Column: Applaud those who make it possible to learn
by Will Heath
Aug 16, 2012 | 2109 views |  0 comments | 3 3 recommendations | email to a friend | print
With everyone headed back to school in less than a week, can we all just stop for a moment and appreciate teachers?
 
The past few years have been interesting for people who devote themselves to education. Once held up as underpaid and underappreciated — one of the few noble professions in the world — teachers have taken sort of a beating recently, and it’s really not even their fault. 
 
Because “we don’t allow God in the classroom anymore,” according to a bunch of Facebook posts I read and re-posted 100 times.
 
Because teachers had the gall to organize themselves into a union to agitate for better benefits.
 
Because American schools are “failing,” based on our education scores compared to the rest of the world. Oh, and because No Child Left Behind allows pundits like me to write that the schools and their systems “failed to qualify” under its provisions, by failing to meet exactly four goals out of a possible 59.
 
For these and many other reasons, public opinion sort of turned against teachers several years ago. It’s sort of an outgrowth of our anger at society and government; public school represents all of that, and it’s kind of an easy target.
 
“When I’m elected,” says someone who knows nothing about the system of education and probably has no interest in learning about it, “I’m gonna go fix our schools! Our schools are failing and we have to save our children!”
 
One of my favorite of these moments occurred during the 2010 battle between Wisconsin governor Scott Walker and the teachers union in that state. A television pundit whose name I have forgotten derided teaching, calling it “a part-time job.”
 
“They only work from 7-3,” said the talking head. “And they get the summers off!”
 
I immediately phoned my mother — a middle school teacher for more than 30 years — and asked her why she was fleecing the public with her part-time job. She didn’t call me back for several days, mostly because the parent-teacher conferences at school were keeping here there until after 7 p.m.
 
“Actually I don’t have time to explain to you how wrong you are,” she said. “I’m taking tickets at the middle school football game and kind of have to get back to it.”
 
“So … you’re not at home resting comfortably?”
 
There was dead silence, followed by a dial tone, on the other end of the line. She may not have liked my question.
 
I wish I knew the answer of how to “save” the American system of education, which seems to have served me and my family relatively well. If I knew any of the answers, I probably would write better columns.
 
Nevertheless, this columnist offers his salute to the teachers out there, fighting as hard as they can, one student at a time. You all deserve an apple, or possibly a raise.
 
(I don’t actually have either at the moment. Sorry.)

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