When it comes to discussion of public schools, all too often battle lines seem to be drawn between those on the inside and outside of the system: the teachers and the parents. The teachers understandably want to defend the job they do, while the parents want to ensure that their child doesn’t become another dismal statistic.
But every once in a while an individual comes along with credentials to look at the issue of public education from both viewpoints. Such is the case with Erin Brighton, who recently wrote an op-ed for the Huffington Post entitled, “Goodbye, Public School. It’s Not Me, It’s You.” Brighton starts out by saying:
“For seven years, I’ve done my best to be a good public school ally. As a former teacher, I felt I owed it to the public school system to stick with it – speak up, do what I can, help where I am needed. As a parent of a special needs student, I had faith that the system wouldn’t fail my child as long as I showed up and had some skin in the game. Some years have been great, but too many have not.”
Brighton goes on to list a number of problems which have gradually driven her away from education, which can be outlined in the following way:
1. A Soul-Killing Environment
According to Brighton, the public education system is “run like a prison rather than a supportive learning environment.” This is particularly seen in the increasing number of tests students are required to take, as well as the diminished amount of time allotted for recess and free play.
2. Disrespect for Teachers
Although teachers are some of the prime defenders of the system in which they work, Brighton has seen many ways in which they are ill-treated by their employers. These instances include poor pay, poor support, and demanding that teachers perform feats for which they are not trained.
3. Poor Instruction
According to Brighton, the public schools have insisted on “dumbing down curriculum.” Such trends often occur through the assignment of “mundane worksheets” and the extensive allowance of unsupervised technology usage. And while it seems like common sense to foster and encourage particularly bright students, Brighton has seen them pushed aside and grouped with the rest of the herd.
Brighton goes on to say that while she has tried to be perseverant and understanding, her patience has worn thin:
“If we insist on cramming students into schools and trailers, and paying teachers poorly, and underfunding schools, and overemphasizing test scores, there’s really no hope in sight. If we insist on dumbing down curriculum, and cutting back on arts and languages, and not differentiating for bright kids, why should bright kids stay? If we want to mainstream our special ed students but not train teachers to include them appropriately, how can those students thrive?
I used to argue that parents with choices needed to choose public school in order for our public schools to succeed. I’ve been choosing public school for seven years here in North Carolina, and I’ve only seen the education situation get worse. So, thanks anyway, public school. Take my tax dollars and redistribute it amongst the masses. Maybe that’s my new argument: everyone who can leave, should.”
Considering her experience as both a parent and a teacher, do you think Brighton’s assessment of the public education system is fair and reliable? Is it time for parents to explore other options given that the public school system can’t seem to get off the continual treadmill of ineffectual education?
Annie Holmquist is the editor of Intellectual Takeout. When not writing or editing, she enjoys reading, gardening, and time with family and friends.