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Saturday, December 20, 2014

An open letter to America from a public school teacher

Follow on Twitter as @MauNotMao
Michael Mau, writer and teaches at Bluegrass Writers Studio in central Kentucky writes 

Photo: Quartz

Dear America,

I’m sorry. You entrusted me with your children, and I have failed them. Please know that I had the best of intentions. I didn’t want to leave a child behind. I wanted to help them win this race to the top.

You asked me to test them, and I tested them. I gave them choices: A, B, C, D, and sometimes even E. I didn’t just test them though; I spent hours showing them how to test, and I prepared them for that by quizzing them. My quizzes and tests were rigorous, too, just like you asked.

I have to be honest with you, though: my heart wasn’t in it at first. I had this ridiculous idea that art and music and drama and activity breaks would help my students grow. Maybe it was all those years of allowing my students to be creative. To think, I once had my English class produce a full-length play with original music and student-designed sets. I wasted weeks and weeks on that frivolous project. Sure, my students enjoyed it then, and okay, many of them still e-mail me and tell me that was the highlight of their high school experience, but I know now that if I had only had them sit in rows and practice for the ACT, if I had only given them short passages and had them tell me which of the five choices best described the author’s tone, they’d be so much more fulfilled in their lives.
After all, what did they really learn? How to access their imaginations? Developing original thoughts? Teamwork? I may as well have taught them how to file for unemployment.

Last year, our school district did away with our arts education classes. I was stunned along with the other misguided “professionals” with whom I taught. That was before I came to the stark realization that painting and sculpting and drawing might be nice hobbies to have, but they’re certainly not going to help adolescents as they compete for the jobs of the future. Do we really want a bunch of flaky artist-types distracting us? The art teacher is a barista at Starbucks now, which at least allows her to use valuable skills and restore middle-class security. And she makes a great latte.

Some people want to blame parents for the failure of American students to achieve. If parents would only spend more time engaged in enrichment activities with their kids like reading to them or taking them to museums or on nature hikes. Parents are busy though; I don’t think I really took time to consider how busy they are. We must also remember that it’s not a parent’s job to teach their children. That’s why they pay us.
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Source: Quartz


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