PhD Teacher Quits: “The Disorder is in the System, not the Children”*
By John Vibes
Teacher Wendy Bradshaw pointed out that how the structure of modern schooling is abusive to children, and that children who are labelled as “bad” are many times just having trouble fitting into the rigid structure that is being forced on them.
Her resignation letter can be read below:
“To: The School Board of Polk County, Florida
I love teaching. I love seeing my students’ eyes light up when they grasp a new concept and their bodies straighten with pride and satisfaction when they persevere and accomplish a personal goal. I love watching them practice being good citizens by working with their peers to puzzle out problems, negotiate roles, and share their experiences and understandings of the world. I wanted nothing more than to serve the students of this county, my home, by teaching students and preparing new teachers to teach students well… I not only love teaching, I am excellent at it, even by the flawed metrics used up until this point. Every evaluation I received rated me as highly effective.
Like many other teachers across the nation, I have become more and more disturbed by the misguided reforms taking place which are robbing my students of a developmentally appropriate education. Developmentally appropriate practice is the bedrock upon which early childhood education best practices are based, and has decades of empirical support behind it.
However, the new reforms not only disregard this research, they are actively forcing teachers to engage in practices which are not only ineffective but actively harmful to child development and the learning process. I am absolutely willing to back up these statements with literature from the research base, but I doubt it will be asked for.
However, I must be honest… I just cannot justify making students cry anymore. They cry with frustration as they are asked to attempt tasks well out of their zone of proximal development. They cry as their hands shake trying to use an antiquated computer mouse on a ten year old desktop computer which they have little experience with, as the computer lab is always closed for testing. Their shoulders slump with defeat as they are put in front of poorly written tests that they cannot read, but must attempt. Their eyes fill with tears as they hunt for letters they have only recently learned so that they can type in responses with little hands which are too small to span the keyboard.
The children don’t only cry. Some misbehave so that they will be the ‘bad kid’ not the ‘stupid kid’, or because their little bodies just can’t sit quietly anymore, or because they don’t know the social rules of school and there is no time to teach them. My master’s degree work focused on behaviour disorders, so I can say with confidence that it is not the children who are disordered.
The disorder is in the system which requires them to attempt curriculum and demonstrate behaviours far beyond what is appropriate for their age. The disorder is in the system which bars teachers from differentiating instruction meaningfully, which threatens disciplinary action if they decide their students need a five minute break from a difficult concept, or to extend a lesson which is exceptionally engaging.
The disorder is in a system which has decided that students and teachers must be regimented to the minute and punished if they deviate. The disorder is in the system which values the scores on wildly inappropriate assessments more than teaching students in a meaningful and research based manner.
On June 8, 2015, my life changed when I gave birth to my daughter. I remember cradling her in the hospital bed on our first night together and thinking, “In five years you will be in kindergarten and will go to school with me.” That thought should have brought me joy, but instead it brought dread. I will not subject my child to this disordered system, and I can no longer in good conscience be a part of it myself. Please accept my resignation from Polk County Public Schools.
Wendy Bradshaw, Ph.D.”
This letter is reminiscent of one wrote world famous educator John Taylor Gatto. But even he found the top-down structure of the school system and the curriculum provided is very damaging to the minds of children.
He left public schools by writing his resignation letter in the op-ed pages of the Wall Street Journal, starting the letter off by saying that he “refuses to continue hurting children.” He then went on to start an incredible career in writing, researching and speaking out about the dangers of compulsory schooling.
This element is important because the public school system combined with other forms of child abuse has worked to create the kind of violent and angry culture that we see today. When you treat people like prisoners and second class citizens for the most vital developmental years of their lives, you are going to create confused, bitter and deranged people. There is still value in group learning settings, and there is still value in teachers, but what we have today is indoctrination, not education.