Monday, March 1, 2010

An Educator without a Party

Today, I continued to reflect on the desertion of the Obama administration regarding its promise in “Change We Can Believe In.” I have an old campaign sign gathering dust in my garage with that slogan on it. Somehow it is quite fitting. The promises of change made by our current president are also gathering dust. The Obama administration and Secretary Arne Duncan have only continued the same policies of the Bush Administration. There is absolutely nothing new in Race to the Top, proposed changes to NCLB and President Obama’s announcement of additional funds to address the drop out problem. It has the same flavor of the agenda followed by his predecessor. Now that is certainly fine if you believed in the promises of the previous administration. But for me, I am saddened. I am hurt that the President who promised change is basically bringing about more of the same, especially when it comes to educational policy. I am hurt by the fact that the Democratic Party has chosen to offer educators as a sacrifice on the altar of expedience. The party for which I have supported in election after election since I was old enough to vote, has deserted educators. Perhaps it is time to change affiliation.

What can we do? Well, the educators I have worked with over the years are a trusting bunch. They often look for the best in people, and many no doubt give our politicians the benefit of the doubt. Not one of us educators would say that our education system is a total success. But good educators tend to be so self reflective, that when someone says something is wrong, they scramble to see if it is true. Many bought Goals 2000, NCLB and now Race to the Top simply because they trust the minds of our government. This is not as it should be. We need to do three things.

Firs of all, it is time for all educators to stand up to politicians like Arne Duncan and the Obama administration and tell them that their ideas are junk. (I would use a more choice word, but the educator in me won’t let me.) We need to be critical, especially when what they propose is bad for our students first and education in general. Race to the Top, NCLB, and Obama’s proposal to address the drop out problem are not new solutions. They are simply repackaged ideas. They are not the kind of “Change I Can Believe In.” Teachers, principals, and all other educators need to start calling our politicians on their junk educational practice suggestions.

Secondly, I believe in bombarding the Department of Education, the Whitehouse, and our Congress with emails and letters telling all who will listen that we are tired of tonic-peddling politicians promising the “cure for what ails us” in education. Our politicians need to hear from us. Otherwise, they will dismiss us as irrelevant. We need to keep sending letters and emails relentlessly until we are respected for our contribution to the debate as well.

Finally, it’s OK for educators to get tired of all the negativity about education being promoted by our current President and the media. We need to communicate to all who will listen that there are places where students are learning. There are schools where teachers are dedicated and teach effectively. There are schools that truly exist for our kids. We need to keep reminding the naysayers in this administration that we are not all members of unions seeking only to preserve our jobs. We became teachers for a variety of reasons, but we remain teachers because we want to hope and promise to the lives of our young charges.

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