“Actually, working in the school system sucks,” emailed my dear friend who teaches at a public middle school on the West Coast. She’d gone back to college to get her teaching degree less than ten years ago. So teaching was her second, chosen career. Not a job you just stumble into. She went into it with the best intensions. I guess all teachers do. But there you go… The Road to Hell.
And regardless of whether you’re discussing a digestive, solar or education system, the commonality in definition is a group of interacting, interrelated, or interdependent elements forming a complex whole. And with any group, you’re only as strong as the weakest link in that chain.
Problem is, at least in a system as large as United States Department of Education, when a link appears to weaken or even breaks, the System can’t stop to fix it. It’s like trying to change a flat tire on the busy highway at night. It’s just too scary. So you drive on the rim for as far as you can. And that’s what schools seem to be doing. Driving on the rim. Most kids will get where they’re going – to graduation – but the rim’s warped.
“This job takes all your energy and creativity,” continued my friend. “And when you don’t get the results as the System measures them, (secretly you know it’s not possible, but you still believe that you, if you really work, that YOU can make it happen) you feel worse than useless. Incompetent. Stupid. Angry.”
And that’s really what public education in America is now – a System. A massive, pulsating, feed-me system. Kinda like that tentacled alien creature that assimilated all the sled dogs in John Carpenter’s The Thing. It had started out as such a cute, blue-eyed, Malamute stray. Unfortunately, when the USDE started swallowing the teachers, nobody was there with a flamethrower.