, equality and respect for all people who constitute the global public sphere.
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
At the same time, public schools have to be viewed as institutions as crucial to the security and safety of the country as national defense.
the ultimate test of morality for any democratic society resides in the condition of its children
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.
The rhetoric of accountability, privatization and standardization that now dominates both major political parties does more than deskill teachers, weaken teacher unions, dumb down the curriculum and punish students; it also offers up a model for education that undermines it as a public good.
fight for the rights of teachers and students for autonomy, resources and dignity.
We need to take them seriously by giving them the dignity, labor conditions, salaries, freedom, time and support they deserve. This may be the most important challenge Americans face as we move into the 21st century.