Jerry Brown has consistently betrayed his avowed principles and the voter constituency that elected him as mayor of Oakland. Our best response might be to confine him for 30 days with nothing but food, water and a tape deck whereupon he would spend those days doing nothing but listen to “We the People,” the KPFA radio shows that gave him the podium to rant, rave and energize our left-leaning citizenry, desperate for some political vision and leadership. Yet, ironically and much to the chagrin of his audience and followers, Brown has finally showed the courage and perspective he so gallantly cried out for during his reign as radios’ greatest rhetorician.
Anybody who has spent time trying to teach in many of our public schools knows how enervating the discipline problems have become. As a veteran of that system I can testify to the classroom mayhem and the consequent demands to maintain order that zap teachers of their energy and consequently… their rightful job… to teach children, not police them.
While many of us are in denial about this deplorable situation or spin our tops, coming up with one ineffective remedy after another, Brown’s experiment with the Military Academy shows that he has grasped this unfortunate reality and is willing to take a giant step forward in prototyping a solution. Frankly, my experience suggests that not only do we need boot camp academies but perhaps the presence of the National Guard itself, in every problematic school.
Back in the 1940’s and 50’s we had to deal with larger class sizes, and various other obstacles to effective education. But teachers weren’t burned out yelling, screaming chasing and reporting undisciplinable students. This was largely because public school children back then had the fear of failure appropriately ingrained into their mind’s eye and heart. There is nothing wrong with this fear of failure. When applied proportionately it helps us develop the skills to survive and hopefully contribute to our society and culture. Today that fear has taken a back seat in the classroom and has been relegated to the students who must, all too often, defy their peer groups and bear an “uncool,” “unhip” nerd-like image in order to get anything done.
Brown’s Academy is a courageous recognition of these problems. We should all support Mayor Brown, the children and staff in this effort. My only question is: does it go far enough?