|Some children come from healthy homes.|
and they're easy to teach.
Others come to class loaded
with problems and even loaded weapons.
Saving them is much tougher business,
Teachers can only do their best.
That's not always enough.
Luckily, he didn't shoot either of us, or anyone else that day. Years later, however, he shot himself. Nothing funny about this in any way.
Still, when I hear the cascading criticism leveled at public school teachers and hear experts insist we have to save every kid, I think, who was ever going to save Dylan Klebold? Who was ever going to save Eric Harris? Those two were the shooters at Columbine High in April 1999.
It's ironic, when teachers hear their job is to save every child, because the people who say they know how to do the saving are never the ones who do the saving. Congress passes No Child Left Behind and promises....promises, mind you....that every child in America is going to be proficient in reading and math by 2014.
Of course, teachers have to be committed to working toward that noble goal. It's absolutely true: We don't want to give up on any child.
That doesn't mean we should take leave of our five senses and ignore harsh realities. The New York Times reported this week that Salinas, California has a serious gang problem and police are struggling to control 3,500 young men and women involved in various criminal enterprises.
I see that, and I want to tell the fools in the U. S. Department of Education, or our pompous Governor John Kasich here in Ohio, or assorted newspaper critics, "You want to save a sixteen-year-old gang member with a violent criminal record, you save him yourself."
FRANKLY, IT GETS TIRESOME LISTENING to Secretary of Education Arne Duncan preach. He says fixing American education is "all about the talent," meaning all about teachers. Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg of New York City, Harvard grad, and billionaire, a man who never spent a day in a classroom in his life, unless he got lost on the way to making another deposit at his bank, insists that his efforts to reform NYC schools have been thwarted because too many teachers come from the bottom ranks of their college classes, and "not of the best schools."
Davis Guggenheim, producer of Waiting for Superman, put together an entire film focusing on five great kids and their families and how badly they wanted to win the lottery and get into the local charter schools. The moral of his fable was simple. The typical public school teacher was lazy or incompetent, or both, and all parents and all children would live happily ever after if we had more vouchers and more charter schools. Then he sent his own kids to an elite private school, lest they might rub shoulders--or noses--with actual poor kids--or gang members.
Steven Brill, non-teaching expert on teaching, and a well-healed lawyer, insisted in his own book, Class Warfare, that the main problems in schools were teachers' unions and tenure laws. So, sure. I guess you could argue if I hadn't had tenure that poor boy wouldn't have brought that gun. And if it weren't for teachers unions, those two terrible young men who shot up Columbine would have been fine.
THEN, SAVING EVERY CHILD ISN'T AS EASY as the fools who write books and the knuckle-heads who pass legislation promising miracles make the job of working those miracles sound.
It's a daunting challenge, even for the greatest teachers in America.