Teaching is hard enough in a good school environment with good facilities and decent pay and administrative support. Teaching requires supreme dedication, training, and devotion and it should be treated by our society as one of the most important — and therefore highly-paid — professions. And yet, as we do with other public service officials — police, fire, and first responders — we treat them like they are little more than servants.
So when you have places such as Oklahoma and Kentucky where teachers, including those with advanced degrees, are working two other jobs just to keep up with subsistence living, it’s no wonder that they are unifying and making their voices heard.
I have mentioned often that my father worked as a teacher and administrator in the Worcester public schools in Massachusetts for 35 years. He gave up an attempt at law school to do it. His sister once told me he’d said that, after what he’d been through in World War II, he wanted to be around kids the rest of his life. Which is why I’m somewhat ferocious about attacks on the idea of public education, one of the glories of American civilization. These include the attacks on it leveled by what are popularly known as education “reformers.”
Anyway, what’s going on around the country right now is remarkable evidence of the power of the idea of public education, and of the dedication of the people who work in the institution. Beginning in West Virginia, and now catching fire in Oklahoma and Kentucky, public-school teachers have dug in. They are tired, they say, of being the punching-bags of everyone from tax-cut-drunk state governments to come-and-go dilettantes like Campbell Brown. They are tired, they say, of buying school supplies out of their own salaries, some of which haven’t been raised in decades. They are tired of teaching out of obsolete textbooks that are falling apart faster than are the lessons contained therein. They are tired of hearing about how lazy they are, and how easy they have it, and how there’s always money for stadia and tax breaks, but never enough for copy paper and colored pencils.
So, they have walked out, and they’re raising their voices the way they never have before, and in those places where conservative governors and state legislatures have been using them as convenient scapegoats for the underfunding of public education in the first place. NewsOK.com:. From
The thousands of teachers at the Capitol on Monday rallied on the south steps, marched around the building and went inside to talk to lawmakers. Now, education advocates hope for another large crowd on Tuesday. Abigail Woodhead, who teaches at Celia Clinton Elementary School in Tulsa, said she is determined to see the rally continue. “My fear is that it’s going to fade after today, and I refuse to let that happen,” Woodhead said on the first day of the rally…Woodhead wore a hooded sweatshirt with her school name on the front. On the back, it read: “If it is to be, it’s up to me” — something Woodhead strives to instill in her students. “When I had to talk to my precious third graders and break this down for them in kid language, it kind of came down to that,” she said. “Guys, we’re standing up for you. We’re a part of a movement right now.” Woodhead attended Monday’s rally with a co-worker and said they both planned on being there “as long as it takes.”
Meanwhile, in Kentucky, the teachers have taken to inconveniencing not only the state legislature, but also Matt Bevin, one of America’s least-excusable governors. They have many of the same issues as the teachers in Oklahoma, but they also are angry that, as is the case of many public employees around the country, their pensions have been underfunded and/or looted. From The Louisville Courier-Journal:
“We are fed up,” said Stephanie Winkler, president of the Kentucky Education Association. If (lawmakers) don’t pass a budget that protects the public services of Kentucky, if they don’t pass a budget that provides adequate funding for the public schools of the Commonwealth, then we’re going to vote them out,” Winkler said. Monday’s events began with a march that shut down Capitol Avenue as sign-waving teachers estimated in the thousands moved up the broad boulevard toward the statehouse. Side streets were jammed, and Frankfort’s two exchanges off Interstate 64 were briefly clogged as people poured into town.
The promise of taking out anger at the polls is a sign that this movement is as savvy as the other ones that have sprung up recently in reaction to the election of this particular president* and the party that has chosen to sustain him. It is always nice to have a defined goal, to know where the next immediate finish line is.
Our first instinct, both individually and as a nation, should be to teach the children. To raise them to a higher standard than where we came from, to give them what they need not just to compete for a good job but to become a better person than the people that raised them. Education is the silver bullet that cures the ills of poverty, distrust, paranoia, and raises us up. I am sure there are studies and hard-core evidence that proves that the more money that is spent on education at all levels, the lower the crime rate, the higher the potential for productivity in the workplace and in the home, and fewer people falling by the wayside and becoming a drain on both resources and optimism about our future.