The Principles of Principals
Why Both My Parents Were Fired From US Public Schools
by Parker Stellman, LC Class of '12
Since my parents have always been very clear about why the public schools in the US do not, cannot, and never will support innovation, I thought I would write this article for the Linda Christas student blog explaining exactly why I believe that to be true. (Please excuse me if I ramble a bit. I am going to tell you this story from my heart without necessarily being too concerned with style. I hope you will be patient with me.)
Just as a plug for Linda Christas, my chosen college, everything I am about to tell you about why my parents were fired, would get every single teacher at Linda Christas fired as well.
As a matter of fact, I have the impression, if a teacher wouldn't be fired by a US public school, he or she would never be hired by Linda Christas Academy or College. But, that's a subject for another essay. This one has to do with my parents' stint in the US public schools, schools that they thought would be their destination after their own college experiences, even though they themselves had been home schooled.
To start, I just want to say my parents are the best people on this planet from my point of view. They have always provided me with a safe, secure and loving home, and they are the world's best teachers. That they were not able to make a career in the US public school classroom as far as I am concerned is to their eternal credit.
With that as preliminary then, please allow me to provide you with my (obviously biased) view of why the public schools, especially the high schools, middle schools, and elementary schools in the US will continue to provide children with one of the worst experiences possible, and why my parents were cast out of that system.
We, the US, are currently virtually dead last in the developed world educationally. That is, of course, below the graduate school level (grad schools are populated 60% by foreign nationals, so they don't count), and there is a reason for that, a reason that has to do with power, and the 100 billion dollars per year that supports that power.
I titled this essay The Principles of Principals because the entire public school system in the US (I am speaking of those schools that carry the label "accredited" by a US Department of Education approved agency) practices the most powerful management principle that exists in the universe.
That principle states that "people will do what they are rewarded for doing."
Principals and superintendents in charge of any US public elementary, middle or secondary school have all been rewarded for following that most important management principle. In essence, work with the system, don't rock the boat, control the kids, keep parents away as much as possible, control the teachers, impose the curriculum the board of non-educators has approved, eliminate anything or anyone who wants to address individual students vs. entire classrooms full of kids they don't know, DO ALL THIS, and promotions will follow. Those who are at the top of every single public school district in the US EXACTLY fit that description.
A teacher who doesn't get behind the system that has been adopted by his or her public district is guaranteed never to be promoted, and certainly never to receive tenure within that system. My parents could never address a group of students without knowing who they are, what their needs are, what their interests are, what their aptitudes are, and what their maturity levels are. To impose one curriculum across the board no matter who the students are is to baby sit, not to teach.
Let's start at the beginning.
At the beginning of the 20th century, a set of rules, methods, and principles relative to education were adopted by those in power in the US. Those rules, methods and principles were adapted from a Prussian military manual by John Dewey.
If one were to read the transcripts of many US educational leaders in the first decade of the 20th century, it was clear then, as it is clear now, individualism, responding to the individual needs of students, and producing a creative, healthy, wholesome person as a result of public education was never the goal.
The goal was to provide a work force who had been trained to stand in line, respond to bells and horns, and not be offended that the student's individual interests, aptitudes, learning style and maturity level were never taken into account when curriculum was planned.
In the US public school system, we elect persons who know nothing of the individuality of the students to be addressed, have no training at all regarding the impact various curriculum decisions will have on the individuals to be instructed, and, frankly, realize that, with the type of education to be provided, it is not necessary to know a single student prior to the beginning of the first day of school each year.
Let me describe for you a teacher who is going to go absolutely nowhere except out the door at a public school. Why? Because my Dad and Mom were two of them. This is why they were identified as trouble makers and were fired:
First, a teacher is never to insist on knowing the students he/she is going to teach prior to the first day of class. Even the counselors at most public schools have no idea who the students are, being very happy to clear the restrooms every morning, and get the students into the little boxes called classrooms.
Second, a teacher is never to insist on teaching to individual learning style or ability in a classroom. To address a group of better equipped students differently than students who do not wish to be taught a subject is discriminatory, and contrary to the current US policy of equal result as opposed to equal opportunity. (This policy was imposed with a vengeance after 1960 with guns and more guns to ensure that anyone who objected to the dummying down of every classroom in America was accused of being a far right moron. Equal opportunity, the policy that had made America great was no longer enough. We were going to adopt the European value system not understanding that our population was entirely different from that of Europe.)
Third, a teacher is never to plan different lessons based on ability. Everyone learns from the same text, and the text is supported by a curriculum adopted and imposed without thought as to what level of ability, or subject mastery individual students represent.
Fourth, a teacher is never to protest that applying a method and content adopted from afar is detrimental to the academic development of every student, both gifted and non-gifted alike.
Fifth, a teacher is to expect that if it is determined he or she has refused to impose the curriculum as adopted by those promoted to the front offices at a school for doing exactly what is expected now of the teacher, that is, teach by fiat, the teacher so "discovered" will be reprimanded, and if he or she does not agree to cease teaching to the individual, he or she will be classified as incompetent and relegated to the least influential positions on the campus, and/or scheduled for termination.
Sixth, the principals and superintendents, all of whom having been promoted for their willingness to cooperate with the Dewey vision, will, with vigor, persecute any teacher who shows initiative in opposing a canned system of curriculum presentation.
Seventh, a teacher who doesn't refer to the newest programs aimed at securing the Dewey vision as "innovative" will be punished, certainly by denying him or her promotion, but also by threatening him or her in a hundred other subtle and not so subtle ways.
Eighth, principals and superintendents in the US public school system have flourished by never "rocking the boat," first as teachers with the smaller desks, and, now, as administrators with the larger ones. Innovation and not "rocking the boat" are mutually exclusive concepts.
Ninth, no private tutor, no matter how gifted, will be accredited by an agency approved by the DoE. Superintendents and principles in US public schools will not hire teachers who in interviews speak about the importance of addressing individual student need as a first priority.
Tenth, superintendents and principals must be those who approve the drugging of any child who expresses his or her youth by not wishing to sit for five hours per day under the strict control of an adult charged with imposing punishments for all but 100% cooperation with a system totally foreign to a young, healthy body and mind. As it is, principals and superintendents understand that a full 7% of students in US public schools are being drugged without conscience in order to control non medical conditions referred to as ADD and ADHD. Current studies show that, even taking into consideration the depression that is aided by the public school environment, no more than 2% of the children currently receiving drugs such as Ritalin should be being so treated.
Finally, superintendents and principals must be willing to blame teachers and parents for a school's failure. Never, never is the system itself to be charged with responsibility for the destruction of young lives.
Superintendents and principals are fully aware that, within the system from which they receive their paychecks, one can walk into any US public school first grade classroom and ask, "Who is an artist?" All 25 to 30 of the little hands, sometimes 50 to 60 hands will be raised (and waved at that) as a result of the enthusiasm first graders will display for art. However, return just 3 years later, and ask that same class of students (now fourth graders) who is an artist, and 25 to 30 heads will swivel to see who would dare admit to such a thing.
Welcome to the US' 100 billion dollar per year public schools. Welcome to America's academic disaster.
My parents were fired from this system. I love them for it.