A Review of Breaking the Silence:
By Joseph and Jo Blase
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HEAVEN MUST BE IN CYBERSPACE
By Karen Horwitz, President, NAPTA
It is said, that when you are on a worthy journey, the universe lets you know. Just as we were about to launch our labor of love, the web site for the National Association for the Prevention of Teacher Abuse, a book fell from cyberspace, that would have been the answer to our prayers, if we had been praying for it. We weren't, because we frankly didn't believe there was a person functioning within the establishment of education with the integrity to reveal what has been a very deep, dark, destructive secret - teacher abuse.
Unbeknownst to us, Joseph and Jo Blase, two distinguished professors in the field of education, published a book entitled, Breaking the Silence, Overcoming the Problem of Principal Mistreatment of Teachers, which was just released this month. The founders of NAPTA had no doubt that we were going to break through the layers that cover up the truth about our educational system. However, the publication of this book will eliminate significant work we would have faced to break through the doubt cast upon us as we expose these difficult to hear truths.
When we say we had no hope that anyone would reveal this, we do not mean to say that there aren't dedicated, hardworking administrators out there with a vision for what education could be. However, our experience has been they are worn down in time by the power brokers whose main focus is to remove any aspect of this system that does not fit the organized crime model. We read about how Dr. Howard Fuller turned around the Milwaukee Public Schools in four years, and then we read about how the union drove him out. These islands of vision have no staying power within this playing field deliberately arranged to benefit the greed at the top. Deprivation of human rights is an essential ingredient to maintaining the schools to serve the power brokers model and harassment is the tool regardless of who in the system wants to do the right thing. This means that if need be, quality administrators will be abused also. It is a food chain whereby those at the top will use abuse to demolish any movement to make our schools about children, by disposing of any visionary force within.
The history of abuse in general has been that it doesn't exist until people finally find out. That is the nature of abuse - concealed or secret intentional displays of power taking place for the benefit of the abuser. It is hidden from anyone who could make it stop because it is so outrageous, it won't be believed. People didn't believe there was child abuse until maybe thirty years ago. No one imagined priests would abuse children. And when teachers have tried to expose teacher abuse, they have been labeled as nut cases, hysterical females, troublemakers, and the cause of the abuser's behavior, and have been exiled by their district in such a mental/emotional state that even those who once admired them begin to doubt the samity of the abused. Abuse has a powerful ability to hide because abuse includes a strategy for making the victim's claims inconceivable. That is what makes it abuse. And that is what makes it so damaging. The victim not only has no remedy and begins to lose her sense of self, but she also has the choice of either letting her powerlessness destroy her, or passing it on to others around her. Either choice is destroying our schools and the Blases brilliantly illustrate that in what has to be one of the most profound books ever written in the field of education.
They included testimony of paranoid and insecure teachers claiming to have instructed defensively, with teaching devoid of creativity to assure safety from reprimands for having gone over the line drawn by controlling principals; they described the colleagues as informants and spies phenomenon. They pointed out two methods of delivering abuse - direct hostility, or manipulation with pretense. Teachers revealed that the alleged shared governance, or teachers as decision-makers, is only on paper since principals dominate decision making with mere body language. Actions taken knowing they were against the law abounded within the testimony of the fifty teachers anonymously interviewed for the book. Gestapo-like tactics to determine which teacher was the source of a complaint, strict control at student placement meetings, and keeping the teachers from giving feedback that might provide a better placement for a particular child were cited as examples of manipulative abuse. They painted an accurate picture of the authentic culture beneath the public relations facade known to the world, of damaged classrooms infiltrated with the negativity that emanates from the top. They mentioned that typically universities fail to address this dark side, thus denying their students any preparation for what lies in store once hired to teach. Further probing will determine that the practice of teacher mistreatment is premeditated. However, revelations about abuse being commonplace indicate a thorough analysis of the teaching culture, increasing the likelihood that with further research the Blases will uncover the truth about premeditated abuse.
America is based on the principles of checks and balances. Our government allegedly keeps our corporations in line. If our government or corporations become reprehensible, we have the media and our universities to expose them using reliable investigative methods. This system, when it works, is what makes us willing to fight for democracy in spite of its costs. But when it fails, we have Enron and its likes. What NAPTA has discovered is that our universities and press have failed to work to keep the field of education honest, and we thus have a system that most agree is dismal, but with a puzzlement as to why. We can't treat the dismal, without probing for the cause.
If our government had stopped their investigation of Enron at the point of finding incorrect accounting, and then determined that because corporate executives had deficient math skills, they must undergo mathematical training, our handle on Enron would be comparable to our current grasp of our education system. Just as the books were cooked to serve the executives, the current interactions between teachers and the hierarchy serve a purpose for our administrators - a purpose equally as sinister as in the corporate world, but virtually ignored as we enter the twenty-first century blinded by our belief in motherhood, apple pie and ethical schools.
Learning about teacher abuse and its effects, as so vividly described and documented by the Blase, is the portal to understanding what we need to do to have good schools. They not only delineate the anguish of the mistreated teachers, pointing out a moral duty to eliminate this, but they graphically illustrate how it has turned dedicated teachers into harmful elements in our children's lives. This book is more than an expose of another disgrace of our commercialized culture. It is a testimony to the courage of the Blases who have stood in their integrity for the future of our society, in spite of the political ramifications that face anyone revealing this taboo that has been covered up by tacit agreement for so long.
With NAPTA, a new choice has appeared on the horizon. We have solidified a group of abused teachers, with the courage to speak out, to force the nation to listen. We have little to lose as they have stripped us of our careers, dignity and peace of mind. The Blases, our fellow pioneers who are still vital within the system, have given this arena a book that will revolutionize education, aware that this forbidden topic is strewn with political land mines. Their sacrifice alone makes this book momentous!
The descriptors of abuse are so accurate that few teachers could read this book without pits in their stomach and tears rolling down their faces. But it needs to be read, because in it the establishment accurately describes our schools publicly for the first time. Parents need to read this to understand how to fight for real reform; teachers need to read this to help extricate them from the emotional web so carefully woven to keep them silent. Dubious administrators and school boards need to read this to know their game is over, since once abuse is revealed, it has to stop by virtue of what it is. Visionary administrators and school boards, the few that there are, need to read this to comprehend the damaged goods that work in their schools, so they can help them recover and become the teachers that they had intended to be when they entered the profession.
The only weakness to this study, if we could even characterize it as such, was the authors frequent focus on principal abuse as personality defects rather than intentional abuse. We would like to have seen more mention of the organized criminal nature of the entire system that uses teacher abuse as their hermetic seal against scrutiny. Silent teachers provide the cover needed. Although many principals may suffer from personality issues, they are the desired model administrations choose to carry on business as usual which necessitates teacher abuse. This problem is not about teaching principals to behave properly but about removing the corruption from the entire system that relies on predatory interactions.
To the credit of the Blases, however, their conclusion indicated that they know they need to expand their study. It appears as if they realized the purposeful nature of the abuse, without having encountered the motivations behind it. It is unrealistic of us to think that one study could uncover what insiders needed many years and much business savvy and experience to figure out. In order to uncover this, they would have had to speak with NAPTA members who went beyond the districts to discover the conspiracy of silence about abuse that was being perpetuated by the state boards, state governments, and unions. Few people could have known considering the thoroughness of administrative deception and the power of their support system. I have no doubt that these dedicated researchers will move on to this arena, since their sincere concern for the teaching profession is interwoven throughout this book.
Their statement at the end, saying that there are many ways teacher abuse can be prevented is true, but again, it is contingent upon motive and our schools and unions covertly support the abuse. NAPTA founders consist of a group of teachers who did speak out, only to experience levels of abuse that far exceed those cited in their book. Bullying is a symptom of something deeper, and NAPTA has gathered considerable documentation to show the nation what really lies beneath the mistreatment prevalent in so many of our schools. Even though they haven't reached the crossroads in the path where many NAPTA members discovered that change would only occur with a unified and powerful effort to expose the corruption beneath this abuse, the Blases have started down the path that none within the establishment would take or has taken. Coupled with the knowledge that teachers will break their silence now that they believe someone will really hear them, this book is powerful.
You may think that only those with children need to read this book. It goes far beyond that. If you care about our country and want to see leaders of the future who can protect us from the evil forces wanting to end our democracy, you need to read this book, and do what you can to force accountability on our schools. If your spouse, family member, or friend experienced teacher abuse, you need to read this book. Any psychiatrist or social worker treating abused teachers needs to read this book. College students in the social sciencesk as well as in teacher education, should study this astute book. The potential consequences of teacher abuse on our society are monumental. Any university that ignores the implications that this research has for us is missing a significant piece to the puzzle of why our culture is disintegrating.
In addition to the flight of good teachers, Columbine, extensive drug use, high suicide rates, and students being sent away to residential schools are all outgrowths of the relationship violence taking place in our educational institutions. There are evil forces taking over our schools and the Blases have bravely shone enough light on them, to force accountability, FINALLY. As we mentioned, we do not mean to be disparaging about all administrators either. Our dismal schools are not filled with teachers or administrators who sought an opportunity to sink to their lowest level as humans. Rather, our schools are filled mostly with teachers and administrators that had no choice but to comply if they wanted to survive. NAPTA wants to put another choice on the menu.
Although we anticipate an organized chorus of Stepford teachers crying out how wrong the Blases are and how wonderful our schools are, the curtain has been pulled back and the Wizard of Oz is visible. The motivation behind their false outcry will be transparent - they do not want to be abused and they will follow orders. With this enlightenment about the inner workings of this system, the public no longer needs to be duped. The Blases have also handed the ball to us teachers, and it is now our turn to finish the play by breaking even more of the silence. Truth will protect us as long as there are champions willing to write it.
It should be noted that the Blases are referring to silence as teachers' fearful reaction to teacher abuse, while NAPTA has documented that the primary reason teachers are abused is to silence them. Is there any wonder that breaking the silence is such an uphill battle?
"Blase and Blases findings leave us to struggle not only with the notion of barriers to organizational growth but with violation of standards of decency and humanity which fly in the face of our beliefs and values as educators."
Don Saul, AASA American Superintendent of the Year, 2000
"Whether the cause is conservative organizations, professional jealousy, or something else, Blase and Blase have done a major service in calling attention to a phenomenon that is robbing education of many of its brightest and most competent teachers."
Gary L. Anderson, Professor of Educational Administration
California State University, Los Angeles
What are the consequences for people who demonstrate courage in the face of negative use of power by superiors?
For the answer to this, you will need to read the TEACHER STORIES in BACKGROUND on this site.
ABOUT THE AUTHORS: Joseph Blase & Jo Blase
Joseph Blase is a professor of educational leadership and co-director of ATLAS, The Alliance for Teaching, Leadership, and School Improvement, in the College of Education at the University of Georgia. Since receiving his Ph.D. in 1980 from Syracuse University, his research has focused on school reform, transformational leadership, the micropolitics of education, principal-teacher relationships, and the work lives of teachers. His work concentrating on school-level micropolitics received the 1988 Davis Memorial Award given by the University Council for Educational Administration, and his co-authored article published in the Journal of Educational Administration won the W. G. Walker 2000 Award for Excellence.
In 1999 he was recognized as an elite scholar, one of the 50 most productive and influential scholars of educational administration in the world.
Blase edited The Politics of Life in Schools: Power, Conflict, and Cooperation (winner of the 1994 Critic's Choice Award sponsored by the American Education Studies Association, Sage, 1991); co-authored, with Peggy Kirby, Bringing Out the Best in Teachers (Corwin, 1994, 2000); co-authored with Jo Blase, Gary Anderson, and Sherry Dungan, Democratic Principals in Action: Eight Pioneers (Corwin, 1995); co-authored with Gary Anderson, The Micropolitics of Educational Leadership (Teachers College Press, 1995); and co-authored with Jo Blase, Empowering Teachers (Corwin, 1994, 2000), The Fire Is Back: Principals Sharing School Governance (Corwin, 1997), Handbook of Instructional Leadership (Corwin, 1998), and Breaking the Silence (Corwin, 2003). His numerous articles appear in journals such as the American Education Research Journal and Educational Administration Quarterly. Professor Blase has published over 100 academic articles, chapters, and books.
Jo Blase is a professor of educational leadership and co-director of ATLAS, The Alliance for Teaching, Leadership, and School Improvement, at the University of Georgia, and a former public school teacher, high school and middle school principal, and director of staff development. She received a Ph.D. in educational administration, curriculum, and supervision in 1983 from the University of Colorado at Boulder, and her research has focused on instructional and transformational leadership, school reform, staff development, and principal-teacher relationships. Through work with the Beginning Principal Study National Research Team, the Georgia League of Professional Schools, and public and private school educators with whom she consults throughout the United States, she has pursued her interest in preparation for and entry to educational and instructional leadership as it relates to supervisory discourse.
Winner of the W. G. Walker 2000 Award for Excellence for her co-authored article published in the Journal of Educational Administration, the 1997 University of Georgia College of Education Teacher Educator Award, the University of Colorado School of Education Researcher/Teacher of the Year, and the 1983 American Association of School Administrators Outstanding Research Award, Blase's recent publications include articles in the Journal of Staff Development, the Journal of Curriculum and Supervision, Educational Administration Quarterly, and The Alberta Journal of Educational Research; and five books, Empowering Teachers: What Successful Principals Do (with Joseph Blase, Corwin, 1994, 2000), Democratic Principals in Action: Eight Pioneers (with Joseph Blase, Gary Anderson, and Sherry Dungan, Corwin, 1995), The Fire Is Back: Principals Sharing School Governance (with Joseph Blase, Corwin, 1997), Handbook of Instructional Leadership (with Joseph Blase, 1998), and Breaking the Silence (with Joseph Blase, 2003). She has authored chapters on becoming a principal, school renewal, supervision, and organizational development. She also conducts research on supervisory discourse among physicians as medical educators. Professor Blase has published over 70 academic articles, chapters, and books.
DR. JO BLASE & DR. JOSEPH BLASE
Jo Blase, Ph.D.
Department of Educational Leadership
& Co-Director, ATLAS
College of Education
University of Georgia
850 College Station Road
Athens, GA 30605
Joseph Blase, Ph.D.
Department of Educational Leadership
& Co-Director, ATLAS
College of Education
University of Georgia
850 College Station Road
Athens, GA 30605
ATLAS is the Alliance for Teaching, Leadership, and School Improvement
What causes people to use power aggressively or in "evil" ways?
Read BREAKING THE SILENCE to see the evil occurring in our schools. Then keep visiting this web site for insight about this corrupt system, and how it became so evil.