I’m acutely reminded of our culture’s view of education. While many parents desperately want their children to receive a quality education and are willing to assist professional educators in a variety of roles, there are still many voices who continually criticize, complain, and accuse educators of providing a minimal level of service to children. Others want quality at a cheap price, sacrificing enrichment experiences for maintenance of the basic core curriculum. I’m also reminded that many powerful education voices side with the criticism, adding fuel to this low cultural value which enables our society to ‘dumb down’ a strong academic approach to education. Visiting the Nebraska Legislature on March 19, I witnessed the chairman of the education committee answer pointed questions about the rules and regulations of hiring and dismissing teachers. He had very little knowledge of these rules, yet was willing to change those rules in order to accept an uncertain handout of stimulus money from the Obama administration.
There are many voices shouting a variety of causes toward education. Few have any solid direction or common sense. Educators are blamed for the lack of educational performance, lack of financial support for classroom improvement due to teacher salaries, and for the lack of innovation in the classroom. At the same time educators are blamed for not being adequately trained, not wanting to police their own ranks, and wanting to receive high salaries while only working nine months of the year.
Frustration and emotional dismay regarding these voices deflate inspiration and a strong work ethic. A lack of appreciation toward educators is a banner of glee for many.
While these words reflect a victim mentality, I still believe that one educator can make significant difference in the lives of students. Developing and maintaining one’s own resolve to persevere, to have confidence in one’s own philosophy, and to pursue excellence must overcome the political debate of the moment, whether nationally or locally.
While our culture screams for the pursuit of power, possessions and pleasure, it is the educator’s mission to prepare the student for the 21st Century. Preparation goes beyond the curriculum to providing a parental role at times, to teach manners, ethics, and principles that are lacking, to inspire direction and goal directed living, and to be a role model when mentors are absent.
Being fair minded, sensitive to all subgroups, including ethnic backgrounds, socio-economic circumstances, and all levels of abilities and skills, requires a missionary zeal not found in other professions. Public education must inspire an entrepreneurial spirit while public education itself is managed as a socialist agenda.
Standards, assessments, outcomes are all important. Yet the quality of educational relationships that are developed must surpass the data. A student will remember the inspiration from an educator, not the cumulative data accomplished for the Superintendent’s report to the department of education.