The Most Dangerous Place On Earth by Lindsey Lee Johnson is about the Internet and middle and high school. This combo makes for an interesting story and read. The schools are in the prestigious and wealthy community of Mill Valley on the outskirts of Sausalito across the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco. I don’t have a Facebook or Twitter account for a reason. I used to have a cell phone blocker in my classroom for a reason. I created CyberEnglish for a reason. This novel verifies to me why my reasons make even more sense now than ever. This is a scary novel because it reiterates the idea that the inmates are running the schools. It reminds me of that classic movie with Alan Bates in the King of Hearts. A new teacher, Molly Nichols, makes all the classic first year teacher mistakes and some. The result is that she has her wings clipped severely along the lines of Randle Patrick McMurphy in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. Again one has to ask the question why are we still teaching the way we were taught? Why do the five rows of six desks with the teacher desk front and center still exist? With this configuration I’d add a video cam to my teaching arsenal so I can video tape the class especially when my back is turned so I could provide proof to the overbearing parents and explain the ugly truths to my students. As Molly suggests, teachers may be glorified babysitters, which rankles her colleagues. It shouldn’t because that is what teachers are, “Glorified Babysitters.” I found that truth liberating as I proceeded in the classroom for my pleasure and joy and if the students wish to share in that joy, so be it. They do have the right to fail after all and who am I to infringe upon their rights. As I taught I just made sure no student infringed on any other student’s rights so we had a pleasant environment. It was not my job to teach them, it was their job to learn. I was to provide the safe environment and the data for them to learn, their choice, not mine. That is why I loved CyberEnglish so much and the drama class I taught.
Reading this book was one of the best I have read about the actual practice of teaching in a novel and I had fun with it. It also reiterated for me why I retired and am so happy for that decision since the current educational policies are so confused and misguided. Making America Smart Again is going to be an uphill battle in a war we may not win considering our current politics and leadership. When so many Americans consider “Willful Ignorance” a virtue, we could be looking at the fall of the American Empire.