Caitlin on American Education

27 July, 2011

3:00 am
Alexandria, Virginia

Let’s examine teaching for a moment. When I was a young man in college, still nauseatingly optimistic about my ability to change the world and not yet beat into a cynical middle-aged woman by the life lessons that begin when we turn nineteen and never stop, I told my advisor that I was not going to go into the ministry. My reasoning, there was too much politicizing and back biting among the congregation toward each other and the pastor, between the pastor toward the congregation, other pastors, and the synod, and between the denomination toward itself, other denominations, and the world in general (and when I say world I am not using that term with its colloquial understanding of humankind, I mean the whole bleeding world). I also thought the average pastor was bug-shit nuts and spent more time preaching against Christ than for him. I told my advisor as much and he agreed. Then he asked me a single question that haunts me in the three am hour, and every other hour also: If you leave who is left to teach my children? Bloody hell. Such a manipulative question. But also a legitimate one. The answer, of course, is the numb nuts I was trying to escape. (This is why the few good pastors I know, such as Mr. Hunter, are a God-send. Literally.)

I’ll come back to that question in a bit.

As I examine the last three years of my career, I find myself at a crossroads. (Hopefully not the kind Robert Johnson sings of where you bury you a hodo, deal-makin’-demon summonin’ box in the dirt.) Do I continue to teach or do I start looking for another career and, if so, what?

Teaching is boring me. Granted, with any career path there will be boredom. That’s why it’s called work and not Caitlin Song’s Funtime Hour and Polka Revue. I think, if it were just the boredom, I could handle the longterm career aspects of teaching, but it’s so much more than that.

It starts with the opposing dichotomy that is the American attitude toward education that consists of a snooty devaluing of education in general and the classroom instructor in particular as effective and socially relevant components in a utilitarian society, which leads to cutbacks, over crowding, shell game transfers of reduced but un-fireable staff, outdated and inadequate resources, and furlough days. This then leads into the other completely accepted and just as inaccurate belief about educators that they are solely responsible for the mass of illiterate, undereducated morons that our children have become. After all, if that lazy, incompetent, no-good, very bad, horrible teacher had just tried to do their job the children would have magically advanced from know-nothing puddinheads to brilliant scholars curing AIDS, cancer, and crows feet and inventing a truly viable alternative to the facebook. Am I the only one who sees the complete irrationality it takes to cling firmly to both of these exaggerated beliefs as social gospel.

The pressure on teachers to create the perfect American Scholar through sheer tenacity and sixty to eighty hour work weeks, without expecting help from outside sources like parents, administrators, local, state, and federal programs and government structures, or even the know-nothing know-it-all American Christian (we are working our way back to that manipulative question), has mounted to ridiculous proportions. For example, the FIRST program that offers a monetary incentive to teachers to perform better in the classroom and raise test scores, but actually punishes good teachers by requiring them to be a failing teacher who turns things around and becomes brilliant in order to get the money. If you are already succeeding there is no money for you. Like society, the programs designed to enhance education are all founded on the misconception that all teachers suck the sweat off a donkey’s balls when it comes to commitment and qualifications. I cry bullshit. Pick the cards up and try again.

(To be fair, some parents, administrators, politicians, and, yes, even Christians are intelligent human doings capable of original, sane, and by current standards, radical thought. These human doings are rare in a country full of human demandings who expect the silver platter package without even a thought to putting in the work that we, as entitled and sodded-up as our generation was, recognized had to be put in before that tray would be handed over.)

It’s time to get out of education because we are about one step from mutiny. And to be perfectly honest I’m not sure which side will be the ones with the blindfolds and which with the rifles. Though it isn’t looking promising for the educated human. (Hell, if we could all just become human learnings we would find ourselves in a position to succeed and maybe even grow as a culture.)

Which brings us back to that manipulative question. If I and others like me abandon the field as an unwinnable war, who does that leave to do the job of educating? I shudder even as I purchase my one-way ticket to Australia—an American-like country that will surpass America because they value education and support their teachers.

How do you spell screwed? T-E-A-C-H-E-R.


  1. I think there may be an answer here: private education.

    • Yes. Let’s start our own school and hire virtual administrators who we only turn on to do the stuff we don’t want to do.

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