A Syracuse high school teacher resigned this week after 27 years of teaching at Westhill High School. He said his profession “no longer exists” so he had to leave. Gerald Conti, chair of the Social Studies department at the high school, has many qualms with the direction in which American public education is moving.
Many years ago, he joined a profession where the teacher could use his or her knowledge and creativity to welcome students into a compelling learning environment. Today, Conti writes in his letter to the Board of Education, education is centered around “conformity, standardization, testing, and a zombie-like adherence to the shallow and generic common core” The education system has established “testing and evaluation systems that are Byzantine at best and at worst, draconian.”
Conti’s letter to the Superintendent and members of the Board of Education was published in the Washington Post. Conti’s sentiments represent those of many teachers these days who feel that their profession and the education system overall is being devalued in exchange for robotic methods aimed at achieving high test scores. Conti wrote that, “The repercussions of these ill-conceived policies will be telling and shall resound to the detriment of education for years to come,” strong words toward the profession this teacher once loved.
In addition to the path national education standards have taken, Conti cites a school leadership unsympathetic to the needs of the teachers. In other words, it’s the teachers against the administration when they should ideally be united. How is it that teachers can be productive when they feel discouraged by their leadership? More than discouraged, many teachers including Conti feel that they are not trusted by their superiors. If they were trusted educators, they would be able to formulate their own assignments and grade their own students’ papers — both practices are increasingly streamlined taking away the teacher’s personal touch.
Conti’s letter is sad. It is heartbreaking to see this breakdown of our education system and the effect it has on those who dedicated their lives to educating our nation’s children in a way that worked, only to be taken over by meaningless standards.
At the beginning of the letter, Conti describes his own learning style. He is passionate about history and everything in his life relates to that passion. The trips he takes, books he reads, and movies he watches all center around his passion for history. He never feels that he knows enough, and always wants to know more. His passion is not centered around test scores, it is centered around learning, which is the way education should be.