There was a time when I was in school. I had some forward thinking teachers who widened my horizons which helped prepare me for a racially integrated workplace as well as social life. However, I did have some poor teachers. [I refuse to call them “bad.”] I recall a Ms “A” who was partially deaf. The kids made fun of her and told jokes throughout the class which she, of course, could not hear. She had great difficulty understanding our replies to her which we wondered if she was really hearing and understanding… or just faking it. This was in the 50s in the South in an enlightened state. Ms. “A” was an older woman. We kids believed that the school looked the other way because they wanted her to earn her pension.
In the black community in the 50s and 60s the teacher and the minister were our leading citizens. I cannot speak for the contemporaneous white culture. Economically, teachers, then, were financially superior. Today, I read that is not the case. Teachers have had to band together in unions to fight for fair wages and benefits. The system that has evolved did not emphasize the growth of a teacher as a professional technician of the educational craft. Highly motivated teachers did go on to masters and doctorate degrees. Some continued their education in other ways while teaching. But salaries have not kept up. Society does not revere school teachers as the molders of our economic and cultural future. Both parents are working these days. Who has time to get involved in the classroom? Do they still have P.T.A. meetings in our local schools? How much are taxpayer -parents involved in the school board meetings? If not, how can we know how important teachers are?
Republicans are willing to make cuts in education to “balance the budget.” This is ludicrous! What are they thinking? Do the rich want to dumb-down young America to provide an uneducated workforce that cannot command even increases in the minimum wage…to maximize corporate profits? The business community should be invested heavily in our local schools. Schools should be teaching with the aim of preparing for real jobs in the future workplace. I remember that when I went to school there were two high schools for blacks. One had the foresight in the 50s and 60s to offer a curriculum that included painting, carpentry and auto mechanics. As a teenager I agreed with the educational concept of immersing the student in one subject that would lead to a definite career. That would have served me well. I ended up going to college and getting a liberal arts degree which got me a little extra in wages in my first and entry-level job in New York.
I think that one our problems is that society no longer puts a premium on knowledge. Knowing things! Skills which once learned are the basis for happy and successful families. So many people were willing for our automobile industry to fail. And, who sold American TV technology to Japan and later, IBM sold it’s PC business to China. Have you called customer service lately? It’s rare to get a domestic help center.
Secretary Arne Duncan is thought of as a good man. Mr. Secretary, we need a revolution in education. Only a revolution can lead to a rise in our math and science scores on tests. Only a revolution will show the world that we are dominant. And, Mr. Secretary, for that WE NEED GOOD TEACHERS. And we taxpayers have to be eager to reward these teachers with professional wages and esteem. This revolution may not be realized in my lifetime, but, the Obama administration can “throw the tea into Boston Harbor.” Instead of fighting our teachers unions, we should boost them up and reward the best teachers. Our future demands it!