Here we have two people who are obviously invested in the current state of education in our nation, as we all should be. One of them has the newest book on the market, written by a professional journalist who admitted in the conversation that he was motivated to investigate educational issues after he heard about the infamous “Rubber Rooms” in New York City. He is noted for creating “Court TV.” He completed law school but clarified Ms. Ravitch’s stating that he was a lawyer by explaining that he did not take the bar exam. Most likely a well-meaning fellow. With a book that is getting a lot of press.
Diane Ravitch has 40 years of teaching and writing on the history of education. She has experience working with the first President Bush on national education reform and with numerous think tanks studying educational policy. She also has a recent book that looks at the concerns from a place of her study, her practical application, and her data, one of several.
Steven Brill anticipated antagonism so,in turn and without warrant often, he created it throughout the whole hour. It was supposed to be an interview but it was a dialogue and at times bordered on argument. I have to stand on the side of Diane Ravitch, who has dedicated her whole career to the subject that Brill, the journalist, has just opened his eyes to, and upon which he has churned out a book now that he has become enlightened to the problem.
Good for him that he took some action. He wrote a book to call people to the cause. But does he miss the real point? I have not yet read the book and I feel obliged to do so. But I believe I am going to be annoyed when I do; I can tell from his performance on Book TV.
There is plenty on the internet to give some insight and substantiation of my perception. Search out the reviews. View the episode of Afterwords yourself. But what I really want to suggest is that there should be some sort of mechanism to allow these people to try education on for size. Actor Tony Danza tried with his reality show, Teach. He had to teach two classes for one year. Twenty-six students who met the “casting call.” He was reduced to tears. His show was cancelled before the complete run. Cameras left school in April. Tony left in June. He did not return nor is he pursuing permanent certification. He understands how hard it is.
So for those who are considering school reform, for instance, Steven Brill, here’s an idea: go teach in any school of your choice for one month. Pick your grade level. Pick a subject if you are in secondary school. Work all day. Administer pre-tests, design lesson plans, learn your students’ names, teach them all day, grade papers, council students and meet with parents, take lunchroom duty, proctor in-school suspension, monitor study hall, attend faculty meetings, and then administer post-tests and assess the quality and retention of learning based on your work. Then receive evaluation of your effectiveness as a teacher. You will be permitted to take a vacation after that 4 weeks. You will need it. Then tell us about how badly teachers perform in America. Then you can speak authentically about teachers unions, charter schools vs. public schools, and what you understand about the challenges to teaching our youth and the level of support any teacher receives in being professionally prepared for what will happen in that classroom daily.
I suggest this very same for all of our federal legislators before they debate on funding for education. People do not understand. For years I have heard people tell me that teachers have an easy job. Oh yeah…just try it.
I am in numerous schools throughout the year, in urban, suburban, and rural settings. The average adult worker could not do this job. I see it through a clear and large lens. Don’t believe the myth of all the vacation time and short hours. These are the people who are shepherding our youth toward their future. Have some respect for those in whom many of us are placing the responsibility of raising our children. They are so much more important than a judge on American Idol or a professional athlete, so much more worthy of our respect, if not our devotion and idolatry.