Retired Teacher Reveals He Was Illiterate Until Age 48
"I can remember when I was eight years old saying my prayers at night saying, 'please, God, tomorrow when it's my turn to read please let me read.' You just pretend that you are invisible and when the teacher says, 'Johnnie read,' you just wait the teacher out because you know the teacher has to go away at some point," said Corcoran.
Corcoran eventually started acting up to hide his illiteracy. From fifth through seventh grade he was expelled, suspended and spent most of his days at the principal's office.
The former teacher said he came from a loving family that always supported him.
"My parents came to school and it no longer was a problem for me reading because this boy Johnnie -- the native alien, I call him -- he didn't have a reading problem as far as the teachers were concerned. He had an emotional problem. He had a psychological problem. He had a behavioral problem," said Corcoran.
The further you go in the public schools the more clearly you see the profound destructiveness of a massive, half-trillion dollar institution* in which the employees cannot be wrong ever.
This is something I've been thinking about lately.
What happens to business and professional relationships, friendships, and marriages in which one party can't be wrong ever?
How productive and satisfying are business and professional relationships, friendships, and marriages in which one party is always, by definition, to blame for problems?
Suppose someone handed you a magic wand that, when you waved it, would make just one change in the schools.
Suppose you decided that your one change would be to turn all the zeroes in Galen Alessi's survey of school psychologists into positive numbers significantly larger than the number one.
Would things be better?
I don't know what to think about that.
On one hand, Alessi's psychologists were diagnosing individual children; they were blaming individual children, by name, for their failures to learn or to behave. To stop doing that would be a radical step. I hope I live to see the day when a school psychologist's report says, "There's nothing wrong with this kid that a decent math curriculum wouldn't fix."
At the same time, our schools have been churning innovations for at least a century, often in the name of reform. The fact that our schools have apparently been in need of so much reform for lo these many years hasn't led to much in the way of a self-critical stance.
At some point shouldn't the ed schools just give up?
"Damn! We've been at this for a hundred years and we still haven't got it right. Let's say we get into another line of business."
Vicki Snider is right. We need a science of teaching. We also need school boards, administrators, and teachers who want a science of teaching. That's a trickier proposition.
Here is Corcoran's foundation.
* Current expenditures for public elementary and secondary education totaled $424.6 billion in FY 05, with $280.0 billion (65.9 percent) spent on instruction and instruction-related activities, $22.1 billion (5.2 percent) on student support services, $46.8 billion (11.0 percent) on administration, and $75.7 billion (17.8 percent) Revenues and Expenditures for Public Elementary and Secondary Education: School Year 2004-05 (Fiscal Year 2005)