Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Choosing our Paths Wisely By Jennifer Clarke

“Two Roads Diverged in a Yellow Wood”  We all know this quote from Robert Frost. I never liked this poem. I always imagined two paths: one pristinely cultivated by man, and one overgrown and unruly—wild and untamed by nature. It didn’t resonate with me. Ever. I am a literature person, and I listened to this poem, and I studied this poem, but I never chose to teach it, and now I know why.

The paths we face, as educators, as parents, as citizens in this country, are not the choices of paths followed and cultivated by man or paths uncharted. The ugly truth is, we face a path cultivated and allowed by man and one forbidden. That is the ugly truth, and that is why this poem never resonated with me. It lacked a truth I so readily saw.

I have watched the battles over Common Core, high stakes testing, privatization of education, and dismantling of public schools. I have heard how this reform is negatively impacting our kids, and I have read the research, the articles, and I have studied. I have listened to Michelle Rhee, Arne Duncan, Bill Gates, President Obama, and all of the other power players, and their empty promises. I have also supported Mark Naison, and supported Diane Ravitch, and shared blogs and information from the Jersey Jazzman and Love Light and BATs, and Gopublicschools, and Lace to the Top, and every other voice trying to be heard for the actual benefit of our kids. And I am deeply saddened.

You see, these people chose the path that is not cultivated by the powers that be. But that path is not just overgrown and unruly because no one has walked the path. The truth is, there are a great number of us walking that path. It is worn, and it is full of people. But the path is blocked, and the power players have provided society with beautifully cultivated distractions to lead them to the more financially lucrative path for them. But the ills that plague education do not end at Common Core and high stakes testing. It is much, much uglier.

Our kids, our teachers are subject to abuses that should shock the national conscience. Students have been subjected to crimes that are violent and indecent, and these crimes are routinely covered up by administrators and community leaders in attempts to avoid scandals. Teachers who have spoken up to protect these students are alienated, isolated, ostracized, and terminated. Teachers have been victims of abuses and suffered the same fate. Silence is the order of the day. This culture of crime is pervasive in our nation and is ratified and perpetuated by hand-holding of the powerful. Is it any surprise then, that now we face a complete and utter destruction of the very nature of education, and seem powerless to stop it?

Until the national conscience is woken up, sheds it cognitive dissonance, stands along side the teachers, students, and parents, and raises its voice loud enough so that the side of the right becomes louder than the side of the wrong, no one will see the other path. Money can make things look pretty, but so can lies. We have a responsibility to face the truth for the sake of our kids. We have a responsibility to stand with educators who stand up for our kids. We have a responsibility to make our leaders aware that we will no longer blindly follow the path they have laid. We will, in fact, follow the path they cover up, or we will make our own.

There can be more than two paths. There can be more than one right way. But we must choose to leave the wrong one.

And we must be noisy when we do it.


  1. This is a powerful essay. Great!


  2. After 35 years as a school administrator I retired. I lived in New Jersey. Chris Christie came along and he was so repulsive and disgusting and such a bully that I could not stand it. I moved to North Carolina. Things in North Carolina are equally bad.

    I just had to write after watching Ms. Tomlinson and observing the rage on the part of Mr. Christie. When I learned about your organization all I could say was "It is about time." If we do not push back no one else will stand up for our profession. In her written response to Christie she asked him to make it in her class for a week. I guarantee you that neither he nor the other school detractors could last very long at all and/or deliver the services that are required.

    I urge you to grow your numbers and speak out strongly and vigorously. They say that growing old is not for sissies. Neither is teaching and producing in a school. When I was just starting, who would have thought that we would see the day when teachers were killed on the job with a startling degree of regularity. Who would have thought that so many teachers would be harassed, held up to ridicule and demeaned by the very people they served. Yet, people continue to come forward to teach and serve the young people of America.

    There are far more dangerous jobs. There are far more challenging jobs. But collectively, as a profession, aside from the military, law enforcement and fire no one has the challenge and responsibility for our safety and our future the way teachers do. So do what you can. Recognize that our profession is not perfect, but a hell of a lot better than we are given credit for. Hold up a mirror for society to look at, because most of our problems come through the door and they are not made in our schools.

    When Christie started his rants I was retired. He made me feel like a second class citizen slopping at the public trough. Schools and their staffs were demeaned and retirees were held up to ridicule. Hopefully this will not be the new America.

    Lastly, we need to remind everyone that will listen that when guns came through the door, the teachers did not flinch. They protected their children as if they were their own. What higher standard is their.



Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.