What’s Missing From Education Reform in America?

Why Can’t We Solve the Problems in Our Schools?

Prisoner of Second Grade

Prisoner of Second Grade is a memoir of the fifty years I spent in school as a writer, teacher, and advocate for more creative education reform. My experiences spanned the last half of the twentieth century so will give you a firsthand account of the haphazard and politically expedient reforms that have narrowed the vision and squandered resources of the American education system. These reforms began with the National Defense Education Act of 1958 and were followed by mini classes and modular scheduling in the late sixties, the open classroom in the seventies, the back to basics movement of the eighties, and the obsession with standardized testing that took hold in the nineties. This obsession set the stage for the disastrous No Child Left Behind Act, Race to the Top, and the lack of vision in the education system that has led to charter schools and vouchers that threaten to undermine our public schools.

As you will see when my students used what I taught them to end the gang activity in our school, solving the problems in our schools may not be as expensive or difficult as we’ve been led to believe. But as you will also see when I’m driven from the teaching profession with nothing but exemplary evaluations in my file, the problems in our schools are different—and darker—than they seem.

How and Why I Wrote Prisoner of Second Grade

Joan CutulyWhen I won the big teaching award for my writing program, I knew deep down I was living on borrowed time. Not literally. It’s just that I was more of a poet at heart than a teacher. By poet, I don’t mean simply a lover of metaphor but rather one who breathes for the day when truth turns power structures into flowers. It’s this latter trait that in so many oppressive regimes has earned poets a reputation for being nettlesome. So I wasn’t entirely surprised when my students used what I taught them to turn gang leaders into advocates for education, only to have our principal say no to the plan. Although what he actually said was yes while giving me a choice between saving my students or saving myself. In the end, I lost both. I then spent the next fourteen years trying to write a book that would show how what happened is a perfect illustration of why we can’t solve the problems in our schools.
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Signed Copy from Joan

Please make checks or money orders payable to Joan Cutuly and mail to:

The Gulliver Initiative
P.O. Box 156
Netarts, OR 97143