From an article published in Informed Residents of Reading as a guide to help teachers deal with problem school administrators, these insights are equally useful to anyone (parents, taxpayers, children) seeking to protect themselves. Read the whole article here>
The group of educational reformers consists heavily of parents. Because of the layers of public relations that disguise the true nature of our schools, it takes several years for most parents to develop a true picture of this institution. This means that parents of kindergartners buy into the warm and fuzzy facade, and it takes several years before they have a handle on the deficiencies hidden underneath.
Since most children will be attending a different school by sixth grade, this means that the average parent has about two years of awareness that something needs to be done at that school before it is time to move on. Even those who become deeply involved in reform, normally spend at least a year being sidetracked by administrators, serving on a useless committee before they realize they have been manipulated into ineffectiveness.
Therefore, the strongest voices for reform end up moving on to the next institution before they can make a lasting impact on the first school. Since students are in junior high and high school for such a limited time, it is most difficult for any parent to become solidly immersed in reform. It is even more unusual for parents to remain in this endeavor once their children have moved on to college, particularly since most find they have accomplished so little. This means that the natural progression through the system aides the system in blocking any roots for reform.
Another phenomenon that occurs with parents is that those who have children with problems, discover the deficiencies in the system considerably before parents of high functioning children. As these parents attempt to share their discoveries, other parents refuse to listen, believing these issues occurred due to problems created by these low functioning children.
Prejudice creates another barrier to seeing the authentic nature of our schools since high functioning children succeed in spite of issues. Often it takes until these children begin to dabble in drugs in adolescence before the parents realize their together children have come apart due to the system. By that time, parents are less inclined to blame the schools, believing that societal pressures alone have encouraged these children to succumb to temptation. They are unaware that had their children been taught by high functioning teachers, operating from their spirits rather than their sense of fear, and had received a solid education, they would now have the choice of the positive avenue of learning as a resource that keeps children into life and out of escapism.
In addition, even if they realize the weaknesses in the schools at that point, their child is nearly ready to graduate from high school, and reforming the schools for the future is not high on their priorities when they are focused on dealing with other parenting issues. So once again, our public schools are let off the hook by timing that is on their side.
The limited ability for parents to bring forth reform entails more than their short duration at each school. Many parents praise their school districts more as an extension of themselves than for what they really are. In our competitive, materialistic world, it is hard for many people to admit their schools are inferior. If one views life as a game and winning as collecting the most prizes, then admitting your school is a disgrace, is losing, particularly when you moved to the best neighborhood and are paying the highest taxes to provide your children with the best education.
6. SIX: Schools use propaganda to create an image that they have the best interests of the children as their goals. Administrators keep parents from figuring out their agenda by diverting them with positions on committees and creating issues to redirect their energy. They involve parents in meaningless activities and debates to make them feel important and keep them from looking beyond the surface. You can be sure that if they make you the head of a committee, they want you out of their hair. They know that in the end, they don’t have to listen to a word that a committee decides as they will get the teachers to pretend they want whatever they are told they want. Since administrators have large budgets that allow for special deals with textbook publishers, architects, or any products used by schools, what the teachers will end up wanting is what is economically best for their superiors.
This diversion of parents includes creating curriculum issues such as phonics versus whole language. While parents expend energy fighting windmills like Don Quixote, administrators carry on business as usual.
8. EIGHT: A fundamental method for maintaining the status quo is divide and conquer. Administrators have managed to get parents and teachers to mistrust each other to the point that they focus more on each other than on what the administrators are up to. This diversion of energy works like a charm.
The practices mentioned above contribute greatly to this mistrust. But teachers do not dare reveal that curriculum is sloppy, laws are ignored, children’s needs are buried, and that schools are an organized crime unless they want to experience abuse. Commonly you will hear a spiritually tortured teacher say something like, “Off the record, Jonnie really needs……. But I will deny ever telling you that.” That is about as good as it gets in this culture of deceit. Although this may relieve the teacher’s conscience, it rarely provides the solution that these parents or child needs, as the power of the system is too strong for any parent’s desire to prevail without proof. Therefore, relationships between parents and teachers rapidly deteriorate in this fuzzy, encroaching upon dark, atmosphere.
10. TEN: If manipulating parents, frightening teachers, and spreading propaganda fail, administrators resort to the legal system where they have nearly unlimited funds to prevail over parents and teachers. Insurance policies normally cover federal lawsuits, and taxpayers’ funds are available for schools, while teachers and parents have to earn the monies they use to fight the system. They will then build a costly case to squeeze their opponent out of the arena, with the only winners being the attorneys. If all else fails, they will use special versions of documents to prove their case.