Kramer, as one might suspect, hasn't been SMN's principal for long.
This is his second year in the position. Prior to that, he was the vice
principal, and before that, he was a gym teacher.
geography, as previously taught by Scott, was fun. He sees geography as
a means to study culture. "I try to get (the students) to relate to
different cultures around the world -- regional cultures, economic
cultures, ethnic cultures, and age group cultures," Scott says. "I try
to get them to see that their own teenage culture is just as viable a
model for them to understand other cultures." Hence the inclusion of
pop culture sometimes, like with the Homies or references from TV shows
like The Simpsons.
But when Scott complied with the principal's demands and dialed his
syllabus back to by-the-book, district-approved material, his kids
noticed. Parents called the front office and complained to no avail. Hence, the "I SUPPORT MR. SCOTT!"
Facebook group, which Scott says he's had nothing to do with. The group is administered by Scott's daughter Bekah, a
Shawnee Mission North senior who graduated this month. The page
boasts 960 members. Many are current students, others are SMN alumni
who remember Scott's class, and others are fellow teachers. They all want Scott to be free to teach world geography in his wacky but informative way.
Dave Owen, a teacher at East High School in Kansas City, Missouri, who
used to teach with Scott at Southwest High School, wrote a letter to
Kramer that is re-posted on the Facebook site. "I recall at Southwest (students who) would skip all their classes only to attend Mr. Scott's class at the end of the day," Owen wrote. In his letter, he also
recalled Scott's efforts to start a baseball team at Southwest, raising
the team's entire $7,000 budget by encouraging students to go through
old yearbooks and call alumni to ask for donations. "Their response was
overwhelming," Owen wrote. "Mr. Scott went to bat for the inner city
youth and came through."
Scott surmises that principal Kramer has just one goal in mind: to raise SMN student's test scores in the Kansas State Assessments. As a result, teachers are instructed to teach to the test. If there are three questions on the test about China, for example, Scott must spend three weeks on China. But there aren't any test questions on the stuff that Scott's students found engaging in his past classes, like immigrant workers in Los Angeles, migrant farm workers in the Midwest, Irish-American immigration, or India as an ancient religious center.
"What really hurts is, a lot of kids in high school don't like school because of this system," Scott says. "They might achieve and do well in it, but it's also making high school a miserable experience." Schools, in his view, have become "institutions for the glorification of administrators showing that they can raise test scores," Scott says. "But it's not supposed to be about the career advancement of adults. It should be about the education of kids."
Kramer isn't going anywhere, Scott figures. For his part, he hopes that he can affect some positive change if he's allowed to stick around, and if he's fired, he'll contest it. "If I'm considered a whistleblower, I guess that's the price I pay," he says.
But if he pays that price, 960 Facebook friends are gonna have something to say about it.