If you think education is expensive, try ignorance.
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On Tuesday Americans—left, right, rich, poor, black, brown, white, straight, gay, male, female, young, old, animist, Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Jew, Muslim, and none of the above—voted by the millions.
(Our nation’s first electorate in 1788 was exclusively white property-owning men.)
On Tuesday poll workers showed up. Ballots were marked, votes counted, results announced. No shots were fired.
Yes, some Americans hate other Americans. But most of us like each other. Yes, polarization persists. Saboteurs, insurrections, and defilers lurk in the shadows and strut on stage. But most of us cherish democracy.
On Tuesday peace prevailed. A wave did not swallow the land. The seawall held.
Yes, democracy is endangered. It always has been. Few governments of the people, by the people, and for the people have lasted this long. Still, we’re not hanging by a thread. We’re held together by a threefold cord—faith, hope, and love. And a constitution.
My post last week (“The End Is Near”) ended with a challenge: What is one thing we can do to strengthen democracy? Here’s a sampler of replies:
Be a poll worker. Ignore pundits and polls. Pray. Vote. Organize. Plant seeds of peace. Keep plowing. Don’t give up. Denounce Christian nationalism. Support the Poor People’s Campaign. Create an “underground railroad” for endangered poll workers. Break through the wall of division. Listen. Discuss. Be kind. Be gracious in winning. Be gracious in losing.
My challenge wasn’t a contest. But had it been, this response from Betsy Donohoe would have won.
The one thing we can do to ensure democracy thrives is to support our public schools. There, children of diverse cultures and languages come together and learn to respect one another; bullies are reported and held accountable. In the public schoolhouse children learn to read, write, and compute; learn about citizenship; and, in many places, do volunteer community service. In the public schoolhouse equity and equality are the “standard” in determining who gets what. It is in the public schoolhouse that democracy will thrive.
This fall I co-taught a class at UVA’s Lifelong Learning on “Public Schools Under Siege.” Great participation! Next fall: “What’s Right About Public Schools.” All ideas and/or testimonies welcomed!
Let’s give Betsy some fodder for her class. What’s one thing we can do to strengthen public education? Please leave your answer below.
PAY our teachers better!!! Give them the respect and gratitude they deserve!
I would suggest that everyone read The Power Worshippers: Inside the Dangerous Rise of Religious Nationalism by Katherine Stewart. There are many sections on how Christian nationalists are threatening to undermine and destroy public education. My other suggestion is to invite the author to speak in your community or perhaps your church, synagogue or mosque. An informed and stimulating journalist and speaker, she spoke at a recent adult education program at Shepherdstown Presbyterian Church. Democracy will be strengthened through greater awareness and this book will assist the process.
Yes! Pay teachers more! Treat teachers like the dedicated public service professionals they are! While we’re at it, let’s bring back those scholarships for deserving education students at public universities. And let’s get more outstanding educators like Paula, my daughter Lora, Betsy’s daughter Jen, my sister Betsy herself, and so many others on school boards, in legislatures, as governors and President!
All of the above as well as recognize charter schools for what they are, a reestablishment of segregation that shuts out those who can’t afford to pay. For the love of god, increase teacher pay. Make certain civics is in the curriculum and that everyone takes civics and not just boys which is how it was hundreds of years ago when I was in high school. Girls took “home economics” and boys took civics which was taught by the football coach, and this was in your typical public high school. Also, every Friday the civics class played a sports trivia game where the team names were the jockstraps and hockey dodgers. I am not making this up.Surely, we can do better.
Yes better pay for “good” teachers. Need better evaluation of teachers so the good ones are rewarded and the bad ones out. Less administrators, they are paid too much to do very little. Bring back more field trips. That gets students out in their communities to see nature, industry, different people and cultures.
I was at an event last night with Randi Weingarten, President of the American Federation of Teachers. We were able to talk and catch up. Our conversation was all about public education as a cornerstone of democracy. She and the unions have led the fight to save and strengthen public education. Support teachers’ unions. Make education a priority. Pay teachers a family sustaining salary. Support those who teach our children. Remember teachers open the door to knowledge. Defeat ignorance.
First significantly increase pay and benefits for teachers! Significantly lower the cost of education for teachers. Do whatever is needed to make as sure as possible to make sure classrooms are safe!
First, educate ourselves on the threats to public education — Larry Neumark’s suggestion is a start, for example. Locally, attend school board meetings and hearings and speak up to help inform them and attendant parents and interested citizenry. Volunteer in local schools: donate supplies and support a positive learning process.
Second, educate ourselves… and be willing to speak up and out.
Third, educate ourselves… As brilliant educator Jerome Bruner once said, “I once lectured a class on quantum physics. They did not understand. I repeated the information and they still did not understand. I repeated a third time, and that time, I understood.”
The best thing that could happen for the education institution is to get politicians out of education. Let educators do what they do best, educate. Accountability? Fine. Educators are already the one of the most accountable professions in our fair land. All of us are responsible and accountable for educating our young people. This includes parents and always has. A home is a child’s first classroom. To use a well worn, but nonetheless true statement, “It takes a village.” An entire community is needed to raise productive citizens. Accountability also includes students who only get out of education what they put into it. Let’s remember that education begins at home. The entire process is about learning how to think, not what to think.
Establish more charter schools, monitor them closely and have the money that is spent on a student’s public education follow the student to whatever school they choose to attend. When parents and students have a choice on what school they will go to, it forces schools that aren’t a top choice to improve and compete. A little competition is good for our education system.
An educated electorate, a representative democracy does begin at home, and supported by dedicated teachers paid a living wage with benefits. Civics in my community growing up included classroom debates and elections (Kennedy v Nixon); trips to voting booths (& using them); trips to a courtroom (during actual deliberations); trips to jail (they closed the bars); trips to the morgue (seeing that toe tag & growing nails…); visiting my father’s air guard plane with my class- all these experiences were part of learning responsibility; citizenship & love for learning. Thank you to all my teachers!
STAY OUT OF IT UNLESS YOU REALL KNOW YOUR SUBJECT. ALL NEW IDEAS ARE NOT RELEVENT BUT POLITICAL ONLY.
First things first…thank you for raising the question: What’s one thing we can do to strengthen public education. For sure, all responses offer lots to consider in putting together next fall’s OLLI course, What’s Right About Public Schools. So thank you to all who contributed!
Today/Tuesday is a grey, rainy, somber day here in Charlottesville, VA. Yet another tragedy has gripped the UVA campus. Classes are cancelled for a second day. Yesterday schools and businesses closed, and the entire area “sheltered in place” until the suspect of three senseless killings was apprehended at about 11:00 a.m. Last night yet another candlelight vigil was held on UVA’s Lawn…I say “another” because such vigils seem commonplace these days….Columbine, Sandy Hook, Buffalo, Aurora, Stoneman Douglas, Uvalde…how many more will there be?
Probably the most prominent theme amongst last Sunday’s responses was to treat our teachers as professionals by paying them more and showing them respect long overdo. In my role as a UVA Coach, I work closely with classroom teachers and our UVA student teachers. I witness every day the great work they are doing under tremendous stress – not just the stress of an armed intruder out to massacre them and their students—but the stress of test scores and catching their young learners up in math and reading resulting from learning loss during the pandemic. And yet, they are not trusted to teach what and how their years of experience tells them would make a difference; instead they’re given scripted curricula and threatened with cameras in their classrooms to record their every action and word.
Yes, if we want Democracy to survive and thrive, we must save our public schools from the political polarization now threatening to destroy them. We must treat our public school teachers as professionals…with a professional wage, with respect for their expertise, and with gratitude for their commitment to our children and youth. Competition and greater parent choice via more charter schools, vouchers, and other nefarious funding schemes that funnel public tax dollars directly into parents’ pockets are not the answer.
Such market place mantras in the 80s and 90s led to the great Savings and Loans debacle, as well as the deregulation of the airlines and trucking industry, both of which led to lower pay scales and labor shortages. We’re on the verge of such now—teachers are leaving in droves and charter schools and vouchers cut deeply into public school budgets. We must support our teachers and save our public schools!