Another Reason Why Public School Teachers are Silenced: They Might Expose the Wounds of Poverty

A disinterested observer, coming from another place or time, would find it odd that the voices of American public school teachers are systematically excluded by those making education policy. No better example of this is the “Education Reform” gathering sponsored by NY Governor Andrew Cuomo- Camp Philus- where the admission fee is $1,000, guaranteed to assure that public school teachers won’t be present.

However, if you examine the economic trends of the last thirty years, particularly the concentration of wealth at the top, the shrinking of the middle class, and the freezing of social mobility for the nation’s working class and poor, you might find one possible explanation for the exclusion of teachers voices- they know “where the bodies are buried.” 

No one knows better than American public school teachers the toll poverty takes on a sizable portion of the nation’s students and families, and how much pain this causes on a daily basis. Their students bring the wounds of poverty in every day, both directly and indirectly- the poor diets, the overcrowding in homes and apartments, the constant stress adults are under paying rent, or gas and electric bills or putting food on the table; the violence that often breaks out in response to that stress, not only in the streets, but behind closed doors; the health problems that come from poor diet and lack of sleep along with lack of access to medical care; and the constant disappearance of loved ones due to economic pressures or just an accumulation of tension from living in a world where everyone is on edge. Teachers not only see all these things, they try desperately to heal the wounds, with love, with food, with encouragement, sometimes with money and a place to stay.

More importantly, they know that this many wounded children is a symptom of a deeply wounded society, of a nation whose child poverty rate, dwarfs that of almost all other industrialized nation, and whose inequalities cannot be erased by changing curricula, closing schools, breaking teachers unions, and adding more tests.

If public school teachers voices were heard, the cries of suffering children would be heard loud and clear and the “no excuses pedagogy” being promoted everywhere would be exposed as either smokescreen for preserving privilege or a newly minted version of the “Big Lie” elites in authoritarian societies love to disseminate

Put teachers voices in the forefront and we will finally have a real accounting of the full impact of poverty on the nation’s children, which, I guess is the last thing that politicians of either party want to hear.