Public Education’s Dirty Secret

Quillette | 9/11/2001 | Staff
shardonay (Posted by) Level 3
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Bad teaching is a common explanation given for the disastrously inadequate public education received by America’s most vulnerable populations. This is a myth. Aside from a few lemons who were notable for their rarity, the majority of teachers I worked with for nine years in New York City’s public school system were dedicated, talented professionals. Before joining the system I was mystified by the schools’ abysmal results. I too assumed there must be something wrong with the teaching. This could not have been farther from the truth.

Teaching French and Italian in NYC high schools I finally figured out why this was, although it took some time, because the real reason was so antithetical to the prevailing mindset. I worked at three very different high schools over the years, spanning a fairly representative sample. That was a while ago now, but the system has not improved since, as the fundamental problem has not been acknowledged, let alone addressed. It would not be hard, or expensive, to fix.

NYC - Career - Days - September - Washington

My NYC teaching career began a few days before September 11, 2001 at Washington Irving High School. It was a short honeymoon period; the classes watched skeptically as I introduced them to a method of teaching French using virtually no English. Although the students weren’t particularly engaged, they remained respectful. During first period on that awful day there was a horrendous split-second noise. A plane flew right overhead a mere moment before it blasted into the north tower of the World Trade Center. At break time word was spreading among the staff. Both towers were hit and one had already come down. When I went to my next class I told the students what had happened. There was an eruption of rejoicing at the news. Many students clapped and whooped their approval, some getting out...
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