When I first entered the world of education as a freshman in college, teaching was all about reaching my students, making connections, conveying knowledge and creating exciting learning opportunities for them. I spent a month in Tohatchi, New Mexico teaching at a boarding school on the Navajo Reservation. This experience opened my eyes to all of the politics surrounding education. The history of boarding schools, the socio-economic status of Native Americans, societal issues, cultural issues, it was all in my face.
It didn’t stop there.
When I entered my first teaching position in Philadelphia I was exposed to how political education was. I am still saddened at how education has become a pawn in the politics game.
Whether it’s unions versus school boards or government officials who run on the “hold bad teachers accountable” platform just because it’s in style. Whether it’s our own Secretary of Education and President touting charter schools as the fix-all for public education while local neighborhood schools are depicted as chaotic, dangerous places of little learning or their condoning of blanket firings of teachers in Rhode Island while teachers blast them for these actions and words.
Politics has even pitted teachers against each other as states applied for Race to the Top money, a political agenda created to make big government appear to be taking a stand for ‘better education.’
Unions stand strong against any kind of change in ‘how things are done’ in fear of giving an inch and losing a mile. Sometimes it is necessary to get with the times and realize that things can’t always be how they always were. I am of the opinion that my own union traded a benefits package deal for signing the Race to the Top paperwork when negotiating our new contract. Many of the new contract stipulations were right out of the RTTT wording.
These are the real reasons why innovation and meaningful change seem so unattainable these days.
When I was a child I figured, when I became an adult, that everything would make sense. I figured that adults would be just, fair, level-headed and mature.
What I discovered was that adults are often senseless, unfair, irrational and immature.
I have accepted the fact that my profession of choice is politically charged whether I like it or not. My position, however, will be as it always is. I will side with my students’ best interests and I won’t pick sides blindly and I will stay open to all viewpoints, whether I agree with them or not.
I challenge you to do the same.