Dennis Danziger speaks up for all the teachers who have to do more than teach—they have to address a failed social system.
My plan was to become a teacher, but after teaching for twenty years in the Los Angeles Unified School District I realized I’m not so much of a teacher anymore as I am a lobbyist for the poor.
For the kids who hide their faces deep inside their hoodies.
The ones who walk in packs. The ones you cross the street to avoid.
The ones who are amounting to nothing.
Who are pissing away our taxpayer dollars.
Who are dropping out, getting high, getting pregnant, fucking up.
Even though many of them are smart and talented and have huge potential and want to learn.
These are the kids I teach; the kids I love teaching and know how to teach.
I am a counselor to their parents, who mow our lawns, bus our tables, burp our babies, haul our trash, and dream of a brighter future for their children.
I am the deliverer of bad news. The one who informs these parents that their sacrifices are in vain, that their kids are too far behind to catch up or to compete for meaningful jobs.
That the educational system, that these parents trusted, has practically guaranteed all that failure with 40 to a class and cuts in vocational classes that could be the ladders from poverty to a meaningful career.
I am a voice for 3.2 million public school teachers and hundreds of thousands of public school employees who go to sleep every night not knowing if they’ll have a job come morning.
Who don’t understand why America suddenly hates them.
Who lack the energy to fight back (except for the Chicago Teachers Union).
Who feel defenseless, powerless, depressed, disrespected, and scared.
I am a teacher whose students are currently studying at Vassar, Wellesley, Sarah Lawrence, UCLA, UC-Berkeley, Kenyon and Bard.
I am a teacher whose students are currently serving 15- and 22-year prison sentences for armed robbery and attempted murder.
I am a teacher whose cholos and working class whites have consistently outperformed students from all over LA, including those in North Hollywood Genius Magnet.
I am a teacher who has buried two of his favorite students before they turned 17.
I am a teacher who has taught in one of the wealthiest zip codes in America and one of the most dangerous zip codes in America and has yet to meet a student who did not want to learn.
I am a teacher who has taught at a suburban charter school where teachers and administrators ruthlessly gamed the system for their financial advantage the moment they controlled their own budget.
And I am a teacher who has taught in regular public schools that are being gamed by members of the Forbes 500 who are sucking billions of dollars out of public education and condemning the children of the working class and poor to lives of economic slavery, so that the super-rich who sell computers and computer programs can grow even richer.
I am a teacher who is watching the deliberate end of public education to those at the bottom of our economic pyramid. Who is watching while our country deliberately closes the paths, the escape routes out of poverty.
Let’s be honest: what could be more wasteful than throwing away millions of young lives whose biggest crime was to have been born in the wrong neighborhood without giving them a legitimate shot at success?
And what could be more expensive than to have to take care of those millions of kids from cradle to grave?
I am witnessing the end of public education in America for the have-nots.
What do we, as a nation, think is going to happen when so many of America’s youth grow up and realize that there is no hope, no escape from their present circumstances and that the promise of the American Dream never applied to them?
I don’t know the answer.
But I know it’s terribly unfair, deliberately cruel, and no good will come of how America with the backing of our current administration is privatizing public school so that those who were born poor will likely remain poor forever.
I thought we were a better people than that. Better women and better men.