A Teacher’s Declaration of Independence

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(With deepest apologies to Thomas Jefferson)

When in the Course of public education, it becomes necessary for teachers to dissolve the bands which have connected them with local, state, and national bureaucratic organizations, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of humankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all teachers are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Curricular Independence, Setting Academic Standards, and the Pursuit of Scholarly Excellence.–That to secure these rights, School Districts are instituted among Neighborhoods, deriving their just powers from the consent of parents, students, and community members, –That whenever any Form of Outside Interference becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the Teachers to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Procedures, laying their foundation on such principles and organizing their powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to affect their Students’ Education and Preparation for the Future. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that School Districts long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that humankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Local, State, and/or National Restraints, and to provide new Approaches for their future teaching.–Such has been the patient sufferance of United States’ Teachers; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Governance. The history of the present Educational Policies is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these Teachers. To alter this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

Teachers know best how to teach their Classes.  Any Process, Outside Agency, or Billionaire who usurps this Education Fundamental Fact must be resisted.

Teachers know best to which standards they should hold their Students.  The insinuation of standards without Teacher input (e.g. Common Core) should not take place.  Parents, Administrators, Business Leaders, and other Interested Parties should have input to Student standards, but Teachers must have ultimate authority in their determination.

Standardized Tests created by For-Profit Companies have no place in Public Education as measures of Student or Teacher success.  While they may serve a very limited use to determine curricular areas for study and placement into higher level classes, Teacher-designed assessments must always be the Most important methods of Student evaluation.

Cooperation between all parties in a School—Teachers, Students, Parents, and Administrators—should be a top priority for Communities.  School Boards must work towards this goal as much as overseeing Administrators and creating budgets.

Adequate funding should be of utmost importance to all Community Members, whether or not said members have a Child attending a School.  Proposals which funnel funds away from Public Education, such as Vouchers, must not be allowed to take place.  Teachers, for their part, pledge stalwart fiduciary restraint, as they have demonstrated historically, in continuing to provide excellent service at bargain prices for centuries.

Time for consultation between Colleagues is crucial to effective teaching and Teacher training.  Administrative paperwork and other Distractions that occupy Teacher time must be kept to a minimum.  Instead, every effort should be made to facilitate Teachers interacting with other Teachers.

Academic Freedom must be preserved and efforts to Censure ideas or materials for political reasons cannot be tolerated.

Training prior to teaching must take place at accredited Institutions of higher learning and stop-gap or alternative paths to Teacher certification do not serve the best interests of Students and cannot be permitted.

Collective bargaining laws and Teacher unions improve working conditions for Teachers, which leads to more effective instruction.  Therefore, no laws can be made which impinge on Teacher rights to collective bargaining or to form Teacher unions, if they so desire.

No Teacher should be relieved of His/Her duties except for Just Cause and after Due Process has been followed.  Thus, Tenure should be in place in every school district.  A two-year probationary period should be adequate for school districts to determine if Tenure should be granted to a new Teacher.

No “expert” will be hired or be allowed to attempt to suggest, much less impose, alternate teaching methodology unless said expert has taught in public schools for at least five years (ten would be better).  Accumulating billions of dollars may not be substituted for this experience requirement; thus individuals named Walton, Gates, Jobs, Zuckerberg, Broad, or Koch need not supply any advice.  Conversely, public institutions can always make use of and be grateful for donations, as long as the use of said donations is left entirely to the school districts so blessed.

New methodology and technology must not be imposed on Teachers.  Instead, Teachers will be open-minded to any suggestions and willing to consider them.  However, the use of either teaching methods or electronic devices will always be left to the discretion and need of Teachers.  Top-down directives requiring all Teachers to change procedures when said procedures are not related to safety or health necessities will never be forced upon Teachers.

All Parties will treat one another with mutual respect and courtesy.  Attacking entire groups based on the actions of a few will not be tolerated, and all parts of communities will moderate their rhetoric in relation to negative characterizations or manipulation of statistics for political gain.

Teachers reserve the right to add to and/or modify this Declaration, given the humble skills of its author.

In every stage of these oppressions Teachers have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Their repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Governing Body whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free public education.

Nor have Teachers been wanting in attentions to their Administrative overlords. They have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislatures and billionaires to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over public education. They have reminded them of the circumstances of their training and efforts here. They have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and they have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt their effective instructions and cooperation. These experts too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. Teachers must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces their Independence, and hold them, as they hold the rest of humankind, Enemies in Ignorance, in Learning Friends.

We, therefore, the Teachers of the United States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of this Country, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Teachers are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent Agents; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the Outside Experts, National Mandates, Wealthy Individuals, and Standardized Testing, and that all political connection between them and the State of Corporate Reform, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent Educators, they have full Power to levy war on ignorance, make student evaluations, contract Alliances with parents, establish standards, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent Teachers may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, teachers mutually pledge to each other their Skills, their Efforts, and their sacred Knowledge.

 

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4 comments

  1. Pingback: Dwindling Teacher Autonomy |
  2. Pingback: Teacher Independence: To Start, Believe You Know Best |

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