Catalyst stoops to teacher bashing

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I was disappointed to see that Catalyst had climbed aboard the “Blame-the-Teachers” express with its article, “School deck stacked against black boys.” As a high school classroom teacher (a title that seems to provoke scorn and indignation itself from many people) with 33+ years experience, I am totally dismayed by the way that politicians, media, parents, public education bureaucrats and everyone else who deems himself or herself an “expert” can easily sit back, miles away from a public school classroom, and almost casually say things like “… teachers misread developmental delays … as a lack of ability,” or that other ridiculous statement, “Teachers also see boys’ more active physical behavior as a problem rather than a learning style that should be used as a conduit for teaching.”

It is almost impossible to use a teenage boy’s “more active physical behavior” as a “conduit for learning” when he is standing in your classroom hurling profanity at your face at mega-decibels just because you asked him to wear his ID card.

At least I found Ms. Michelle Brindell of Hales Franciscan High School credible because she is actively involved in a high school setting and has some valid ideas. But public school teachers do not face the same students that the parochial Hales Franciscan High does.

Mr. Jawanza Kunjufu has written a series of books — “Countering the Conspiracy to Destroy Black Boys,” I think the series was called—that I thought was way off the mark. But he wrote another “To Be Popular or Smart: The Black Peer Group,” that was right on target. Reading his statements in Catalyst, I think he should perhaps reread his own book.

Chicago Public high school teachers do the best they can with what they get. They can’t expel unruly students like a parochial school can, and they are threatened with termination with every new “reform” program that the Chicago public school system puts in place. Despite this, they are blamed for all of the problems of today’s teens. No one, it seems, blames the destructive and violent culture that infiltrates our students’ minds with far more efficiency than any oppressive government’s “brainwashing.” No one blames the environments of many neighborhoods with their street gangs and drive-by shootings. And certainly no one blames the dysfunctional home lives that many of our students come from. Teachers are simply slapped in the face with that absurd and tired ol’ lie (“Every child can learn!!!”) and told it is their fault if every child does not learn!

I am really disappointed Catalyst joined in the anti-teacher chorus! Perhaps you are just trying to print a variety of viewpoints. If that is the case, I hope you will print a few words from someone who has actually taught in a classroom in the last five years.

Jon L. Hawkins, English Department chairperson

South Shore Community Academy

Spare me the whining

Please spare me the whining about failing students. (Catalyst issue on student motivation, March 2001) I too am a CPS teacher; the only difference is that my students do their work, and most succeed. As an upper elementary teacher, I fulfill the assigned homework requirement of 60-90 minutes per day. On a recent questionnaire, my students were asked how much homework they did per week, and most of them answered 6-10 hours per week, and this is elementary school! The high expectations and strict adherence to the homework policy pays off; the average score of my class on the Iowa Tests of Basic Skills was above grade level last year. I not only hope for but expect the same result this spring.

Maybe, instead of coddling these lazy high school students, we need to be more demanding. How about not allowing them access to drivers ed or an Illinois driver’s license until they successfully complete high school. It’s not as if they’ll need that license to go to work if they drop out anyway; there is a McDonald’s at almost every corner.

Please, reconsider before you print any more articles full of watered-down education and self-pity. It is an insult to those of us who are actually performing our duties and setting a meaningful bar for our students to hurdle. If you insist on continuing to peddle this kind of trash, please cancel my subscription.

Jeff S. Skocilich, teacher

Chicago Public Schools