Talking About the Taboo in Education

Why would anybody, let alone a teacher, choose to contribute to a show exploring education topics usually shoved under the rug? Isn't there already enough teacher-bashing going on? Well, that's exactly the point. There are plenty of people doing just that -- but they're not educators.
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Why would anybody, let alone a teacher, choose to contribute to a show exploring education topics usually shoved under the rug? Why would anybody, let alone a teacher, want to contribute to the negative narrative surrounding American education? Isn't there already enough teacher-bashing going on? Aren't there already enough people shining a spotlight on what they perceive to be wrong with teachers and our education system?

Well, that's exactly the point. There are plenty of people doing just that -- but they're other people, not educators.

During an off-line discussion about cheating that some felt was too sensitive to discuss on the air, a number of educators expressed the feeling that though the issue is sensitive, if educators didn't step up and discuss it, outsiders would and we might not like the way the discussions evolved. Educators would once again lose control of the narrative.

That's how an idea for a single episode became a new series called Taboo and a panel of courageous education thought leaders became co-hosts on a show specifically created to responsibly, but candidly, talk about the subjects we often avoid. Jointly, we determined that there is an urgent need for responsible, educator-based, educator-driven discussion on tough topics that are typically not addressed in education.

Here are some of the thoughts expressed in the first episode, during which panelists offered their reasons for co-hosting a show discussing issues we often avoid:

Joan Young: It's really important that we don't shy away from any topics because someone is going to talk about it without us in the conversation. We need to [be able] to make positive changes and go forward. We're too used to being quiet.

Vicki Davis: There are so many things that teachers are afraid to talk about. We live in a free country; we're supposed to be able to discuss what's important. ... I think it's time for us to be brave enough and to live with ethics. ... We need to be the people who are honest and upfront and help other teachers and encourage them to do the right things, even when it's hard.

Marilyn Rhames: As we speak up and speak out, we'll become more empowered. I think the saddest and most difficult thing is that [we're] acting like victims at times. There's this learned helplessness. We have to get over that fear that something's going to happen with us, and I think that a forum like this is really, really helpful.

John Spencer: I have real concerns with teachers [feeling] they should just sit on their hands and stay quiet. We need to express a different narrative than what's being told.

Nancy Blair: I do have some concern that the people who need to hear this kind of conversation are not the people who will be listening... But it's become a profession that is too often governed by outsiders. Most people have gone through years and years of education and...they think that makes them an expert on [it]. When you see public forums about education and you see the people making decisions about the policies and practices of education, very seldom do you see practicing teachers involved in those conversations. So we end up with so many conversations about sensitive topics in education being discussed by people who have no real knowledge of the inner workings of a school.

Or, as Vicki Davis put it, by those who couldn't even breathe the air in a classroom, much less hold a class.

There will be no teacher-bashing here -- only sober, respectful, thoughtful, but candid and authentic, discussions led by and involving educators. Will every educator like what they hear? Absolutely not. But as James Baldwin has said, "Though not everything that is faced can be changed, nothing can be changed until it is faced."

If we are truly committed to effect change, we have to be committed to face truths, no matter how uncomfortable, inconvenient or disquieting to the status quo.

Thus, Taboo. You can hear the rest of what the panelists had to say, as well as the second episode, "When Protecting the Profession Clashes with Righting What's Wrong in Education" by clicking here.

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