To Those Who Wrongfully Defend Natalie MunroeThursday, February 17th, 2011
In case you have not heard about her, Natalie Munroe was a teacher. She taught in a High School in Pennsylvania. She authored what she believed to be an anonymous blog in which she railed at her students. She variously labeled them “rat-like”, “frightfully dim”, “lazy whiners”, and suggested that their future employment was with the local trash company. She stood by her writings on National Television, so there is no question of authorship. Her High School has dismissed her for the time being.
Her story has created an apparent explosion of responses across America. Many of the responses, like my own, call her what she is – a failure as a teacher and human being. But other responses seem to hail her as some sort of truth-telling hero. One reads a lot of “she told it like it is”, and “she should not be punished for saying the truth”.
To those of you who support Ms. Munroe’s rant, and please let’s call it what it was, here is a response:
Let us begin by describing the job of a teacher, or what the job should be. It is a teacher’s job to keep our children safe while they are at school and away from home. It is a teacher’s job to make certain that this is so, as if our children were their children while they are in the teacher’s care.
It is a teacher’s job to support and strengthen her student’s abilities and understandings of the world. It is a teacher’s job to empower the student, so that he or she can confront a world which will often be unmoving and hostile in the face of their interests and desires and as adults, a wall of ice they must push through. The survival of our civilization, by the way, will be determined by our success as parents and teachers in this assignment.
It is the teacher’s job to provide the environment wherein a student can experience and grasp information, develop ideas and ambitions, experiment, try, fail, try again and finally succeed. We will need our young people’s ideas and ambitions if we are to progress in any direction as a culture and a people. A teacher who berates a student for failure, who makes an issue of it, is a teacher helping to build human beings who will refuse to try, refuse to reach, will not experiment, try again or ever succeed. The price for trying and failing will be seen as simply too draconian and painful, the lesson students actually learn from teachers who cannot control their critical instincts.
It is a teacher’s job to find any and every way to open up the world and its possibilities to a child. And when that child smiles and reaches for a particular idea, it becomes the teacher’s job to fan that flame of interest into a bonfire with additional experiences and ideas along the same line. This is how a teacher helps to build the next great artists, athletes, business and political leaders.
It is a teacher’s job to help build responsible and even moral adults who can assume the burden of leadership and life in the world. Such people do not develop being fed a diet of degradation and abuse.
Teaching should be a calling for the best and brightest among us, those who believe in people and in our future as a species.
It is NOT a teacher’s job to label her students. Teachers do not need to decide that their students are “rat-like”, “lazy”, “stupid”, “incapable”, or any such thing. Such labeling does nothing to aid the student. And that is exactly what the teacher is paid to do – assist the student. Such epithets applied to students in no way improve their lives or their chances. This critical, demeaning (for the student and the teacher) and hateful approach also does not improve the student’s education.
In fact, such thoughts on the part of a teacher prove only one thing – that the teacher is incompetent. Clearly, the teacher has utterly failed to engage her students. She has not educated them. The students remain uneducated or undereducated. The failure in such cases belongs to the teacher and not the student. It is the teacher who gets paid (whether the student is successfully educated or not), and by the way, paid very well. The student has come to school to receive an education, and gone home with homework they do not understand and report cards that will get them into a world of trouble with parents who are also being subtly accused of having “failed”. But such schools and teachers have cashed their checks and made their lazy and unaccomplished way home to their televisions. (Obviously, not all schools and teachers fit this description. But far, far too many fit it all too well.)
It is not a teacher’s job to degrade her student publicly, even when it is assumed that the degradation is being done anonymously. It is never a teacher’s job to hate her students, or to spread her hatred in such a manner as to have it arrive in the student’s ear, or on parent’s computer screens. It is not the teacher’s job to degrade a student at any time or in any way. That is simply not a part of the job description. Life and its hard refusal of the student’s youthful interests will punish the student all too frequently and well.
In short, Ms. Munroe did not do her job as a teacher, and if no other reason existed, she would need to be dismissed for that reason. The fact that she is certain that she is right and that her students are the lowly things she described proves that she has no intention of changing or improving her approach to education. She should be fired for this failing, as well. At best, she is incompetent, and there is cause for dismissal.
Let’s go beyond Ms. Munroe’s clear failure as a teacher, to her erroneous assumptions about children. Children aren’t rats. They’re human beings, and children. Nor are they like rats in any way. They are not “rug rats”, or “rats in a cage”, or “rats in the walls”, or any kind of rats. To those of you who defend her, I know that you were children, once. Were you “rats” of any kind when you were a child? Do you feel that your own children are “rats”. If you do believe this, you should not have children in your care.
A student is lazy only when uninterested. We all of us become “active” when our interest is engaged. If a student is lazy, what you have before you is a failed teacher, school or educational system. You may also have a student who needs to better understand his own responsibilities to himself and others. That job falls upon the student, parents and others who offer the student personal life guidance. But to simply label such a student as if one has now done one’s job is to ensure failure all the way around.
As to any student’s future, none of us are that clairvoyant. The student will decide upon his own future, and will either take the steps necessary to secure it, or will not. Fortunately for all concerned, no teacher, certainly not one of Ms. Munroe’s low caliber and limited experience, can dictate where a student will end up – collecting trash or leading the free world.
I had a lovely second grade teacher. She knew that I had been illiterate until first grade. (I had teachers who did not speak English, before first grade!) Having just learned to read, I felt a real fire to write. She encouraged me with a single sentence; “When you write your first book, dedicate it to me”. And I did dedicate my first real writings to my teachers. I also won an Emmy Award as a writer at age 17. My earliest teachers would have (and did) described me as “illiterate” and “hopeless”.
Teacher – you do not know the future. But you do help shape it, for good or ill.
We thank Ms. Munroe for opening up a much-needed dialogue about children and education. We will thank her again for retiring from teaching and vanishing from the public scene forever.
But folks, what are you defending? An incompetent teacher who has failed and who hates her students? She has not spoken any kind of truth, regardless of the protests of adults who are frustrated with children, their own or others. I’ve taught now for nearly four decades. I’ve worked with literally thousands of students, preschool-university level. They were each of them curiously un-ratlike. They were none of them lazy, once provided something of genuine interest to them to study or do. They were, each of them, the future of their family, their city, their nation and our race. And they deserve far better than Natalie Munroe and a failed educational system.
Consider exerting your energies in more productive and loving areas, ladies and gentlemen. They are needed elsewhere.
As you probably know, I am an advocate for homeschooling. It’s my belief that homeschooling potentially provides a student with a vastly superior education than schooling in any form. This is backed up by a lot of numbers and research. I’ve taught for public and private schools, at the University level, as a private instructor in thousands of workshops, and as a homeschool dad running a homeschool group. Homeschooling by far works best for most students- and most families.
But I understand that many parents do not believe they can effectively homeschool. They’ve been told that they “don’t have degrees,” and that they “aren’t qualified.” This is all nonsense, of course. You’re legally not required to have any kind of a degree to homeschool your kids anywhere in the U.S. A lot of people who have degrees and who call themselves “professional teachers” are simply awful, and even destructive at what they do. A lot of parents…hundreds that I know of…have homeschooled their kids right into universities and careers.
In a serious effort to make homeschooling easier to do, and more commonly successful in terms of education received, I’ve authored my own curriculum. It took some 15,000 hours to write, over more than a decade of work, and is intended to replace the need for schooling a student from age 5-Adult Continuing Education. The curriculum is called Connect The Thoughts (or “CTT”). It has been used by over 20,000 students worldwide over the past 10 years. Hundreds of “success stories” attest to how well CTT works.
CTT courses are written in a way that gradually allows the student to take over his own education. Each course itself largely does the teaching, relieving mom and dad of that duty unless they wish to use our daily lesson plans in various subjects as springboards for family discussion and discovery – as many families do, every day. The parent has the job of making certain the student is working and has what they need to study. (And you’ll need to find a good math program for homeschooling as we don’t provide one. There are many.)
Below are links to our site discussing each level of curriculum, and every subject at that level that we offer. (You can start any level at any time. We don’t have “semesters” that start at a certain time, and each course stands alone well.) You’ll find free videos describing how every subject and each level works. You’ll discover free samples of every course we offer. Our site offers many other services and surprises, including numerous free courses you can download and try out.
Starter is for ages 5-6, and for preliterate students of any age. It focuses on starting to develop literacy skills, while teaching about various subjects. Starter includes full two-year programs in Reading, History, Science, Creative Writing, and Living Your Life, courses that develop life and study skills for the youngest students. Every lesson plan at the Starter level works to develop literacy.
Elementary is for ages 7-8, and for students who are developing literacy. It includes two-year programs in Reading and Spelling, History, Science, Creative Writing (which also teaches the parts of language at this level), and Living Your Life courses which develop life and study skills in preparation for more advanced studies to come.
Lower School (ages 9-10) offers two-year programs in Study Essentials, Reading and Spelling, History, Science, Creative Writing, P.E. Electives, and in various arts such as Animation, Music Theory, and Acting. At this level, students must read fairly well, and studies are progressively turned over to the student.
Upper School (ages 11-High School, and Adult Continuing Education) provides programs in Study Essentials, Reading and Spelling, History, Science, Creative Writing, Current Events, Literature Guides, P.E. Electives, and in arts such as Animation, Acting, Music Theory, and Music History.
For parents who wish to teach at home, but are intimidated at the thought, and for parents who just wish to improve the homeschool experience, we offer a ten course homeschool program for homeschool teachers, as well as several books about education and homeschooling today.
We want you and your children to win with homeschooling!