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Duke prof: Talk of “broken” schools is a scare tactic

Another “must read” from over the weekend is this essay by Duke University Divinity School professor, Amy Laura Hall in the Durham Herald-Sun. In it, she make the forceful and on-the-money argument that all the talk of a “broken” education system is akin to the scare tactics employed by the evil Mr. Potter in the the classic film, It’s a Wonderful Life:

“’Broken?’  Think about it.  Is that the right word for the man who mopped up vomit when a second-grader overindulged in Halloween candy?  Or the woman who remembered my daughter’s cafeteria account number when her little fourth grade mind was otherwise engaged, busy wiggling her newly loose tooth?  Or the cop at the high school who has to deal with one more confounded fender-bender resulting from teens ‘checking one another out’ rather than carefully backing out? To borrow from a cute pop song, the public school system’s ‘not broken, just bent.’  The question we ought to ask is this: Who bent it?

The example of sneaky old Mr. Potter from ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ is useful.  If you want effectively to undermine the complicated, daily work of teachers and custodians and counselors and school traffic cops, you first need to destabilize people’s confidence in the solvency of the overall system.  You basically need to create the educational equivalent of a run on the bank.  People are hearing through grapevines as disparate as National Public Radio and Fox News that public schools are ‘broken’ and in need of a superhero leader-ish leader to come in and rescue them….

North Carolina now pays our public school teachers less than in 46 other states.  We are now 46th in the country.  That shouldn’t scare us.  That should make us mad.  As Deborah R. Gerhardt reported in Slate a few weeks ago, ‘North Carolina public schools would have to hire 29,300 people to get back up to the employee-per-student ratio the schools had in 2008.’  Voters who can read well, and who can read between the lines, are not easily manipulated.  Maybe this is a reason why the Potters of our beautiful state are trying to send us running scared, ready to yank our children out from under the tutelage and care of hard-working and good-hearted people we actually know and trust.  It is a crucial time in our own little story, a time to look around and see one another for who we are — neighbors, together in this endeavor of public education, for the long haul and for our children’s good.”

Read hall’s entire essay by clicking here.

 

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