After 27 years at Westhill High School in New York, teacher Gerald Conti is calling it quits, decrying the public education system and proclaiming that his profession “no longer exists.”
In an impassioned and poignant letter to the school district's superintendent, which he posted on his Facebook page and has gone viral, the 62-year-old social studies teacher explained his disappointment and reasons for leaving.
Conti writes: “With regard to my profession, I have truly attempted to live John Dewey’s famous quotation (now likely cliché with me, I’ve used it so very often) that ‘Education is not preparation for life, education is life itself.’ This type of total immersion is what I have always referred to as teaching ‘heavy,’ working hard, spending time, researching, attending to details and never feeling satisfied that I knew enough on any topic. I now find that this approach to my profession is not only devalued, but denigrated and perhaps, in some quarters despised.”
Conti goes on to blame lawmakers, saying they “failed us by selling children out to private industries such as Pearson Education,” a national testing company, and said New York teachers unions let down their members by going along with standardized testing, which spawned “data driven” education that creates “a zombie-like adherence.”
So far, his letter on Facebook has been shared 1,142 times, with comments pouring in from supporters, including Conti's students.
One parent wrote: “You have been an amazing warrior of education for my child, my gratitude is deep. It is a sad day for our school district that they will lose you and sadder yet that they may not know the true meaning of it. Thank you Mr. Conti, for sharing your love of history and your passion for life.”
The Syracuse Post-Standard picked up Conti’s letter and spoke with the retiring teacher, who said he might continue as a substitute teacher.
“This whole thing is being driven by people who know nothing about education,” Conti told the Post-Standard. “It’s sad. Education to me is completely qualitative, it’s not quantitative. It’s about personal relationships, and it’s about getting kids to be curious. And that’s what I’ve been trying to do all my career.”
Conti’s last day at Westhill is June 30.
Read Conti’s full letter below: