Nathan Gibbs-Bowling is a teacher in the Tacoma Public School District. He was recognized as Washington State's Teacher of the Year last year, and he has been a young leader in education in this state for several years now.
His voice has taken on a new prominence in recent days, however, as a blog post he wrote has touched a nerve and earned national attention.
This from Matt Driscoll of the Tacoma News-Tribune:
“'I want to tell you a secret,' the post, which went online Sunday, begins. 'America really doesn’t care what happens to poor people and most black people.
'There I said it.'
He sure did. Call it his Kanye West moment.
Gibbs-Bowling’s post, which he tells me he pounded out on the flight home from a Teachers of the Year conference in San Antonio last weekend, can be broken down into two main points, both of them worth discussion and thought. That’s especially true for a family like mine, who lives on Hilltop but, despite reservations, sends our daughter to school in the North End.
'As a nation, we’re nibbling around the edges with accountability measures and other reforms, but we’re ignoring the immutable core issue,' he writes, contending that talk of things such as 'teaching evaluations, charter schools, test refusal, and (fights over) Common Core,' distract from a much larger societal problem that we’re content to ignore.
'Much of white and wealthy America is perfectly happy with segregated schools and inequity in funding,' he continues. 'We have the schools we have, because people who can afford better get better.'
It’s a reality Gibbs-Bowling says his pessimistic side fears is too deep and entrenched to change. After all, he contends, nationally the political will simply doesn’t exist for radical moves toward full integration, or busing, or the redrawing of school or district boundaries so poorer students of color can attend school in wealthy, predominantly white enclaves. While he says the Tacoma School District is doing 'a better job than most' when it comes to paying attention to 'what’s happening on this end of town,' what he sees in places such as Detroit, Chicago and even south Seattle helped push him over the edge.
Gibbs-Bowling also calls specifically for changes to help attract and keep the best teachers in the classroom.
"Better teaching is the one thing we never really talk about,” he wrote. “Better teaching is the only mechanism we have left."