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Opinion: Columnists

A brave Baltimore teacher speaks the truth about schools, students

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Maryland,Education,Gregory Kane,Columnists,Analysis

Dave Miceli doesn't know me from a hole in the ground, but he's my new hero.

Anyone that can dredge up the guts to teach in Baltimore's public schools automatically becomes a candidate for hero status in my book, especially if said anyone has taught in these schools for 20 years, as Miceli has.

But it was his bold, insightful, no-punches-pulled letter to the editors of the July 15 edition of the Baltimore Sun that put Miceli on my hero's list. I'm reprinting that letter in its entirety.

"Regarding your recent editorial, 'How to end the killing,' your last paragraph made me want to vomit. 'No doubt, Baltimore needs effective police and prosecutors, ample drug treatment, better schools, and more economic opportunities.'

"How dare you accuse, through implication or otherwise, that the need for 'better schools' is a reason there is so much killing. Had you defined the loosely used term, 'better schools,' perhaps I and probably others may not have been so nauseated.

"I have taught in the Baltimore public school system for the past two decades. What we need is better students. We have many excellent teachers. I cannot count the number of students who have physically destroyed property in the schools.

"They have trashed brand new computers, destroyed exit signs, set multiple fires, destroyed many, many lockers, stolen teachers' school supplies, written their filth on the tops of classroom desks, defecated in the bathrooms and stairwells, assaulted teachers (beyond constantly telling them to perform certain impossible acts upon themselves) and refused to do any homework or class work.

"Need I go any further? I won't even bother addressing the other 'causes' you listed. Too inane. In summary, the problem seems to be a total disregard for life that exists not only in our crime-ridden city, but also in all of the major cities throughout the United States.

"So, go blame other root causes, but please leave our city police, prosecutors and teachers out of the finger wagging."

Touche, Dave Miceli! Finally, someone has cut through the bat guano and had the guts to say precisely what's wrong with way too many public schools  and public school systems  in America today.

That would be "Bad Students, Not Bad Schools," as author Robert Weissberg named his 2010 book. Weissberg, like Miceli, recognizes that American schools won't improve until students attending them do.

You can bet that Baltimore school honchos and some elected officials want Miceli fired so badly they can almost taste it. Oddly enough, what probably saves Miceli from being canned are two things that conservatives  rightly so, in most cases  feel are precisely what's wrong with American education.

That would be teachers' unions and tenure. With his two decades of teaching, Miceli has tenure. Members of the Baltimore Teachers Union  and its leaders  probably don't know whether to love or lynch the guy.

So Miceli probably knew that he wouldn't be fired for his letter, but he's courageous for saying what he said in a city that's majority black, with a school system that's majority black, and where most of the elected officials are black Democrats.

Miceli didn't bring up the issue of race in his letter, but you can bet that, somewhere in Baltimore, someone or a bunch of someones are chomping at the bit to call him a racist for his observations.

That's because, among liberals and Democrats, there is this notion that the poor  especially the black poor  can do no wrong. If you criticize any poor and black person who displays inappropriate, boorish or egregiously bad conduct, you'll be dismissed as a racist if you're not black.

And as an Uncle Tom or sellout if you are.

Miceli decided to tell the truth and let the chips fall where they may. That's why he goes to the top of my 2013 list of heroes.

GREGORY KANE, a Washington Examiner columnist, is a Pulitzer Prize-nominated news and opinion journalist who has covered people and politics from Baltimore to the Sudan.

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