Another veteran history teacher has resigned.
In his letter of resignation, this high school teacher laments that “I am not leaving my profession, in truth, it has left me. It no longer exists.”
Gerald J. Conti, a social studies teacher at Westhill High School in Syracuse, NY, for twenty-seven years, resigned recently. His letter of resignation is a condemnation of the hijacking of public education by political and business forces that are subverting its educational mission.
Conti writes that “to me, history has been so very much more than a mere job, it has truly been my life. … With regard to my profession, I have truly attempted to live John Dewey’s famous quotation (now likely cliché with me, I’ve used it so very often) that ‘Education is not preparation for life, education is life itself.'” Conti complains that “I now find that this approach to my profession is not only devalued, but denigrated and perhaps, in some quarters despised.”
What are the forces that are disrupting historical and social science education in public schools? According to Conti: “STEM rules the day and ‘data driven’ education seeks only conformity, standardization, testing and a zombie-like adherence to the shallow and generic Common Core, along with a lockstep of oversimplified so-called Essential Learnings.”
As a result, Conti claims, “creativity, academic freedom, teacher autonomy, experimentation and innovation are being stifled in a misguided effort to fix what is not broken in our system of public education and particularly not at Westhill.”
The Washington Post published Conti’s letter of resignation. Thanks to artist Terry Swafford for sharing this link and alerting me to this story.
History majors and aspiring social science teachers should read Conti’s letter. While the letter may at first seem depressing to a future teacher, Conti’s letter can also be read as a call to action to protect humanities and social sciences in public education. As a former “normal school” and an important center for secondary education training, Northern Illinois University is closely involved in the transformations and trends in public education discussed by Conti in his resignation letter.