Alliance for the Separation of School & State
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The Education Liberator, Vol. 1, No. 2, October 1995

Proclaimer Profile

Each month, we will profile individuals who have signed the Proclamation for the Separation of School & State.

Any reform involving the government will fail

Janet Martin has taught elementary children in the public school system for most of the last 30 years, including 17 years in the Tempe, Arizona District 3 schools. She awakened to the crisis in education when she noticed her sixth grade students could not do basic math and their reading and writing skills were at a "sketchy third grade level."

Martin observed that over time the educational system had forced schools to introduce an increasing number of non-academic subjects with behavioral objectives: suicide prevention, gun prevention, gang prevention, drug prevention, sex education, values clarification, recycling. Less and less time was available to teach academic subjects as they were crowded out. When Martin complained that "parents want their children to learn, not have their psyches massaged" she was told "you're a master teacher, I'm sure you can fit it all in."

Just as many others have done, Martin first tried to reform the system from within. She found that committee recommendations were ignored or used as a rubber stamp for plans already decided. Her experiences led her to speak out as a School Sakharov* after she concluded that "the system can't be fixed. It's a socialistic system that can only lead to mediocrity, not excellence. Basically, any reform involving the government will fail. Government can't fix the problem because government is the problem!"

Janet Martin now works to convince parents and teachers that the educational system itself is the problem. She points out that "many teachers would teach very differently if they could." Martin advocates keeping the focus on the system and not "bashing the teachers" so that teachers and administrators can see the problems without feeling defensive.

* Andrei Sakharov won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1975. From his position of eminence within the Soviet Union, Sakharov courageously denounced the failures of communism within his own country. School Sakharovs are educators who have worked within our educational system, have witnessed its failures first hand, and are willing to speak out (see "The Cement Canoe" Sept. '95).

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