This post supports “civil disobedience” among teachers when the situation warrants it, which is why I feel it may be right for teachers to help students cheat on standardized tests that are mandated by The No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB).
One individual I will call Mr. Morally Correct, sent me an e-mail on this topic. He wrote, “There (are) instances where it is morally right to lie for the greater good such as to save a life, to save another person from violence, etc.
“However, when a person voluntarily puts himself into an untenable situation and then attempts to claim a lie is justified for the greater good that is immoral and not excusable.”
Mr. Morally Correct then wrote, “Teachers working in the unionized public school system voluntarily put themselves into a corrupt system. The state faithfully paid administrators and teachers to educate children, and these individuals faithfully cashed their checks knowing they (were) failing their contractual obligation. When the state implemented tests to insure they were receiving what was paid for, teachers cheated to conceal their ongoing decades old fraud.”
Mr. Morally Correct ignores facts that prove about 80% of children (mostly White and Asian-American) are succeeding in the public schools according to the NCLB Act, and he bases his claim that the public schools are failing on the minority of students that are not showing gains.
I recommend watching this half-hour video since it points out several factors why failing students fail, which the NCLB Act does not address. For example, one reason scores are not improving in poor performing schools is due partially to the high student mobility-turnover rate
Mr. Morally Correct says, “Then the teachers (Mr. Morally Correct included me in his indictment), claimed they were justified because of self-esteem issues (implausible) and fear of losing their jobs. I find this excuse morally indefensible because every teacher working in a substandard school should have quit after discovering they could not educate students for whatever reason including the students’ refusal to learn.”
Well, Mr. Morally Correct, my response is that there wouldn’t be anyone teaching in the public schools, and when those teachers quit, they would be abandoning the 80% of the students that are succeeding and improving scores, which includes most White and Asian-American students and significant numbers of African-American and Hispanic/Latino students.
In an ideal world, it might be possible to expect all students to be teachable but we do not live in an ideal world and not all students are teachable. Public education is mandatory to age 18 from kindergarten to twelfth grade. Many of the most difficult students to teach would not be in a school setting if education was voluntary.
Mr. Morally Correct is saying is that if a teacher cannot be successful with “all” of his or her students, he or she should quit.
There is a reason why some students are not teachable, which I will provide more details of in Civil Disobedience and No Child Left Behind – Part 2 on September 1, 2011.
Lloyd Lofthouse is a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam Veteran,
who taught in the public schools for thirty years (1975 – 2005).
His third book is Crazy is Normal, a classroom exposé, a memoir. “Lofthouse presents us with grungy classrooms, kids who don’t want to be in school, and the consequences of growing up in a hardscrabble world. While some parents support his efforts, many sabotage them—and isolated administrators make the work of Lofthouse and his peers even more difficult.” – Bruce Reeves
Lofthouse’s first novel was the award winning historical fiction My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. His second novel was the award winning thriller Running with the Enemy. His short story A Night at the “Well of Purity” was named a finalist of the 2007 Chicago Literary Awards. His wife is Anchee Min, the international, best-selling, award winning author of Red Azalea, a New York Times Notable Book of the Year (1992).
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July 31, 2011 at 21:07
Mr. Morally Correct hasn’t got a clue. While I don’t think cheating for students is the right way to go about things, I understand the tremendous amount of pressure teachers are under.
I teach Kindergarten which is actually not mandatory in most states. However, most parents enroll their children in Kindergarten because it’s free daycare.
I am not a daycare provider. I am an educator. I have my Masters in Literacy Instruction. The gap between children when they enter my classroom is incredible. Last year I had a little guy who could read at a 5th grade level. And then I had four children who were so immature and ill-prepared for Kindergarten that they are repeating next year. One of them could not even sit and listen to a story. He didn’t know what letters were. His vocabulary was very basic and he was a native English speaker.
All of this finger pointing is just skirting around the real issue. Parents. And yes, I am a parent. My children are straight A students in an academically rigorous school. You might find this interesting though:
August 1, 2011 at 07:59
I understand completely what teachers are up against. I also understand completely what causes some students to be a challenge to teach, which the NCLB Act does not deal with but ignores, while dictating to teachers that they must overcome this unsolvable burden or else. The two Houses of Congress and the President (Bush and Obama) could not come up with a solution to this problem so they passed a law that put that responsibly on the nations teachers. Throwing money at this problem will also not solve it.
In reality, the teachers have been ordered to do the impossible, which isteach every child from every walk of life equally with the same high outcome at the end while overcoming every obstacle along the way but without the means to achieve that impossible goal and more money will also not solve this challenge.
I taught in the public schools for thirty years. I started with fifth grade and finished my last sixteen years teaching at a high school in the same district. The schools where I taught were surrounded on three sides by street-gang infested barrios where shootings and killings were common and preschool children learned how to flash a gang sign with their hands before they even learned how to say mommy and daddy. The first elementary school I taught (fifth grade) at was in the middle of this neighborhood and the roofs had coiled razor wire strung along the edges to keep the child gangsters from climbing up and using axes to chop through the roofs to get into the classrooms and damage or steal what they could. Monday mornings, we often arrived to discover that the parking lot lights for the teacher’s parking lot had been shot out once again or there were more bullet holes in the solid core, metal-jacketed classroom doors that had to be filled with putty and repainted. Besides the regular locks on all of the exterior doors, there were also locked chains strung through the handles of the doors to double lock them. Even with an alarm system, all of these measures had to be used to keep the vandals out of the school. The police could not arrive in time and at night often the police didn’t even patrol in those neighborhoods due to snipers and this is an America most people from the middle or upper class of America society have no concept of but I taught the children of that culture for thirty years.
I understood these children better than most because I grew up in a home similar to theirs in many ways. My mother and father were both high school dropouts and never graduated from high school (but they could read). My father was an alcoholic and a gambler. My mother eventually became a Jehovah Witness. Yet my parents loved me but they did not know what to do when it came to supporting me as a student in the public schools. My illiterate brother ran with street gangs and I had many friends that were gangsters that grew up like my brother to spend time in jail. The reason I learned to read set me apart from my older brother and I’ve written of that here on this Blog.
The only reason I didn’t end up with the gangs as my brother did was that I had poor health as a child (Which may be the reason I learned to read form my mother and my brother didn’t), which set me on a different life path eventually leading to the US Marines, Vietnam and college on the G. I Bill and then becoming a public school teacher teaching the same sort of kids that my brother and I were.
My childhood life experience prepared me to deal with and understand these difficult kids because I came from their world and escaped only to end up teaching them for thirty years. Mr. Morally Correct’s childhood did not follow the same path.
Mr. Morally Correct is incapable of understanding the problems that many teachers are faced with when given the mandate that they must teach kids from this segment of our society or else the teachers will suffer the consequences, which is making victims of teachers who cannot change this problem no matter what the law says.
There is no easy fix. The NCLB Act was written by an alliance of idealists on both sides of the political aisle that believe they have an easy fix for this complex problem so the real challenge is not addressed. It has been swept under the carpet.
I know who Mr. Morally Correct is and the reason I will not reveal his real name is eventually his views and simple beliefs will turn around and bite him (but that will never change his mind). I have known Mr. Morally Correct since we were children – more than five decades. Mr. Morally Correct grew up in a home with an abusive father, who was a fundamentalist Christian preacher and this childhood experience has had a powerful influence on whom he is today.
Mr. Morally Correct holds beliefs that can be labeled as libertarian, born again Christian, conservative with neo-conservative leanings. He listens to conservative talk radio and reads many conservative Blogs and Forums, which often spout nothing but other opinions that he now believes as fact. He used to be an intelligent individual when he was younger but over the years, he has become incapable of differentiating between the truth and opinion and he doesn’t have enough experience with this segment of the population to have an understanding of that.
Many of his opinions and the way he expresses them are not original since he borrows almost all of his beliefs from what I label as the conservative media machine of like-minded people with similar mindsets and belief systems. He is idealistic and usually takes complex situations, boils them down to simple but flawed explanations with simple solutions. His solution for this challenge in education is to have private vouchers schools. He is convinced that private vouchers would change America and the idealistic concept that everyone would be equal since they would all learn better in a private setting paid for by the government would solve the problems that cannot be addressed by another simple, magic pill solution, which is the No Child Left Behind Act.
What we have in the United States is an idealistic mindset that there are easy answers for complex problems. Mr. Morally Correct has been incapable of dealing with complex issues for decades now. He has always looked for the easy answer and easy solution to challenges of this sort and he has often run away from holding down a job for a long period of time and relationships with women.
Teachers that help students cheat on the standardized tests the NCLB Act uses to measure student success for all identifiable subgroups among students is not the solution. What it is is a reaction to a flawed idealistic solution to a complex problem.
Everything has cause and effect and this cheating is a result of the flawed NCLB Act. Teachers are not perfect. In fact, they are just people like everyone else. Back them into a corner, and they will do something unexpected to survive, as most people and animals backed into a corner will do. As we near 2014 when the mandate of the NCLB Act says all schools and all teachers must successfully do the impossible, we will see more civil dissilience of this sort or worse as the idealistic political bully the NCLB Act represents backs hundreds of thousands and millions of teachers into that corner.