For over one year Barbara McVeigh served as a substitute teacher in San Francisco and Marin County public schools in California. In that effort, she had opportunity to observe and learn about our current state of public education. She often witnessed and experienced daily trauma, abuse and often times a disregard for what should be natural – a respect toward another human being.
Her notes herein are not meant to shame or blame, they are to expose a toxic system of disrespect and inadequate schooling so we can reconcile the challenges we have as a means to heal and reshape who and what we are as California and as an American society. Our schools are a mess and given we are in extreme challenges with climate change, working poor, billionaire corruption and collapse of our American civil liberties, we can acknowledge our public schools have failed us. We have overworked teachers, underpaid educators, crowded schools, bully kids running classrooms, bad food, trash, abusive teaching practices and misinformed pedagogical approaches that got rolled out by corrupt billionaires, as our classrooms serve today as commercialized platforms for big tech and junk media.
Education can become the next great frontier to broaden the context of what it means to nurture and cultivate well balanced, happy children who can thrive in and solve a growing environmental crisis that has been exacerbated under the neoliberal decades these last forty years, post President Jimmy Carter who tried to set it right, a four decade span which should be labeled “The Reagan Era.”As in Jimmy Carter’s famous speech, “We have a crisis of confidence.” It’s time for a new era of healing, reconciliation and peace, and to write a new chapter for our history books.
Barbara McVeigh is an international award winning filmmaker, impact producer and teacher. She is the mother of two children and lives in Northern California. When she was 13 years old, her father and less than 12,000 union members, mostly families, took a stand against the federal government, President Ronald Reagan, in the 1981 National Union Strike to demand political honesty and fair wages. Her father was labeled a federal criminal and her family lost almost everything, until the federal courts in 2021 awarded the 1981 strike validation with a return of her father’s losses. Barbara’s memoir Redemption, How Ronald Reagan Nearly Ruined My Life and her other projects serve as messages of hope and resilience for a new age.
It’s time for change. It’s time for healing. It’s time to write a new narrative for our textbooks.