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What's Right with the Schools?

Susan Notes:

As we get ready to start the New Year, let's take in Dave Stratman's positive comments--and resolve to share our positive stories. What good thing happened at your school today?" Send it in:

As Dave notes at the end of this piece, the key question is why the corporate politico elite are doing what they do. Read that and then resolve to fight back by sharing your good news. Your news is important.

by Dave Stratman

Teachers and students and their families share goals which contradict the goals of the elite, and they work to achieve these goals in every way they know how in spite of elite domination. The gigantic effort by corporate and political leaders to impose education reform is necessary precisely because the people in the schools have worked for their goals with enough success to threaten elite control.

When teachers stimulate and challenge; when they encourage all their students to learn and inspire them to think about the world as it really is; when they create a nurturing environment; when they fight for smaller class sizes; when they offer each other words of support: when they do any number of things they do every day, they are opposing elite goals for education and working for the shared goals of ordinary people.

When students help each other, or raise critical questions, or refuse to join in the race for grades and approval; when they exercise their curiosity and intelligence; even when they hang on the phone for hours, talking about "life," they are resisting elite goals and working for a better concept of life.

When parents listen sympathetically to their children, or talk with their friends or each other about the school or raising kids: when people do these things that they do every day, they are resisting elite goals and working for the opposite values of solidarity and equality and democracy.

To the extent that students succeed in real learning and teachers in teaching and parents in raising their children to be thoughtful and considerate, they succeed in spite of the education system, not because of it.

The remarkable thing about the public schools isn't that some teachers become demoralized and "burned out," or that some students drop out or do poorly, but that so many teachers and students achieve so much in the face of a system designed to fail.

But I don't think we ever figured out how to draw adequate attention to these things--the positive stuff people do as a matter of course. The kindergarten teacher who said she hates what she's doing to kids also knows that she does a lot of positive things with her students--she says she's a good teacher, etc.--but I don't think she understands the (revolutionary) meaning of what she does every day as a matter of course, and she feels but doesn't quite understand that the system is out to destroy her and her students; or at least, she doesn't know why it is trying to do so.

As we always said, the key question is why they are doing i. It's only by understanding this that people can understand the meaning of their efforts and their lives.

— Dave Stratman


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