Crisis in the Classroom

As a teacher in Philadelphia's "school" system for over 5 years, I know well the chaos and malevolence which an increasing number of inner city children bring to bear against discipline and order – the practice of teaching. Immaturity, irresponsibility and inconsiderate behavior pervade. Benevolence and forbearance have given way to cruelty. Violence ensues and escalates – all harbingers of anarchy then tyranny and ultimately chaos and death. Ironically, school district officials in various capacities do little if anything but accommodate such conduct. It runs contrary to the behavioral standards which my teachers asked of me from within the classroom and the exemplars which I, in my turn, demand of my students and myself within the world. As form follows function, divorcing criminal behavior from mentally and morally retarded children must stop and so must its mitigation with siren songs of financial, familial and social excuse. Such apostasy will not avail. It has already left the climate in the Philadelphia school system rudderless and teaching impaired. Such is what the toxicities of the liberal cabal and its iniquitous progenies of tolerance and accommodation have wrought in its classrooms. Its houses of learning are now and probably ever houses of lamentation. What then can be done? How do we begin? What is needed is the old organon.
Where student behavior misses the form, the leniency of the consequences which ensue often miss the point. Reformers believe forgivably that progressive discipline and due process can produce more than unprecedented mountains of paper which all but remove learning from its appropriate place in the daily life of the school and with it, the ideas of the teacher and ultimately, the human person. They believe less forgivably that “victory in the classroom” can be broadly hinted at abstrusely through preposterous and demeaning policy initiatives (e.g. weekly standardized quizzes) aimed at increased teacher accountability. They believe altogether unforgivably that the students subordinate the primacy of evangelizing the dignity of the teacher and of teaching as they ever have and probably ever shall.
The economy, polity and most importantly, the once promising but now bygone moral stature of the American regime depend upon order, the grammar and vocabulary of civilization and the environs to which its schools especially must cleave – things which administrators, parents of school age children and school officials have bastardized utterly with cries of “accountability”, “accommodation” and above all “equality”. Since this lesson ostensibly proves too difficult for some to learn, then they would do well to remember that not all hearts in the world are equal. Not all minds in the world are equal. Some are better than others and those of teachers are generally more so than most.
Keeping children worthy and ready to learn constructively engaged in the classroom and intellectual defectives who transgress expurgated like festering malignancies should serve as the creedal reference point of education. Parents, students and even school officials alike should be capable of both grasping this universality and being grasped by it. Free-wheeling morally relativistic policy makers have agentially relegated moral rectitude to the dustbin of accommodation while bowing willy-nilly to the prevailing winds of political correctness. Indeed, these well-intentioned but pusillanimous individuals have run education off the tracks and well nigh ruined it leaving the classroom as a chamber of horrors whose emblematic ghouls are chaos, malevolence and in rare cases, serious physical injury.
Over zealous policy makers who tout reform as a moniker for “student achievement” are most diverse and are well represented within local governments who brainwash the public into believing that the iniquities of the schools fall to the responsibility of its administrators and chiefly to its teachers. Yet seldom do high-level city officials set foot in the schools with any regularity. Never with much thought do they ponder the moral and intellectual shortcomings of many of its students. Never at all have such people born such idiocy so proudly and so far and wide. Such are the underpinning philosophies of the weak but ever and anon with much ado will they avail against all who choose to listen. I would entreat even the public to rise above the simple thinking of such narrow-mindedness. If it would seek to lift its nation out of the academic and moral malaise in which it finds itself then it must strive to understand the difference and affect a critical review of our schools instead of taking them for granted and speaking about matters to which it gives no great thought. Our time and our legacy demand nothing less.
For the first time in a long time, teaching has become far removed from academics. It is not simply vacillating in riches, one and perhaps the only of its earthly byproducts. It is in fact no tangible thing. It is a calling to and a celebration of a way of life consecrated by an inalienable sense of honor and uncompromising virtue which only the most morally inveterate teachers know and love for they know what these things are and with great frustration at times, how to find them both in themselves and in all the world. Their artifacts are growth and accomplishment for jobs well done, the compasses which keep teachers pointed in the right direction. This then is the true business of what teaching is and what the late Pope John Paul II has referred to as the drama of the spiritual life. Live it -- much and often. Teaching students to keep their eyes on things above by inspiring them to dream large dreams here below including those of the heroic and dramatic were the hallmarks of his magisterium and his role in the creative process. “Never lose your trust, do not be defeated, do not be discouraged…never lose your spiritual freedom.” Do not allow the liberal cabal to sell its teachers short by settling for anything less than the moral and intellectual grandeur to which they are capable. They are the keys for who teachers, heroes and what no others are or should be: servants of truth and love.

Jonathan R. Verlin, M.A., M.Ed., M.S.I.S., M.S.