And the Reasons I Created This Website
As my memoir Prisoner of Second Grade shows, my teaching experiences suggest that solving the problems in our schools may not be as expensive or complicated as we’ve led to believe. Unfortunately, we attribute problems throughout the education system to issues such as insufficient funding and poverty. In doing so, we overlook far more fundamental issues:
- From the National Defense Education Act of 1958 on, a series of haphazard and politically expedient policies have have not only failed to solve the problems in our schools but have actually created and compounded many of these problems.
- The arts and humanities have been cut from our classrooms so that today for many children, 30,000 years of what it means to be human have been reduced to an occasional elective—a mindset that has also stifled the compassion and creativity required to solve the problems not only in education but in other areas affecting our well-being as a nation.
- We the People have been complaining about our schools since the late sixties, yet we just kept sending the children we love to schools that we know have not only been in academic decline but have become increasingly dangerous places.
- The people in charge of our political, financial, business, health care, and education systems have one or more degrees from our institutions of higher learning but do not appear have the skills or character required to solve the problems that beset us.
My Teaching Experience
My memoir Prisoner of Second Grade is the story of the fifty years I spent in school from 1948–1998. While most of my teaching experience was as a public high-school English teacher, I taught at all levels from elementary school through college, in private as well as alternative schools, and in affluent, middle-class, and inner-city neighborhoods.
Throughout the last half of the twentieth century, I experienced the consequences of shortsighted reforms that led to the obsession with standardized testing that set the stage for No Child Left Behind and the feckless reforms that followed.
How My Advocacy for More Creative School Reform Began
In 1984, I school officials in Clark County, Nevada gave me a big award for my method of teaching writing as a problem-solving strategy. I was invited to give workshops throughout Nevada on my method an advocate and to create an upward-bound program for my schools.
But when my students used what I taught them to end the gang activity in our school, the principal stifled the effort. And with a personnel file full of nothing but exemplary evaluations, I was driven from the teaching profession for what I can only call my crimes of imagination against the system.
This began my work as an advocate for more creative education reform. I joined the Nevada Humanities Committee as a speaker for its On the Road Series, appeared on Free Speech TV’s Press for Democracy, and have done many readings from my books. And now I have created this website.
Prisoner of Second Grade: My Life Under the Thumb of That Other Cold War Enemy—The System That Stifled Art, Humanity, and Reason, The Gulliver Initiative, 2008.
Home of the Wildcats: Perils of an English Teacher, National Council of Teachers of English, 1993.
Selected poems in Desert Wood: An Anthology of Nevada Poets. University of Nevada. 1991.
In support of the arts, I also organized the Netarts-Oceanside reading series for five years and was the 1983–84 project director for Desert Readings, a poetry series sponsored by the Nevada Humanities.