I finished Steven Brill’s popular (infamous?) book about the school reform drama, “Class Struggle,” about a month ago. No, I don’t plan on offering my take on the narrative. Enough bytes have already been expended on that. But even though I finished it and have read several other books since, one small, virtually inconsequential paragraph continues to resonate with me.
Brill describes a major frustration Eva Moskowitz, the brilliant creator of the Success Charter Network in NYC, experienced as a student at Stuyvesant High School:
Stuyvesant is New York’s star high school, from which an outsize portion of students, like Moskowiz, cruise into the Ivy League. But to Moskowitz, many, if not most, of the teachers were anything but stars. She thought half of the teachers were incompetent and vividly remembers math and science classes where “the students, who were all gifted, literally carried the class. The teachers were cruising on the students’ talent,” she says. “I remember one of the kids taught the rest of us physics, while the teacher sat there drunk . . . It was easy to be a teacher there.”
This stuck with me because, as a Stuyvesant alum myself (who did not go onto the Ivy Leagues), I totally agree. I don’t think any of my teachers were drunk in class, but my high school memories are also littered with teacher experiences that demonstrate either severe incompetence or gross neglect. Either way, I can’t think of any way to justify why these individuals were allowed to be instructing in any classroom.