I can come close to the day the propaganda war was launched to brand teachers 100% responsible for teaching and learning—a war that has left poverty, children and parents out of the equation. The day it started for me and the teachers I worked with was similar to the day Pearl Harbor was bombed by Japan. It was a day that should live in infamy.
I was there. I heard it. I saw it along with the staff of an entire middle school.
It was the prestart of the 1987-88 school year a few days before the students arrived. The new principal, a tyrant, stood in front of his new staff—the district had forced him to transfer from the grade school where he wanted to stay to the middle school where I was teaching, and the district administration, that would have made Arne Duncan and Bill Gates proud, moved the previous principal, who was too caring of Children and supportive of us teachers, to another school.
The new tyrant stood there next to a flip chart on a stand, and he turned the pages one at a time. On each large page was an image and a caption. There was no Q & A session afterwards.
I don’t remember exactly what each large page said or what order they were in or how many there were, but the message is branded on my brain and here are the two that stand out the most.
- If students are failing your classes, it’s your fault. You are not motivating them.
- If students are misbehaving in your classes, it’s your fault. You can’t control them.
The tyrant made it clear that he wasn’t interested in what we thought. He also made it clear that he had a closed-door policy. If we had problems with students and parents, he wasn’t there to support us, and we had to solve the problems ourselves or quit. At the end of that school year about 50% of the teaching staff quit, retired early or transferred to other schools. I transferred to Nogales High School in the same district along with another English teacher.
Michelle Rhee was stamped from the same mold as that tyrant principal, and the district administrators who ran Rowland Unified back then were from that mold too.
During those years, I saw too many good and dedicated teachers quit, transfer or retire early to escape the constant blame game and stress that came from the top down and was always aimed at teachers. I also witnessed several principals lose their jobs who were too supportive of us teachers.
The planning for the war against the public schools and teachers started about the same time as the flawed and fraud of 1983’s A Nation at Risk, and Ronald Reagan was the president who introduced Milton Friedman’s trickle down economic policy as the financial law of the land that has made the richest 1% wealthier than at any time in U.S. History, increased poverty, and smashed the middle class with a sledge hammer of debt that starts with young adults who dare to dream and go to college.
If you doubt that Reagan’s A Nation at Risk was all a lie, I suggest you read 1990’s Sandia Report. “What we now call school reform isn’t the product of a gradual consensus emerging among educators about how kids learn; it’s a political movement that grew out of one seed planted in 1983.”
After 1987, teachers who failed too many students for not doing the work that led to learning were called in to the office on an annual basis and blamed for those failing grades, and we were asked what we were going to do to fix the problem. The blame for children not doing school work and studying shifted from students to teachers, and the few teachers who didn’t fail students were never called on the carpet to defend themselves.
In fact, two VP’s pulled me aside in the hall on two different occasions and warned me that the district administration was trying to figure out how to fire me. Both of these VP’s asked me if there was any way I could compromise and give the district what they wanted. That meant fewer failing grades for students who didn’t read, work or study. The district couldn’t attack me for low test scores, because my students had the highest gains in the district by a significant margin for the grade level I was teaching. In addition, a third VP in a department meeting said that those gains had been documented going back years—as long as the state had been using standardized tests to measure student growth.
In conclusion, the district administration never fired me—but I think they worked hard to make my job more difficult. I retired on my own terms at the end of 30 years in the classroom (1975-2005).
That outcome might have been different in today’s climate where any teacher can be made to look like a failure by the reformers, because they have support from the corporate owned media and have rigged the system with the Common Core standardized tests, and that’s not counting the support of not only the last two Presidents of the United States, but several state governors; Arne Duncan and about a half dozen of the wealthiest oligarchs in the U.S. starting with Bill Gates, the Walton family and their vast propaganda machines.
Lloyd Lofthouse is a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam Veteran,
who taught in the public schools for thirty years (1975 – 2005).
Runner Up in Biography/Autobiogrpahy
2015 Florida Book Festival
Honorable Mention in Biography/Autobiography
2014 Southern California Book Festival
2014 New England Book Festival
2014 London Book Festival
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).
To follow this Blog via E-mail see upper right-hand column and click on “Sign me up!”