Most of all, I would love to see the problems of our public education system debated honestly, and realistic solutions presented and implemented. Our students deserve it!
It is my privilege to have the opportunity to write to you. I respect you greatly, and I have linked to you from my blog many times. You are a remarkable person, and I will persist in reading your insightful work and continue to be instructed by you. I believe in conservative ideals, and you will find that I pontificate upon many conservative topics in regular postings at my web log: the Thespis Journal. While I am a strong advocate of portfolio accountability and comprehensive assessment for public school students and teachers, and I believe that as a nation we should aspire to the ideal of allowing competitive market forces to assist us in creating stronger public schools, I will also vigorously support strong public schools as the foundation of our republic and the hope of future generations. As with many institutions in our society, there is room for significant improvements in the public schools.
I am writing in regards to your recent comments about Bret Chenkin, social studies and English teacher at Mount Anthony Union High School in Vermont. Your commentary is certainly fitting. Mr. Chenkin’s behavior was inappropriate and inexcusable. As you noted, the Superintendent addressed the behavior in a firm and uncompromising manner. The school district should employ a zero tolerance policy for this type of unprofessional and irresponsible behavior. While the teacher’s behavior in this instance is indefensible, the correlation you have drawn between Mr. Chenkin’s actions and a parental decision to avoid “government schools” is an intellectual leap beyond the horizon.
For every Bret Chenkin, there are fifty or more public school teachers who have their students fully engaged in the learning process more than five days per week. For every case of “liberal indoctrination” there are abundant illustrations of dynamic teachers presenting model lessons rich with innovative instructional strategies that many conservatives would find refreshing. These diligent and meticulous teachers represent the best practice of the pioneering American Spirit. A caring, dynamic teacher is the key to unlocking the door of learning. It should come as no surprise, even to us conservatives, that more than a few model teachers can be found at every public school in the nation.
Moreover, it is much easier for the defeatists, these champions of privatization, to take cheap shots at every public school and schoolteacher because of the actions of one. The prevailing conservative “news” paradigm allows only pessimistic stories promulgated by the mainstream media to constitute the entire vocabulary of news reporting. Conservatives use this one-sided reporting to further their thesis of bad “government schools.” I am glad that I did not stop reading columns and blogs because there are a few blogs out there that certainly are irresponsible, inaccurate, and unprofessional. There are bad bloggers, bad teachers, bad superintendents, bad politicians and bad journalists to be found throughout the United States. Because all public schools are supported by state, local, and federal tax dollars, every incidence of poor behavior is magnified beyond its breadth and scope and each overblown occurrence makes an easy and ready-made target for the anti-public school alliance which always seems to be lurking in the wings.
It would be interesting to know if you would agree to publish, in the interest of fair and balanced coverage, the excess of unpublished and extraordinary triumphs of the many competent, caring, and committed public school teachers nationwide.
The majority of teachers who practice the world’s most noble profession in our nation's public classrooms every day receive little or no public recognition. All forms of the media (including and especially the writers in the blogosphere) emphasize every error made in the public schools. As an educator, notoriety is the equivalent of making a huge mistake. The prevailing "news" template does not permit the highlighting of the frequent and bountiful achievements of public educators and students.
There are many challenges in the public schools that us conservatives never seem to address. Teachers deal with students every day whose basic life needs are never met at home. Our students are not fed properly, live in cold apartments, spend the night without any adult supervision, and do not have their basic health care needs met. Too many of our students arrive in our classrooms confused, unprepared to learn and unable to focus on learning. Some of our students have erratic attendance patterns that prohibit the learning process. Sequential learning that builds upon skills that are practice daily is often impossible when the students have such unreliable school attendance. We, their teachers, attempt every day to assist these children without judging them, and to love and care for them the best that our time will allow us as a service to the children and ministry to our communities. We also carry on with remarkable lessons every day in our attempt to educate every child dutifully following the essential principle that "every child can learn."
All media outlets use their resources to bash the public education system at every turn, yet there are educational miracles which happen every day in the public school that are not reported. Almost always, conservatives dismiss and ignore the radically different problems faced by urban schools and suburban schools. Although Urban Schools face dire challenges and consequences every day, suburban public schools are largely thriving. We meet the diverse and complex challenges presented by our students as demonstrated by the students increasing in their academic achievement each day and performing better on standardized tests all the time.
Many public educators are heroes. We are licensed specialists who function as mentors and informal advisors to our students. We take our role seriously and agonize over any mistake or misjudgment. We are professionals with training, experience and in some cases, expertise. We think, we do, we know, and we do not respond well when journalists that attempt to make us guilty by association question our integrity. Teachers overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles to insure that our students have the opportunity to learn and achieve. We are agents of infinite change, and we adapt to the adjusting needs of our students several times each week. Our number one priority will always remain our singular students. The daily display by students of boundless energy and wide-eyed enthusiasm for new educational experiences keeps us returning to our classrooms as agile professionals with fresh and flexible ideas.
And not all of us are liberal. We are conservatives with unshakable core values. We never indoctrinate students in the latest liberal dogma. We consider it a part of our spiritual service to assist every child in becoming a better person and a more educated, responsible citizen. We scramble to accommodate the latest trends and fads in education which usually come to us in the form of new unfounded mandates. Legislation comes at us in a “one size fits all” mode and often the legislation has unintended, punitive consequences.
I have personally given twenty years to secondary public education and interacted with over 2,000 students. I hope that I have altered and enhanced their lives, and provided them with part of the motivation to pursue a quality life while becoming a life long learner.
I am hoping for a local, state, and national conversation on public education that is realistic. Finger pointing, partisan speeches, dogma, and rigid solutions have subjugated the last twenty-five years in the arena of public education. All sides of the debate should participate fully and be forced to offer well-researched and wide-ranging solutions. The Republicans that I have helped elect have drained resources at the state level, but they offer very little in terms of long term practical solutions that contemplate providing a quality education for all. Our young people are too important to reduce the issue of public education to rhetorical slogans and to marginal cheap shots at teachers. Teachers, parents, politicians, and all community stakeholders must come together and mutually begin the process of developing a stronger learning model. We have a responsibility to provide for the educational needs of all children in America.
Thank you so much for your time, and I hope to hear from you.
Read many great Sunday articles at The Political Teen.
More coverage at Right-Minded
This article blasts all public educators.
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Read about charter schools at Betsy's Page