Crisis of Conscience

I have found myself over the past few weeks reaching a philosophical crisis. My views on the future of education in America, and my political inclinations are at odds.

Many of you know that I am an admirer of Bill Ferriter, the blogger behind The Tempered Radical and a freakishly charismatic middle school teacher who uses Web 2.0 technology in his lessons in ways that I can only dream of. To boot, he earned the title of Teacher of the Year from his our school district last year. It’s enough to make a fellow educator either seethe with envy or long to emulate his success. I have converted this year from the former group to the latter.

Over the past six months, as I have begun to frame my own opinion on the ongoing debates over teacher accountability and the reauthorization of NCLB, I have been reading much of what Mr. Ferriter writes for his blog (as well as others hosted by the school district), and I find that it strikes a chord with me. I wholeheartedly believe in his philosophy about the importance of teachers taking control of the conversation about where the responsibility for learning resides. I share his contempt for those in our profession who are content to wallow in their antiquated teaching methods, wishing for the “good old days”. I had all but built a website in homage to the Ferriter mystique when I followed one of his conversations to another, very different blog.

When I arrived at, I was immediately taken aback by the format of the site. I mean, is it me or is this one of the most painful blogs to read in all of the Great Blogosphere? I honestly don’t know if it is the fonts or the logo or what, but I cringe every time the page loads in my browser window. Once I got over the presentation, I got back to being hoppin mad about the content. I wanted the author, a man evidently named “Lennie” (based solely on his email address which is the only information about the author that I could find on the site) who writes for the John Cox Presidential Campaign, to see that he was treating teacher like public slaves. I wanted him to understand that we are educated, trained, and experienced professionals who take our vocation seriously and can be trusted to do it properly without public scrutiny over the minutiae.

That was all well and good until I began to read what he was posting. While I didn’t agree with a lot of it, I felt a sense of appreciation for some of what he was writing. When I came out of the daze in which I found myself, I realized that Lennie was spouting a largely Libertarian philosophy about how public schools should be run. It may help, at this point, to explain that I have been a registered Libertarian for as many years as I have been able in the ridiculous state of North Carolina where ballot access laws are more strict than any other place I have ever lived.

I came to the painful realization that my soul agreed with the reasons behind the opinions expressed on, even if I found fault with some of the specific ways in which my profession was portrayed. And all of this left me with a conundrum: how do I reconcile my political views with my professional ones? I have a feeling this one isn’t going to be resolved any time soon.

2 thoughts on “Crisis of Conscience

  1. Hey Paul, First, thanks for the kind words. It’s always interesting and rewarding to know that people are reading what I write. Second—you’re wrestling with an interesting challenge: Separating your political with your professional life. I think I’d argue that they are inseparable. Education is a uniquely political phenomena. After all, our work is completely funded and governed by policymakers! The great challenge for educators is organizing our thinking and learning to make our profession understandable to decision makers. We have great credibility—but we have to polish our voice and advocate. It’s a central first step before we can own our profession. Anyway….looking forward to following your thoughts a bit. You’ve got a great title and layout, that’s for sure!Rock on, Bill


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