The Education Liberator, Vol. 1, No. 3, November 1995
Each month, we will profile individuals who have signed the Proclamation for the Separation of School & State.
Teachers can't see what system does to themEver since she was eight years old, becoming a teacher was the most important thing in the world to Candace Allen. She had the right instincts and the numerous awards bestowed on her by parents and children for outstanding teaching (including Colorado Enterprising Teacher of the Year for 1989) throughout her 22 year career in government schools are a testimony to her love of teaching. She has written and spoken extensively about educational reform, worked for change as a faculty representative to the teacher's union, and helped establish one of Colorado's first charter schools.
Allen is an optimistic person who felt she could reform the educational system while operating within it by overcoming the bureaucratic mindset with her own "can-do" attitude. Only after she experienced failure after failure, from her work with the union to her work with charter schools, did she realize that the system itself acted to prevent change. This realization led her to become a School Sakharov* and speak out for real change in our educational system.
Allen's thinking underwent a significant shift about ten years ago. Becoming increasingly concerned about why children weren't learning, she tried to break the "we are the experts" mindset of teachers and administrators. She solicited parental input, striving to become a "parent and child advocate." This profound shift in her thinking led her to ask herself daily: "If I were working directly for the parents, would they pay me today?" Allen started thinking, acting, and teaching as if she were operating in a free market for education.
All of her subsequent successes, awards, and recognition came because of parents and students. Allen points to compulsory financing of government schools as the principal cause why schools resist change. Since parents don't spend their money directly, they have no impact on the system. The system remains fully funded regardless of the level of satisfaction of parents.
Allen says the effect of this financing is even more insidious for teachers: "Teachers can't see what the system is doing to them. It encourages an 'us vs. them' mentality between teachers and parents." Since there is so little accountability to the education consumers (the parents and children) it encourages behavior and attitudes in teachers that erode their work ethic. Eliminating compulsory financing would allow teachers to work for parents and children rather than the government and restore the link between them.
* 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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