Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Find a New Scapegoat

I know I am a few days behind all the hoopla, but the outrage expressed over PRESIDENT Obama giving a speech to school children about the importance of an education is frankly ridiculous. The nerve of OUR President addressing children and about the importance of working dare he. Maybe I am missing something, but to me I still respect the office of the President, even if/when I don't respect the man in it. I have very few kind things to say about George W. Bush, however if he were to have given a speech and I had school age children I would have certainly had them listen to it, both out of respect for the position he holds in our country and because if there were aspects we as a family disagreed with I think it is a perfect way to think critically about what our leaders say and then discuss later WHY we disagree. What specifically is at issue? Why do we disagree with what is being said? It's not good enough to say “Oh, he's evil” “Oh, he's a socialist spreading his propaganda, trying to indoctrinate school children.” What specifically is he doing, what has he done? I would encourage this type of critique of all leaders.

If we want to talk about indoctrination or spreading propaganda how about those that refuse to let their children listen to anything other than what their parents tell them, never teaching them how to critically think or refute views that oppose their own. I WANT my kids to be exposed to ideas and ideology different from my own. Only through that exposure will they be able to verbalize clearly, effectively, and coherently why we believe the way we do. It's those that never see the other side that are incapable of clearly expressing the reasons for their own views beyond saying it is “what they believe.” What a cop-out.

In Arizona our school superintendent made some pretty controversial statements pertaining to Obama's speech and how he felt the White House was encouraging a worshipful approach to the President. These comments got the fringe element frenzied and the next thing you have the arm-chair pundits claiming the educational system is trying to push a liberal agenda, how teachers waste time spreading propaganda, how public school teachers are at fault for all that ails us morally as a society. As someone who spent six years teaching in a public school I find that offensive and wholly inaccurate. We barely have enough time in a year to get through an ambitious curriculum, let alone attempt to indoctrinate our students to apparently the “evil teacher way” of thinking. In six years I taught my students to write, read and think critically, edit, identify parts of speech, define and identify literary terms and showed how these concepts have real world application. And this is just a very small fraction of what I taught.

My students never knew if I was a Republican or Democrat or somewhere in between. They never knew who I voted for, even when they would ask...and some repeatedly. They knew I treated all of them the same and held them all to the same standard regardless of their political or religious beliefs. Interestingly enough, in six years I taught, spanning two different high schools, there were only a handful of teachers who tried to spread their “propaganda”.....and these were those from the right. Not those evil, liberal lefties who have overtaken all the classrooms. Hmm.

The irony isn't lost on most that those that deride the public education system the most and the loudest are 1) those that have the least first hand knowledge of or experience with an actual education system; they base their philosophy mostly on what Fox News and their right wing journals tell them and b) they are the ones that have benefited the most from an education. It seems funny that those who devalue an educational experience are oftentimes those who have the jobs they have because of that education. They are able to have the family lives they want because of the opportunities gained from a diploma and then a college degree.

For years, people have placed blame with the educational system on the teachers. There are certainly some bad teachers out there. I even had a few. But more often than not I had wonderful teachers who provided me with a terrific education. Those I worked with over the course of six years were wonderful people and terrific teachers who had their students' best interest in mind. These were people who worked hours lesson planning and grading despite not being paid. These are people who spend much of their own money purchasing supplies for their classroom because very little of the money actually sees its way into actual supplies for the students. These are people who served the purpose of multiple roles: parent, supporter, encourager, instructor, etc. because some students had no one else in their lives to step in and fill those roles.

There may be aspects of our educational system that are broken or need to be changed. Working in education I would certainly agree that there are quite a few changes that could be made that would be beneficial. However, the teachers that are there day in and day out, doing the best they can with what they have, deserve more respect than they are given. To lump every teacher into the category of “spreader of propaganda crap” is offensive, baseless, and completely ignorant. Sadly, with many in our society today I wouldn't expect any differently. These are the people that could maybe benefit from a little more education.

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