I have an interesting opportunity. And a decision to make.
I've been asked to teach a class at the local university next fall. I'm going to leave out the details, because it's not completely definite yet, but it seems very likely that I will be teaching a very juicy course to Master's level pre-service teachers next semester. For the uninitiated, this means that I'll be teaching a small class of folks whose undergraduate degrees are mostly in the liberal arts, who have decided to become teachers.
I've also been asked to seriously consider doing an EdD. This is Education's version of a PhD, and it would mean that I would eventually be qualified to teach the next generation of public school teachers. It may not be obvious to everyone reading this post, so I will explicitly state that if I were to become a part of that system, I would spend the rest of my working life fighting hard to train the kinds of teachers who will work to create schools that meet children's needs better than they currently do. I am thinking of this work as a kind of human-rights activism.
I want to work to create schools where children's intellectual integrity is respected. This would be possible where the authority in the classroom rests in its proper place: with the teachers and children, rather than with an outside authority like a prescribed curriculum, the State, a test, or legislation like NCLB. I want to train teachers who can be flexible and creative, and use their senses and their mental abilities to really look at and respond to the children they teach.
This is the only battle, political, environmental, or otherwise, that I have any interest in fighting. This is one of the few things that could tempt me out of my current state of relative withdrawal from the world.
Here are my three quandaries:
To what degree would choosing this be taking some version of 'a good life' away from my own children? In other words, if by choosing the path of working to try to ensure a more humane schooling experience for children in public school, I would be eliminating the humanity from my own children's lives, it seems wrong-headed. Is it possible to keep my children at home as I pursue a doctorate? Clearly, I would need some outside help.
I believe this is mostly a losing battle. I believe that public school policy is not driven by what's best for the children, but rather by politics, an anti-intellectual and fear-based emotionality, and a failure of imagination caused when people believe that the only way to school is the way they were schooled. Can I do any good by fighting a losing battle? Can I make things better?
If what I really want is to make public schools better, doesn't it make more sense, as a certified and experienced teacher, for me to go into the public system myself? In other words, rather than sit in an ivory tower and tell other people how to do this very difficult work, shouldn't I just do it myself? At least then I would know that some children are getting a fair shake, at least as far as possible in the current grades-driven, test-crazed political climate. Of course, this would guarantee that I couldn't keep my kids home, so that pretty much makes it out of the question at the moment. However, eventually my children won't need to be home anymore, and at that point I could certainly get a teaching job and become an agent for change within a school.
Please discuss, either by email or in the comments. All perspectives welcome.