Is God In Our Public Schools? “Service” Opens Doors – Part II - Bad Teachers?

 Who Really Are The Bad Guys?

At a recent prayer meeting, participants prayed for God to be in our public schools, claiming that the Word no longer can be taught in our schools as the downfall for the public school system.  The evangelical church has help feed the mantra of the secular world that “bad teachers are the cause for failing schools in America.” I would like to refute two myths: 1) God is not in our public schools, and 2) Bad teachers are the cause of America’s failures.  I would like to finish by showing what I believe is what the Church’s role should be to the public American School System.  In this second blog a three part series lets look at……

Bad teachers are the cause of bad schools and America’s failures.  American respected and honored education in the 1960’s & 70’s because of our space program, encouraged higher education in the ‘80’s with Reagan-omics, but something happened in the ‘90’s.  Teachers became America’s scapegoat. Education became the blame for many of America’s vices.  The mantra was birthed that bad teachers produced failing schools.  If we would only get rid of the bad teachers, the American Public School System and America society as a whole would be better, so we were told.  With the new century the attitude continue to prevail, but Americans looked to the Public School System to fix itself because they had no idea what was wrong or how to fix it.  Now in the second decade of the 21st Century, the public still blames bad teachers, expects the system to fix itself, and is taking away the resources needed to do education reform due to budget cuts and heated political battles.  We have looked to Education in America to be the savior of America academically and morally. 

Actually the morals of America have decayed over those three decades.  The family structure has disintegrated, getting an education is no longer revered, respecting government officials and teachers has totally eroded, challenging authority rather than respecting authority is the norm, and enablement for good grades rather than a work ethic to “earn” good grades has brought a downward trend in America’s success in education. Students aren’t allowed to “fail” in a failing school system even though they are doing little to pass.  All this contributes to what looks like failure.

I have seen dedicated teachers who spend hours after school tutoring needy students at the expense of spending time with their own children.  I have seen teachers give financially as a “Secret Santa” to buy a gift for a child who will have a bleak Christmas without it.  I often remind myself that there are student in my classroom who look to school as a safe place to be when there are many dangers at home and on the street, a place to find acceptance by his/her teachers rather than rejection he/she gets everywhere else, a place to be fed properly when there will be no prepared meal for them at home, a place where they get smiles from their teachers and encouragement when they get nothing but criticism and rejection at home.  Most English teachers I have known spent weekends correcting essays to bring excellence at the expense of their own personal families. During budget cutting years, I have seen teachers take pay freezes and pay cuts rather than having programs cut that will benefit students.  Are these people the cause for the decay in education? I think not.

What of the proverbial exception, that “bad teacher” they must get rid of.  It takes five years for a teacher to become a Master Teacher, on top of his/her trade.  Most bad teachers quit way before  their fifth year, or they are eaten alive by their students.  Beginning teachers will have challenges because they too are learning, learning the art of teaching.  I have seen battle worn teachers who have been so battered down by lack of support, being over worked, under paid, who crumbled to the demands of the system hang on too long so they could reach retirement.  Now, Pennsylvania just passed a law where older, good teachers, could be furloughed for economic reasons.  With School Boards money has become more important than having good quality teachers teaching their students.

Personally, my student teaching experience was a nightmare.  I nearly quit after my first year teaching through discouragement.  I then became part of a creative "team teaching" approach, learning from Master Teachers around me, and my last year of teaching I was honored as Spring Grove Area School District's Teacher of the Year, being honored locally as well as at Shippensburg University.

I personally experienced only a hand full of “bad” teachers over my 40 years, and they either quit or were screened by administration by their fifth year.  America needs to look at what is eroding our moral system, our family structures, our work ethic, the very fabrics of our society and address them.  They need to quit looking at a government system, the Public School System, to be the Savior for America’s societal ills.