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This is the 22nd in a series of programs and titled seeds of discontent presenting the program tonight as hard for its mid junior assistant professor in the School of Social Work Wayne State University. PROFESSOR SMITH For the past two years our country has heard an angry discontented voices from quarters police expected the public school teacher. Throughout history in this country the teacher has been viewed as a relatively quiet scholarly passive a sacrificial lamb by all standards the salaries paid them were far below salaries paid in the private sector. This was a case in spite of the fact that public school teachers were given the responsibility for preparing the future leaders scientists educators and technology is to perpetuate our country's growth. Since World War 2 there has been a greater participation in the work world by the female adult in the household with both adults employed away from home and even greater responsibility for better or for worse has been slowly but steadily given to teachers. They have a delicate and nerve racking job of completing the
socialization process and picking up some of the pieces left behind by the impetus towards a new family structure. This new family structure which resulted in part from large shifts in population from rule to technologically oriented urban areas created even more problems in the light of their responsibilities. Classroom size expanded at a much faster rate than building programs the urban community generated many social problems such as high school dropouts the Lincolns crime unemployment and other medical and social problems. Various school systems in large urban areas throughout the country were placed under greater scrutiny and the demands by the public at large became greater. It was felt that the school and the teachers had to do more in the way of preventing the social problems. This increase in expectations however was not met with commensurately ward. One only had to look at the salaries and respect paid to teachers in comparison to that requiring less skill
and training and other sectors of the economy. Yet many millage proposals designed to cover some of the gaps were defeated. With prosperity and influence moving towards historic heights and many other voices in the land crying out for their fair share. The clash between teachers and the community was inevitable. And so in recent years we have seen strikes resignations and turmoil to such an extent that schools have been closed for a month in many districts. The teacher is angry and so is the public. On tonight's program we're going to go beneath these public issues and take a look at the dimensions of the problem and discontent of public school teachers. From the point of view of teachers and volved and the day to day activities of the public school system participating in the program are several teachers from the Detroit public schools all of had experience and schools within the core area of the city.
The teaching profession. Ministration school. So what becomes of your credit. And sort of it's become almost impossible for the individual to. Take a serious problem into doing the right thing. Professional organizations. All bury a by product of the system. The school system I think in which we're working. Was not designed for that kind of survey. Work. It will develop a long term and have to change. To keep pace with the rest of society. It's too. It's too hung up on. Me and logistical problems and be a poor teacher and the person. Really feels cut off from his superiors. So we have to go to his union dues organization and this is I think most of the problem.
When you have kids in one class 35 kids there are love and prayers and I was alone. Great if you have total range of reading abilities from tested from second through 12 and beyond and it's an almost impossible thing to take each one individually. Even if you know how and most of us don't know how. And it's it creates a distinct problem because you have perhaps a very bright. Kid with an academically sound in the sense that he cannot read can't write and this is a kid that very often must be flunked. And we are we we are not trained. In any way that will tell us what to do with this kid. I think also if you've taught in the inner cities for example most of the most teachers come from either middle class. Or from an aspiring middle class background. And as a result they walk into an inner city classroom where you have
kids with a totally different set of values and there's no preparation you have many many teachers that walk and never learn what these kids accepted as. Valid. Ways of living. And they never learned they never learned. What usually happens to those kind. They. Keep on preaching keep going and they pretty much end up just existing They have a job they go to it they get out of the building faster than the kids do. It's an old joke but they do. And some of them read newspapers in class. That's the extreme of course. Others just go right I'm giving them this weeks drill as they did the class last semester the semester before and so on and just say you know. Well. If I do what I can. And like oh there's a great deal of freedom from inferior teachers teachers that are in a great sense like parents.
They are very well trained to do the things they're being paid to do. For instance. You're talking education coaches and teachers manuals things like. You have to take the child as he is and accept him. In terms of his own values his own aspirations and so on. But. In the classroom when you have 35 or 40 kids to contend with. It's difficult to do that. As a student. Who can't read can't function. But teachers of English teachers or history are not taught train to teach children how to read. Therefore. You're going to have to deal with a student can't read and fail and fail him for not being able to do the thing that you can or hoping to do. You're talking about teachers not being properly trained.
So now you're getting really back to the college the responsibility of the college but the Board of Education is representing the community at large and they are not professional people. So if we do have problems in teaching in the inner city school. Then the teachers have got to be given some professional responsibility. For example we want to have three. Different books for the 11 great American literature we wanted one for the advanced classes that we're preparing kids for college and one for the average and one for the slow reader or some of them are practically non readers. And the Board of Education. Particularly vocal on this was Dr. Robinson. Did not want this to be done. And his reasoning was that every child should have the equal opportunity
to read the same quality literature. And in a discussion with Dr Robinson I pointed out to him that even though the child is carrying Shakespeare under his arm. It does not give him the opportunity to get this literature in sign of him. If you cannot read maybe you can't even read the final paper let alone Shakespeare. But you have the professional the teacher on the one hand who is fighting against the community who does not know what the problems are who doesn't understand. The practice of education when they were a profession. They are civil servants. And then we use the word but we're not literally professionals at all in the sense of a profession. We are civil servants and as such more than any
other more than any other job. Or if you want to call it a profession we can more than any other profession. The public assumes they know as much if not more about it than we do. Unlike General Motors we cannot we can't point with pride to the products of our system. For instance at the school I taught at graduation day it was perhaps the saddest day of the year. Because the students whom we film across the stage. Really should have marched back to the ninth grade section and begun all over. I believe that. The thing that the union must work for more than anything else is the teachers. I have to say it again. Becoming a real professional in every sense of the word. So that teacher a young teacher coming in who really has the energy and the interest to find out how to reach kids and how to teach them
has the freedom. To experiment and the freedom to. Make policy in the school. And I don't think that this is going to change anything as far as the bad teachers are concerned because the bad teachers are going to be banned in any system. But this at least will give the good teachers a chance to change things and I think it's the only thing that will that will change our system. I will see how I'm to believe that raising teachers salaries will allow colleges of education to screen more carefully the kinds of people going into teaching. That is get rid of some of the deadwood that's young which I've seen as well as the old the kind of people who will be bad teachers. I don't know it will happen that way. It's it's. A very valid criticism that I get from people who are not in teaching that say well why should the
union protect the poor teacher as well as the good teachers and make sure that the poor teacher is. Kept in the system. Well this is exactly what we don't need and I have no answer for that particular point. The problem there is that you're talking about the college of education. We've got quite a bit of Deadwood to clear out of there first before they start. Yeah. Let's take on. Some of the things. That are happening as teachers that are causing the greatest concern. That causes you greatest pain your greatest disillusion. Think enduring. Something between yourself and your child something between yourself as great or just in general public's reaction to the things that the most the most the most painful thing about being a teacher.
Is when you come to realize. That. You are in fact unable to do thing to do the things that you were thought were trained to do and that you are now being paid to do. It i. Am being paid to teach your students I was beat properly how to read efficiently how to enjoy the beauty of the language and the rhythm of the song sequence in song and I. Find myself very often unable to do that. And the stakes are I think this is the source of. The discontent of most teachers that they can't do for many reasons. You're saying they. Are paid to do what I think are hired to do or license to do what one thing I think you missed too is. The kind of help you out as a contrast I have taught in the inner city I now teach in what they would call the outer city and even things as small as the availability of materials for many a graft machine is a small thing. But.
Books everything else that I want to use administrators. Go ahead analyze things in the inner city schools they seem to be at least the one I was and they seem to be. I'm very worried about you trying new things. I can remember having a discussion with an administrator concerning the college prep program at the inner city school in which I taught. And his concern was not for that small percentage that would go to college and make it in spite of us it was for the 85 percent or so that he assumed would not be going to college and should learn a trade. My assumption was. That that 10 percent or so of it did go to college was not prepared to go. That they were not prepared to be in the same way that obviously kids are and now being in another city school I know this itself positively because they cannot write. And in college
you must write. And if you don't train kids in an inner city school to write. And talk to one of my former Well she wasn't a student but I knew her the other day and she is having tremendous problems in some of her classes because they discuss things that the white students in class knew from high school and she has never heard of. If you cannot do for your students what you feel you're trying to do and the reason you went into teaching to do. I think this is going to be the biggest source of frustration a teacher has. I think it's sometimes the thing that makes a teacher become. A person who has a job that goes to what goes home the minor frustrations that built up that go along with that are administrative and in with the administration that is and. And you are bogged down with make sure you get your numbers first and. Your teaching later. And no we cannot do this because. The students are not
capable No we cannot do this because we cannot get the materials. In both inner and outer city administration seems to be very very much afraid that you were going to do something different. That you were going to say something that you shouldnt in class and that something different or what you shouldnt always seems to turn out to be. Any idea that thats not what the status quo says. Regarding the curriculum of the school. And we were talking about how meaningful the curriculum is to students. This seems to be. One of the major causes of conflict between administration and teachers because some of the new teachers myself included and others that I know of have brought materials into the classroom which we felt was meaningful to the students but which to the administration was a cause of rocking the boat and. For
example the matter of Negro literature. Now if you look at the approved list of the Detroit Board of Education. I don't know if they've changed it recently but a few years ago it didn't go. To much beyond Booker T Washington. There wasn't much more than that included. And so when teachers did bring other authors other more modern authors they were. Disapproved of very much by the administration. The. Play Lang's by Langston Hughes which I did at my high school I was a drama coach and I brought in simply heavenly by Langston Hughes. My school was almost 100 percent Negro. Most of my students did not know that there was such a thing as a negro author. I felt that it would be good for
them. Just to. Get them interested in theater and let them see theatre as a living thing. I to get them involved in it actively which they hadn't been up to this point at the school. I didn't. Dream that there would be any opposition to this play. But when I didn't bring any and I found that there was a lot of opposition. One of the administrators were some of the reasons for the opposition to the very well at first I was told to clean it up which I did take out any bad words take out mention of sex and so on. But then after I did that this still disapproved and I found out that what they really didn't like was that the characters in this play were speaking a language. Which was the language. Of the
street so to speak. And this language was to be looked down upon we don't want our children to look at the stage and see people like us. We want them to look up there and see people who talk good. We want people who are white middle class people up on a stage so our children can look up and copy them instead of looking at the stage and seeing themselves and liking themselves as they are. Preparing for another course. How many of you had a chance to read or hear about the poll call there. Oh yeah yeah. Do you feel that most of the criticisms that because of. The direction of mystery. I have a particular relevance based on your personal experiences. I know of one instance where a well part of one speaker here has already mentioned the reality don't rock the
boat don't experience. Everything is laid out. There is a master plan. Follow it. Oh I think it depends on the administrator though I have a tendency to believe that this is generally the case. There are a few administrators who are not like this. But for the most part administrators I don't think want the boat rocked at all. They want homes that are clean. They want. Quiet they want. In other words a kind of disciplinary facade that says this building is a tight ship. It's well-run. And anything that the service staff is. Going to it is a little frightening. Maybe the principal although it was months before the girls are in this building.
And in that sense going back to the relationship between the principal in the state. And because he is responsible for whatever goes on there he certainly has got to be sure that nothing will go wrong. However we found myself. In an education system which is a reflection of a society. That is that it perpetuates a society which has resisted change. Therefore what we do is preparing students to do things which are really worth doing. I don't even know if we're preparing for that. Is it sort of like you know a little ivory tower that has absolutely no connection with the outside world. There seems to be little connection to the outside world in the sense that. You have a moat around the building and you. You know go across it every morning you. Put up the drawbridge and you isolate from the world for. Six and a half hours and then you lower the drawbridge and everybody goes back out into the world again.
There is little connection. Education or interesting point so that not only. From a point of view teachers. Administrators and the overall functioning of the school system. Moving to more second minute. Bureaucratic mold where everybody is feeling a bit alienation restoration. But you also feel the rolling alienation of the school system and those are the answer is well. I don't know how much more it's growing in the time I've been teaching. It's always been there. The kids are certainly aware of it. That what is happening in here really has very little bearing on what's happening out there at all unless they're going on a college or just in general just as a general do you expect things to get better. Or for teachers and future. How far you want to project that.
Place where you like the project because I want to and I don't. I'm a pessimist but I can say I don't think things are going to get better at least not for a very long time because the status quo has been maintaining a very long time and I don't think those who maintain the status quo are willing to let go of it. They are part of this system and they want to keep wanted to keep on going because that's security for them. And so I don't really see any change for a very long time. It will get a lot worse before it ever ever gets that. Aid from a teacher. The question of why do good teachers leave teaching is one which we could spend a great deal of time on but. A person whom I know who doesn't teach anymore who isn't using now once said that. The good teachers the hard working teachers. I really think the major source of the problem because they are somehow maintaining a different system that is if all the good
teachers would leave the system and leave a given school it would collapse. She felt that we cannot save this system and that by working in it and working hard it always doing is keeping it propped up. And that we can remove ourselves from it. It would collapse on the heads of those who were there riding along on the ways of their their newfound security. And I think this is a very valid point except that very often. Good teachers. Have to quit. Because to stay where they are and knowing that they're failing they're pressuring your system which ought to be removed. Only half of their frustration. Not quite right. I feel that it's the school system in a sense sort of like society. Without some sort of major revolutionary change. It will continue as it is in
respect of the members involved. My final quite like to. Talk about today. Relates to incidents such as. What occurred in our high school. Which has had a career and your high school and is. Basically. Open. Rebellion. By the student body. Oh. Wow To your knowledge is being done to see greater involvement of youngsters or to. Work through these primaries with kids. What if anything. And if not what do you see happening. Along these lines in the future. The more you can. I don't know I think I don't know what form the group called. The Committee for student rights which is.
Which has been organized. To give the students of the system. An outlet for their expression of their grievances. But I think that groups like the Committee for student rights which. Can convince the students that. When they have grievances. They can take them. Somewhere and have them heard and dealt with the matter of student rebellion isn't over I think these are. Symptoms. Problems which we didn't deal with many years ago. That there will be. These kind of things happening with greater frequency and. More than likely. Because basically I think the only thing that's been done about them is to try to. Just keep everything quiet. And if we don't see it it will go away which I think is erroneous. It's just we can all just very heads in the sand. And we can just sort of keep the kids quiet
and placid and so on. It won't happen again which I think is completely wrong because it's it's become an. Outgrowth of what's wrong with society in general and a lot of these kids are just I think beginning to learn to articulate a little bit what's been bothering them for a long time. My general feeling that somehow I've been cheated that somehow something is wrong that. I don't know how or why I'm not getting what I should have but I'm not. It seems clear from the discussion that what teachers are talking about transcends monetary considerations. They are talking about the dignity power and policymaking discretion given to other professions as a matter of right. If our country does not address itself to the roots of the unrest the gaps between the teacher school district and the child will become greater. Which is a state of affairs that we can ill afford in the trouble restless probing
years ahead. You have just heard hard words of your own your assistant professor in the School of Social Work Wayne State University seeds of discontent is engineered by David Pierce and produced by Dave Lewis for Wayne State University Radio. This program was distributed by the national educational radio network.
Seeds of discontent
Episode Number
Episode 22 of 26
Producing Organization
Wayne State University
WDET (Radio station : Detroit, Mich.)
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University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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Series Description
For series info, see Item 3313 and 3314. This prog.: Growing discontent and militancy among public school teachers. Features interviews with teachers from the inner city schools of Detroit.
Social Issues
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Producing Organization: Wayne State University
Producing Organization: WDET (Radio station : Detroit, Mich.)
AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 68-15-22 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:28:51
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Chicago: “Seeds of discontent; Episode 22 of 26,” 1968-04-01, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed May 29, 2024,
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APA: Seeds of discontent; Episode 22 of 26. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from