Amid all the political rancor about education funding in the United States in this overheated campaign, I wonder: Where’s the gratitude for teachers?
The U.S. is not just tumbling behind academic achievement in Europe and in Asia, it’s crashing — especially in science and technology — and still, the public argument is about not paying taxes.
Where’s the love for teachers?
Why don’t we get it in this country? Why are we squabbling about paying for education when our failure to support educators and schools is having such an obvious impact on unemployment and trade deficits?
Why is it so difficult to make a connection between everyone paying a fair share for common good?
Is it because Baby Boomers are selfish?
Why aren’t American voters making the link between a damaged economy and our failure to keep pace with other prosperous nations in education? Why don’t we get the link between prosperity and paying for an educated workforce and the taxes we pay for public good?
Why don’t we hear campaign voices linking education to an investment in our shared future? Where are the voices linking the education of all children — in every neighborhood, from rich to undocumented — to American prosperity?
Perhaps Baby Boomers are selfish. We’re forgetting that many of the gains of the surplus decades were spurred by an educated, ambitious workforce. We’re forgetting about the time when we valued education. Right, that’s when we Baby Boomers were getting ours.
We moan in public about protecting our children and grandchildren’s future, yet we refuse to pay the higher taxes that will pay teachers, police, and all the other grown-ups who would protect them.
We refuse to see the link between taxes and the common good, which runs from repairing old schools loaded with asbestos to equipping schools with the same state-of-the-art computers and other technology that make schools in, say, South Korea or Finland so good.
I’ve been thinking this week about how much I value teachers, because I have a niece entering college for the first time, another studying dentistry, another pursuing a nursing degree, one making the transition from college to university, and yet another, with two degrees already, starting grad school for her third (!). I’m starting new counseling courses myself, so we’re all buying school supplies at the same time.
There is no end to my gratitude for teachers.
I’m grateful for teachers who saw my potential when it was clear that I couldn’t manage math. (If I had to pass math, I would still be in Grade 8. Our high school principal begged — truly begged — my parents to release me from the obligation of math classes … another story for another day …)
I’m grateful for teachers who indulged my love of reading and writing, who encouraged me and supported me in my childhood dream of becoming a journalist.
I’m grateful for all the math teachers who tutored me for years, privately and without pay, as I struggled to learn. I’m grateful they didn’t give up when every cell of my brain and body resisted, when my marks didn’t rise at all.
I’m grateful for the science teachers who overlooked my math failures and managed to pass on their enthusiasm. Decades later, I still thank Mr. Rutherford for inspiring me with his passion for biology and the natural world.
I’m grateful for all the professors at several universities, who endured my interruptions and questions, in classes from French and Latin to the role of women in developing economies. I’m grateful for the wisdom they shared. I’m especially grateful for their leadership, for planting the seeds that spurred me to more research, more education, and the desire for lifelong learning.
I’m thankful for profs’ thoughtful comments on essays (not always appreciated at the time, I admit); I’m thankful for their ability to engage every student; I am still guided by the knowledge and experiences they shared so willingly, every day.
I’m grateful so many teachers shared so much with me. When was the last time any of us thought about educators as people who share?
As a Baby Boomer, there is hardly a day when I don’t think of, or benefit by, some vital lesson learned from a teacher at some point in my life. Any success I’ve enjoyed, any challenge I’ve overcome, is due to the encouragement and support and willingness to share of teachers from “girls’ club” to post-graduate studies. (Thank you, always, Elsie and Stella.)
‘I got mine. Too bad for you.’
There’s a disturbing attitude in America in our slumping economy and overheated election campaign, and I blame it on many selfish Baby Boomers: ‘I got mine. Too bad for you.’
Our teachers and the generations who fill their classrooms deserve far better. They deserve more than our simple, easy gratitude.
They deserve thoughtful, respectful debate about what we’re prepared to sacrifice to rebuild our education system — from Healthy Start to higher ed — to get this country moving forward.
Sacrifice: a word I learned from teachers.