In this episode, Doug Stuart interviews former public school teacher, Angela Harders. Harders is author of the book, "Tales of a Toxic Teacher: Exposing the Cycles of Abuse Within Our Schools". Harders discusses her dreams and intentions when she first began teaching, and how quickly those dreams were squelched by the public school system. Many teachers like her share similar experiences, and Harders is calling out the public education, not as "broken" but as operating as it's designed.
People who become teachers usually do so because they envision a better world for kids through their education. But reality soon rears its head "within the first 5 minutes" of starting a job as a teacher. Harders explains how the public education system churns out traumatized kids and pass them through to be "society's problems." Not only is the system abusive, but the impact of the abuse cultivates kids who become abusive themselves. Harders, a public school teacher for 12 years, even describes how the zeros she gave one continually absent student were mysteriously changed to 60% (just passing) without her knowledge or consent.
Harders rebuffs the tired criticism that public education is "broken." It's not, she says, it operates as expected. Which is to say that it's intended to create submissive, compliant, factory-worker-type followers, ready for employment and trained to never question assigned authority. The complaints, however, that teachers are not given adequate supplies or leeway to be a creative teacher is all true. She had to get creative with her field trips so that students could make some tangible connection to otherwise foreign ideas that even we might take for granted. For example, she describes taking her students to a baseball game so they could understand the assigned reading which involved baseball. Hardships for students abound, but so also do hardships for teachers. As a Spanish teacher, one student asked her why he should care about learning Spanish when he was expected to die by the time he was 18.
The public education system is also rife with structural problems, says Harder. The compulsory aspect coupled with the cultural tendency to think of school as glorified babysitting is traumatic. We've all heard the stories of the kids who cry for the parents on the first day (first week, really) of school. Being separated from their parents, at this age, is not normal, and shouldn't be normalized. And yet, it is. Harders challenges parents about the education paradigm by noting that the state usually spends about $15k per student. Would you pay $15k for an education experience like this? No, of course not. But Harders says, the cost is even higher than that. That cost being, the unravelling of the social structure designed for raising the next generation: the family.
Harders, a divorce from an abusive marriage, also discovered the hallmarks of abusive relationships are all found within the public school system, and that system often creates what is known as a trauma bond. Where the abused ardently defends their abuser and excuses the abuse. So Harders left the public school system and now promotes unschooling, or what she calls Peaceful Worldschooling. She emphasizes the need to de-school, which means to take active steps to undo the damage done by the public education system. Peaceful worldschooling fits hand in glove with concepts like peaceful or gentle parenting, self-directed or interest-based learning, and using real life as a guiding "curriculum" to ignite the interests and passions of children. Indeed, making manifest the dream she and most teachers have going into this career field.
Listen to all this and more right here.
Main Points of Discussion:
03:12 Tales of a Toxic Teacher by Angela Harders
04:47 How quickly did you come to realize were a toxic teacher?
09:22 Public education is not broken
10:34 How did you overcome the design of public education?
12:15 Hardships of students; hardships of teachers
18:03 Structural problems built into the system
23:52 Connections to abuse
28:25 Leave-school, De-school, Un-school (Peaceful Worldschool)
34:16 State education compliance
40:46 Ahhh! Won't my kid just play video games all day?!
44:10 Concluding Thoughts