I think I was experiencing the sacred last night, watching the 90-something Navy man sing 'Anchors Aweigh' in the front row--and the grandfathers who served in Vietnam shyly nod to each other across the crowd. I also thought about where and how those men and women were educated. Where did they absorb the idea that citizenship is both blessing and duty? Who taught them to read and calculate, who nurtured their talents and their dreams?
It is a point of pride, really, having these core democratic values as an anchor in the Mitten State Social Studies standards. Here's a list of those identified values: Life, liberty, pursuit of happiness, justice, the common good, equality, truth, diversity, popular sovereignty and patriotism. Things we all agree on, right?
Nobody's more pragmatic than a would-be teacher leader who knows that taking on leadership roles means expanding the workload. More to the point, teacher leaders understand that the only definition of leadership that matters in education world is keeping one's promises. Getting stuff--the right stuff--done. Gender is irrelevant, they'll tell you.
It's time we asked ourselves just who gets 'appreciated' once a year--and whose work is considered vital, essential and fully professional year-round, with no need for annual symbolic gestures. There's something about Teacher Appreciation Week that smacks of a pat on the head for being willing to go the distance without adequate compensation or support.
I certainly hope there's never a rigid, unchanging agreement on the One Best Way to teach people of any age to read. All scholarly disciplines should undergo regular re-assessment, as research reshapes knowledge. There are still classrooms in the United States, after all, where evolution is not settled science.
I'm not naïve enough to think that schools could turn hearts and minds in a K-12 generation. But could they do significant good, given the right tools and incentives?
Teacher walkouts are the ultimate outcome of wringing every drop of energy, patience and creative juice out of a well-meaning workforce.
It's hard to imagine what could be more important than developing the critical thinking skills that facilitate our students' ability to discern truth from fake news. Media literacy may be in the standards, somewhere, but it's not on the test, so it gets short shrift in the classroom.
An urgent call to teach our children this: Making and appreciating art that reflects our collective joys and sorrows is part of what it means to be human. Art helps human movements and causes take flight.
I'm hardly the first person to say this, but we expect way too much from our schools, which are only as good as the steadfast people who show up to work in them. Schools can't re-order the mess we've made of our democracy or work individual miracles on every undernourished child.