The New York Times published an article today about a teacher at The Success Academy, a ”high achieving” school in New York City, who was observed abusing a young child verbally for getting confused on a math problem. The article includes an accompanying video filmed surreptitiously by an assistant teacher. In the video, we see the teacher ripping up the child’s paper and almost throwing it at her, we hear the teacher telling the student to go to the ”calm down” chair (even though the student [a first grader!] was sitting very still), and we feel the teacher blasting a whole lot of anger at the innocent child. I was so outraged by the video that I added a reader’s comment to the article. It reads:
”Bravo teacher’s assistant, and bravo New York Times, for capturing and disseminating this vivid example of pedagogical child abuse! There is no other term for it. This video segment serves as a symbol of the extent to which accountability and standards in the United States educational system are endangering our children’s emotional and creative lives. No amount of trying to minimize this incident by the so-called ”Success Academy” (success at what cost?) – can detract from the fact that the teacher’s ”model” behavior is in fact only one dramatic example of what happens all the time in schools across our nation while our educational and political leaders from Obama on down continue to legislate and enforce the stressful conditions under which the most vulnerable of our citizens – the children – labor. We’ve lost a generation. Is it any wonder that our country’s citizens seem now to be unable think for themselves and instead flock to mindless political blowhards who proffer simplistic and dangerous solutions to the world’s woes?”
It is not enough to simply criticize this single incident (the teacher by the way was initially suspended after the story broke, but was then shortly thereafter reinstated as one of the schools’ ”model” teachers). We must ask ourselves what our educational system is doing to children with its insistence on high test scores and grades, and how our society itself may be at risk because of the institutional child abuse that goes on in virtually every public school classroom in the nation where students are treated as test-taking machines and asked to do artificial learning tasks totally unsuited to their natures and needs as natural geniuses who were born with innate curiosity, creativity, and imagination.