Tell your neighbors to do the “write” thing

It has been suggested that, shortly after its inception, the Académie Française engaged in social engineering as it codified the rules of French grammar.

Some contend that the institution of complicated agreement patterns constituted a concerted effort by elitists to insure that members of the lower classes would never master the subtleties of the written language thereby denying the poor an opportunity to improve their station and securing privileges for the rich and powerful who, coincidentally, had a nearly monopolistic hold on access to schooling.

Centuries ago arcane grammatical inventions served to stratify society and maintain the economic status quo. Today, similar ends are achieved by inequitable school funding that assures the perpetuation of a privileged class maintained by educational advantages over the competition.

The strategy has evolved in the 21st Century. Remember “The Golden Rule”?  Those with the gold always make rules that favor those with the gold.

No school system willingly increases class size or pretends that it is beneficial to children. Overcrowding is reserved for jurisdictions that are unable, or sometimes unwilling, to foot the bill for educating all children. Children suffer the consequences of such parsimony as they depart school ill prepared to compete at the next level.

In very general terms my students, even those who could read fairly well, exhibited deplorable writing skills. Penmanship seemed a forgotten art and legibility remained an elusive goal for too many. Mastery of capitalization, punctuation and accurate spelling eluded an absolutely horrifying percentage of my students. The “fine” points of thesis statement, topic sentences and writing objectively in the third-person baffled all save a few of the strongest.

What was a high school foreign language teacher to do when, in a class of thirty students, not one child could name the parts-of-speech or the parts-of-a-sentence? How are students to comprehend the complexities of grammar in a second language if they do not grasp even the rudiments of the ambient tongue? The committed educator is, therefore, obliged to remediate students and often at the expense of what might be deemed the “essential” curriculum of the target language. Consequently, these students still end up in arrears academically despite having advanced somewhat on the road to competence.

When will our community demonstrate the will to confront this crisis and deal with it in a meaningful way? What can be done to prevent our children from joining the half of the freshman class that drops out in the first year of college? Why do our students, many of whom exhibit high intelligence and academic potential, lack foundational skills to such a degree that future collegiate success is already in jeopardy?

How has it come to this? Blame it on what you will…

Blame it on insufficient intellectual stimulation during early childhood. Blame it on the conditions that prevail in classrooms dominated by the economically disadvantaged. Blame it on bland basal readers and a dearth of materials to enrich the curriculum during the elementary school years. Blame it on spending an entire academic career in overcrowded classrooms staffed by a largely itinerant workforce.

Blame this culturally induced dysgrafia on what you will. Casting blame is easy; funding the solutions is the hard part.

Why do our students write so poorly? That is addressed by a simple axiom: As the number of students in a class approaches infinity, so the number of writing assignments approaches zero.

The addition of merely a few students to each class adds exponentially to the time spent correcting papers. The grading of sixty – or more – daily quizzes represents easily a total of three hours of grading, logging and data entry each and every day. That, however, is the tip of the proverbial iceberg.

Because writing is a “process” and not an “event“, teaching students to write well is time consuming.

First, students produce a draft. Then, teachers read the assignment and offer suggestions for improvement. Next, students revise and resubmit the document for re-evaluation.

Ideally, the teacher and the student should repeat this procedure really until both agree on the “final” product (although few writings can ever be considered edit neutral). Consequently, appropriate, meaningful and timely feedback on longer essays often demands hours for each assignment.

Excellent writers are notorious for obsessive revisions to text. In the notebooks of Gustave Flaubert, there are over 300 versions of one sentence from the scene at the ball in Madame Bovary. As soon as Montaigne received new editions of his Essais, he would begin adding revisions in the margins for the next edition leading one of his biographers to the title “Words in the Corner” for the book describing his process. 

What do you think really happens when teachers have a caseload of 180-220 students?

Regrettably, the amount of individualized attention that a child receives from a caring teacher remains directly proportional to the mean wealth of all the families that attend a particular school. Schools with a high percentage of economically disadvantaged students typically have the most overcrowded classes and the most overworked teachers. Therefore, the teaching of writing likely suffers more than any other discipline in such schools.

Teachers do not love multiple-choice assessments; most would prefer to assess student learning through writing. The logistics, however, render that impossible. Bubble sheets simply allow a teacher to grade 180 papers, compute grades and turn in results within a stipulated 48 hours.

Unfortunately, college professors and future employers will no longer evaluate students by their ability to identify the correct answer from a list of four possibilities. They will pose pointed questions and anticipate cogent and expansive answers that demonstrate precision of expression and clarity of thought. No pity for the unprepared will be forthcoming.

So, when neighbors ask why they should invest more money in our schools to lower class size, tell them the truth. It is simply the “write” thing to do.


[The original version of this “Viewpoint” appeared in the now defunct Prince George’s Journal on January 17, 2003. ]

Are schools and teachers really the problem?

More than a decade ago, the so-called No Child Left Behind legislation declared that all children would be proficient in reading and math by 2014.  Less than a decade later, Race to the Top promised a trickle of financial support to states that agreed to include student growth data in new models for teacher evaluation. Following more than a decade of business-style reforms to the nation’s schools, the achievement gap between affluent and disadvantaged children has actually widened. 

Many in the education community assert that the legislated “expectations” are unrealistic, if not completely unreasonable, as long the current model of the school day remains in use. We might as well say to highly effective oncologists that, in order to be considered successful, no patient must ever die, or that renowned surgeons must attain Johns Hopkins results from a battlefield triage tent. 

The public is regularly regaled with tales about the positive influence of individual teachers on the lives of their students. While inspirational stories abound, they remain anecdotal and constitute an inaccurate portrayal of the reality educators confront in the schoolhouse. In a society too dependent on soundbites, it is impossible to comprehend the chasm that yawns between an anomalous performance and the statistical trend. 

The uncertainty endured by educators, especially those in communities with a high concentration of poverty, is troublesome. Should a teaching career last long enough, existential tragedies will invariably populate the timeline. My high school experienced a little more than a decade-long run of burying a member of the student body every year, a couple years it was more than one: drive-by shooting; murdered girl found in woods; car accidents; gang related violence, just a couple by “natural causes”. 

Not all the stressors in a teacher’s life are so grave, though… The woes of the survivors are no less disconcerting. We shall dub my signature tragedy with the pseudonym of “Linda” because she possessed a singularly beautiful mind.

In a career that comprised several thousand students, she was among a “handful” of the most gifted children ever to grace my classroom. Innate inquisitiveness and a penchant for language learning were her trademarks. A sponge for language, she possessed an effortlessly imitative ear. She seldom needed to hear a word, expression or structure twice. She faithfully maintained a dialog journal, experimented in  poetry and prose, performed well on all written assessments, and effectively tutored her classmates. “Linda” was the  ideal student.  

She is also the “one that got away.” Her story haunts me to this day.  

We had backward-mapped her route to Advanced Placement French, and she acquitted herself remarkably on every challenge. All indicators were the proverbial “green” and she was working toward the goal of college credit in French out of high school. Unexpectedly, one day in the middle of her third year, she simply “disappeared” from school.

  • A phone call home? Disconnected
  • A query to the school resource officer? Have not heard anything. 
  • A visit to registrar? No request for records. 
  • Questions to classmates? Oh, she’s moved.

In a school system with high mobility, it was not unusual for students to depart suddenly. It was unusual for a high-performer to depart without even a “goodbye” never to be seen again. 

Over a period of months, the resource officer pieced together the story of an adolescent abandoned by her mother as a consequence for the daughter’s testimony regarding abuse in the home and the consequent jailing of a family member. So much for the furnishing the needs of “safety” and “familial support.”  Soon thereafter, on her own at the tender age of 16, “Linda” had married a young man seeking respite from life in the gang.

It remains a national tragedy that such wretched narratives of squandered human potential are permitted to proliferate in our land of plenty. Alas, nationally, we are too preoccupied by attributing blame to schools and teachers regarding student achievement when, as a colleague recently posted in a online forum, “How can teachers really get to work on Bloom’s taxonomy before they begin to address Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.”

[The original version of this “Commentary” appeared in the now defunct Prince George’s Gazette on Thursday, July 31, 2014. It has been revised for content & style. The photo of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs comes from ]

Our public education system is being undermined

The determined enemies of public education currently are working, mostly behind the scenes, to undermine the public’s confidence in what once was, and still should be, among our most revered institutions: the public schools. 

Certain ideologues will argue that the education of children does not fall within the purview of government, and that education is far too important an issue to be entrusted to those in public service. However, the Preamble to the Constitution of the United States directs our representatives to “promote the general welfare and secure the blessings of liberty.” One would be hard pressed to name one human endeavor that will better bestow prosperity on posterity than facilitating  a complete education for all citizens. 

Is there any more reliable way to oppress a people than by fostering conditions that permit ignorance to fester? The Founding Fathers were abundantly clear on that topic. The very survival of our democracy – perhaps even the survival of our species – depends upon our collective resolve to deliver an adequate and equitable education to all children. To paraphrase Anne Sexton, the dissemination of knowledge must remain the awful rowing toward justice. 

Our most challenged schools are wrongly touted as representative of failed education policy and reforms. Frequently, corporate reformers propose solutions that favor private institutions and choke off the funding for public ones; vouchers, charters, tax credits, and accountability measures deliver advantages mainly to more affluent citizens and condemn the most disadvantaged of our society to a fraction of a complete education. One conservative radio talk show host likes to speak dismissively of the “public screwels“, and his colleagues on the airwaves echo the Big Lie, ad infinitum,  by inculcating listeners with anti-public school propaganda. “The schools are failing! Teachers are not teaching!”

Ample evidence to the contrary remains invisible to eyes that refuse to see

Researchers have clearly demonstrated that economically disadvantaged children in so-called poorly performing schools arrive in pre-school already lagging behind their peers. Typically, such children make gains during the school year and then lose ground again during the summer hiatus. In other words, their teachers are teaching but systematic reinforcement of acquired skill is lacking outside of the classroom. The evidence suggests that the better-equipped schools and extra-curricular educational enrichment programs furnished to economically privileged children skew the performance curve on standardized assessments across the scholastic career. 

As for the teacher retention issue, the 38-week school year and the 7.5 hour school day are always used as a justification to summarily dismiss demands for professional compensation for educators.

“What are teachers complaining about?” the naysayers ask. Well, even a cursory investigation reveals that an overwhelming majority of committed educators devote 10 to 12 hours-a-day to the required tasks of delivering effective instruction with little hope of finding any respite. Meanwhile, teachers are also required to implement new top-down reforms du jour, and to obtain an advanced degree that maintains certification for a compensation package that renders it impossible to support a family without a second job…

Is it really any wonder that more than half of all newcomers to the profession find themselves unable to endure more than five years in our overcrowded classrooms? Teachers have long advocated for lower class size to permit more individualized attention for every child , but the current funding structure based on property values virtually guarantees that school districts dominated by poverty will experience unfavorable staffing ratios. 

Ironically, critics of public education praise reports that show home-schooled children outperform their peers from the public schools on standardized assessments. No public school teacher managing classes of more than three dozen students is shocked by this statistical tidbit and would likely claim that it supports the argument in favor of reducing class size.  However, home schooling will never be a realistic option for a working, single mother of two seeking a brighter future for her children. Her children deserve to be nurtured in a well-funded, adequately-staffed neighborhood school.

A truly just society would allow no lesser school to exist; it is simply inexcusable that the wealthiest nation on the planet continues to shirk the duty of nurturing the intellectual growth of all children. 


[The original version of this “Viewpoint” appeared on April 23, 2003 in the now defunct Prince George’s Journal.]



When did Upkeep Become Cost Neutral?

All too frequently these days some member of the medical community offers sage counsel about how best to fight back against the ravages of time as though a reminder is needed that my “youth” has left the building…

Granted, such advice might have proven more useful a half-dozen concussions ago, or more utilitarian had it preceded the inhalation of acids and asbestos while working in the industrial sector, or more beneficial had I been made aware of the effects on my bladder of “holding it in” for decades during the teaching day. Having grown up in orchards in the age of DDT lingers at the back of my mind; my first adolescent “health crisis” coincided with the introduction of Teflon in the family kitchen. So, adhering to a recommended spartan regimen of diet-and-training  has been imposed to forestall the further ravages of Father Time… 

The age of inevitable decline is an ordeal, but it beats the grim alternative.

All things have a life expectancy. Some achieve it; some fail to do so. Some might even surpass it, but nothing in the material world avoids the eventual crumbling into dust. One day, even the pyramids will be a distant cultural memory should the species be so fortunate as to survive that long… 

So, pardon this grizzled, old veteran of the classroom for taking exception with our political leadership and their admonishments reported in The Baltimore Sun Times during the budget cycle in 2015: “A message to Maryland school districts from the Board of Public Works: take better care of what you have.”

A fine sentiment when resources are available, but when Superintendents are compelled to choose between “the maintenance of the physical plant” or “the delivery of instruction”, the immediate welfare of children should be our highest priority. Still, the projected cost of the backlog of much needed renovations in our public schools tallies well in excess of $2 billion. Two decades at the current rate of spending for the Capital Improvement Plan would not take care of the backlog, let alone address new needs.

The maintenance of physical plants requires sufficient resources in the line-item for Capital Improvement Projects. Much to the detriment of the architectural integrity of our schools, planned maintenance has too long been considered a legitimate budgetary “cost avoid”. Most physical plants can sustain one bad year of budgeting; a decade of postponed maintenance can take a building past the point of no return. 

Every homeowner knows the devastating effects of sunlight on exposed painted surfaces and that the actions of the universal solvent – water – will eventually lead to roof replacement. In too many years, extreme cold wreaks havoc on plumbing fixtures and exposes critical weakness in climate control.

Maintenance of a physical plant needs to be systematized beginning when a building opens. Postponing of proper maintenance – as has been the practice for decades – leads to the lunacy of contemplating a facelift when the projected date of obsolescence is at hand, or worse, in the distant past. Some of our schools buildings have nearly doubled their anticipated lifespan.

Shivering children have difficulty concentrating in classrooms where visible vapor is exhaled and active Classroom Management should not entail arranging desks around the drip buckets. Let every classroom offer respite from the elements!

Merely attending school should never become, for any parent’s child, another experience suitable for classification as an Adverse Childhood Experience.

[This Commentary originally appeared in the now defunct Prince George’s Gazette on March 2, 2015. It has been slightly revised for readability and to keep it current. ]

Expectations of heroic proportions are killing the teaching profession

In most instances, heroism should be reflected by isolated events and not the requirements of a job description.

Most acts of heroism occur in extraordinary circumstances when an individual overcomes normal fears and acts, usually involving considerable risk to self, to extract another soul from imminent peril.

Jumping into frigid waters to save someone from drowning, pulling someone from a vehicle fully engulfed in flames, falling on a grenade to save the rest of the unit from certain extinction, these are all most certainly heroic acts. In recent years, too many teachers have furnished that “last full measure of devotion” while saving children from demented gunmen or crumbling walls during a tornado. Each of these isolated instances reflects human pathos, not “other duties as assigned“.

Herein resides the dilemma for educators in the Age of Accountability. The only path to excellence and professional acclaim is tied, apparently irrevocably, to what has become known as the “Heroic Model” which demands total devotion of self to the profession. Selflessness has become the standard for assessing teacher effectiveness, and anything less has nearly become cause for disciplinary action. The altruism reflected in the résumés of most Teachers of the Year usually represents an unsustainable comittment across the span of a career.

Almost invariably, educators enter the profession expressing the idealistic ambition of influencing, in a positive way, the lives of children. The community’s failure to furnish sufficient human and material resources has, however, a deadly  effect on those generous tendencies. Entry level educators saddled by student loan debt, and at a time when they should be devoting all their efforts to the perfection of their craft and addressing the needs of children, find themselves instead taking on a second job out of dire necessity.

Disillusion sets in quickly, and that can be measured by the nearly six out of 10 that decline to endure a sixth year in the classroom.

When a relatively inexperienced teacher recently complained to a colleague about feeling burned out, a colleague replied, “You haven’t been around long enough to be burned out, dear, you are just tired.” Perception, however, is often reality.

To the degree that the effort required to teach effectively is associated with feelings of exhaustion and despair, the children of any community will be disadvantaged. Demanding decades of heroic, superhuman effort, and adding ever more responsibilities to the job description for educators,  are no longer sustainable practices for the public schools.

Further Reading: Those Weren’t the Days, My Friend

[This is an expanded version of a  Commentary that originally appeared in the Prince George’s Gazette on October 24, 2013.]

Letters from the front

Dear Parents,

On the grandest of scales, everything I ever needed to know about Public Education, I learned watching a situation comedy that frequently explored the angst of our human condition.

“M*A*S*H” introduced me to the concept of triage in a Mobile Army Surgical Hospital. Derived from the French verb trier (to sort), triage is a medical protocol designed to cope with the prospect of too few doctors caring for too many casualties on the battlefield. Different from what we currently experience as triage in a modern Emergency Room, trained army medics make life-or-death decisions about which patients might be saved with the resources at hand. Occasionally, the most severely injured are left to die if the heroic measures required to save them might ultimately cost more lives among the less-seriously-injured casualties forced to wait too long for their care. Multiple acute arterial bleeds from numerous shrapnel wounds to internal organs? Sorry, soldier…even attempting to save you will cost the lives of these three less-severe trauma cases over here.

Welcome to life reduced to the existential absurdity of intolerable working conditions adversely affecting the desirable outcome of a maximal effort to save every wounded soldier. Imagine yourself simply administering analgesics and condemning one broken body to death in order to facilitate saving others. How can medical professionals function under such conditions and maintain their sanity? Regrettably, however, this heart-wrenching process has become a metaphor for the modern system of public education.

Today, if teachers are to survive a career in the classroom they must become adept at Educational Triage. Never furnished adequate resources, time or circumstances to reach every student, teachers must all too often cut their losses by occasionally giving up, albeit reluctantly, on students who do not exhibit sufficient resilience to thrive in the classroom. Not enough of a self-starter to crack your book and get your assignments done? Sorry, student, the hours spent arriving at minimal participation will negatively impact the many classmates ready and willing to perform.

Much like the doctor in a battlefield hospital, teachers confront a long roster of  students that is, at best, daunting. Not only is the caseload overwhelming, but far too many of the students on their rolls present perhaps insurmountable challenges. Hence, teachers are frequently forced to choose the interests of the many over the interest of the one. These decisions are not the result of malice, sloth or incompetence. They derive from judicial duress. In the state of Maryland, a judge ruled -and was upheld- that class size “is not a working condition” and therefore “non-negotiable” in the collective bargaining process. Specious legal reasoning may stand up as a narrow interpretation of the law, but it certainly withers under the scrutiny of reason and experience for classroom practitioners.

But surely,” you might exclaim, “our children are far better off than someone lying wounded in a field hospital!”

Truthfully, too many of our children can be tallied among the walking wounded, because the community to which they belong does not currently exhibit the will to lift them from their circumstance and prepare them adequately for the information age.

Neither the county nor the state has demonstrated sufficient resolve to furnish the resources that might transform schools into the one safe place where at-risk children can feel connected in this age of rampant alienation and dissociation. Children are the disenfranchised victims of societal indifference to their plight.

Were your child in legal trouble, would you hire a law clerk who had yet to pass the bar exam? Were your child ill, would you even consider a visit to an unlicensed practitioner? No, you would be looking for the most qualified professional you could find. How has it become acceptable anywhere in America that children can spend more than 1,100 hours each year with inexperienced or marginally-qualified educators?

The demographics suggest that it has become tolerable because it is most consistently the problem of poor children of color and poor children of recent immigrants. We see schools with 100 percent participation in the free/reduced lunch program; coincidentally, those schools also have higher percentages of inexperienced educators. For some reason we have not sufficiently pressured our political leaders to institute the changes necessary to achieve real equity in those schools.

Like it or not, the issue is funding. Affluent jurisdictions almost always manage to fund their schools; they grease the political wheels; they buy influence. Jurisdictions with soci0-economic challenges are seldom able to accomplish that feat.

If a community aspires to no more than the educational equivalent of meatball surgery, then our mission has been nearly accomplished. However, if teachers are to do more than sort those who choose to learn from those who appear unwilling, then we must find an effective and equitable manner by which to fund completely our most challenged schools.

Perhaps you’ve heard the old inspirational saw often trotted out to encourage educators. Two children are walking on the beach. They find hundreds of starfish washed up on the shore. The first child throws one back in the ocean. His companion wonders what possible difference saving one starfish could make. The erstwhile triage specialist responds, “It made a difference to that one.”

A poignant parable… unless your child is among those left as detritus on the beach.


A beleaguered teacher


[Updated from an early Commentary 5/6/99 in the now defunct Prince George’s Journal. Despite enacting the Bridge to Excellence Act in Maryland inspired by the Thornton Commission’s findings, staffing ratios remain approximately 20% lower than our neighbors.]

Hopelessness Makes Political Refugees of Educators

A colleague once shared that she was about to leave the teaching profession.  She was a mid-career teacher who just could not take it any longer.  Too much work-centered heartache had taken its toll.  At the point in her career where she should have been hitting her stride as a teacher, she said, “This teaching gig is for the birds.”

“Teaching is not for the birds,” I quipped. “Birds don’t get up early enough!”

It was nice to share a knowing chuckle.  Both of us were early risers who accomplished our best work done in the hours prior to sunrise.  It was during her quiet time before her children awakened where she organized lesson plans.  My papers were corrected over coffee prior to the arrival of the morning newspaper.

Permit me to ask an indiscreet question.  How long it would be before you grew weary of being compensated for only seventy percent of the hours you worked?

What will persuade you, my compatriots?  What will convince you that this society dedicates insufficient resources to the education of children?  What tales of trial and tribulation will reach into your heart and outrage you enough to compel you to immediate political action?

Nationally, over 50% of teachers surrender by year six. Locally, between 10% and 12% of our teachers have been leaving annually for years now.  Some leave to teach elsewhere.  Some leave for other professions.  Changing jobs is not something employees do for amusement or vengeance: Changing employers is listed among the top five sources of stress in the modern world.  So, what has driven educators to become a new class of migrant worker?  The reason for these departures can be summed up in two words: job dissatisfaction.

Compensation is not the sole driver of teacher turnover, although competitive salaries might help retain some in the profession. Working conditions can drive teachers to curse the day they chose their career.

Teacher flight is about

-class sizes that border on the absurd, and being told that class size is NOT a working condition.

-numerous non-instructional duties that steal from time for planning instruction and assessing learning.

-swallowing a sandwich whole at lunch so that you can administer a make-up assessment while simultaneously calling a parent during your so-called half-hour “duty-free lunch”.

-obsolete materials in the library or book room, and stone-age audio/visual devices in the age of laserdiscs and multi-media presentation.

-changing instruction to use the overhead projector in order to save paper only to be told that there is not enough money for the 600 watt lamps required to run the projectors.

-out-of-pocket expenses for classroom decorations and supplies.

-the absence of support personnel.   

-discovering that “wish-lists” are all too appropriately named. 

-watching children sit in undersized and broken furniture.

-a roof that leaks water and windows that let in the cold compelling gear for inclement weather while indoors.

-trying to talk louder than the four fans you had to purchase in order to push hot air around a 100+ degree classroom in May, June or September.

-no paper, soap or hot-water in the restrooms.

-wondering when, if ever, you might find time to use that restroom.

-being without a classroom for four years because you teach from a cart.

-not having access to your classroom during your planning period for four years because an itinerant cart-based teacher is there.

-losing precious planning periods to substitute for colleagues because absolutely nobody wants to be a substitute.

-utility rooms reincarnated as classrooms.

-students late to class because of  transportation problems while teachers are directed to stress the importance of punctuality as a life skill.

-bureaucrats and business folk who suggest that teachers need more tasks to accomplish.

losing weeks, perhaps months, of instructional time each year to bureaucrat-mandated, irrelevant testing designed to hold the education community’s collective feet to the fire for socio-economic circumstances totally beyond its control. 

et cetera… et cetera… et cetera.

And lest it be omitted, you really have not lived until you have performed the juggling act of teaching two grade levels in the same classroom at the same time, or two different courses in the same room at the same time.  Yes, this may help with staffing & space concerns, but it’s a safe bet that the originator of this “strategy” was not a classroom-based educator attempting to convey knowledge to the next generation.

The sum of such annoyances leads teachers to abandon the classroom. Individually, any of these conditions might be tolerable.  Considered collectively, they breed hopelessness which incites despair. Coping with despair ignites the instinct for self-preservation, both personal and professional. The two options are fight or flight, and flight is frequently the easier alternative.

Fortunately, interventions are within our reach. Most can be resolved by adequate funding for our schools and equitable distribution of resources.

 For every teacher that resigns outright, how many more will lack the skills to cope with challenging circumstances? How many more will eventually take those first small, unwilling steps toward diminished expectations? Who will replace the teachers that leave and what will be their qualifications and experience?   These invisible, unknowable statistics should terrify each of us.

Teachers want to teach.  At least initially, all teachers believe in the possibility of entering a room full of young people and inspiring them to learn.  What intrepid souls!  What unfettered idealists!  Yet, here in the wealthiest nation on the planet, less than one-third of a career suffices to grind unbridled optimism into dust.

[Adapted from an editorial page Commentary in May, 2000 in the now defunct Prince George’s Journal in May, 2000]