Welcome back to the never-ending debate on the cost of educating our children. Montpelier urges citizens not to spend any more money on education, school boards denounce the teachers’ union and parents worry about what effect the resulting debate may have on what they care most about: their kids.
Despite the fact that both my parents were teachers none of their four kids followed them into their profession - maybe because we saw how much mishegas they had to put up with from various administrators. But in the last few years I’ve had the privilege of teaching through Dartmouth College and nothing I’ve ever done in my career has had as much immediate impact as my teaching has. I’m surprised and delighted to see how teaching translates into meaningful change in people’s lives. But maybe I shouldn’t be.
My dad taught at UVM for 34 years and every year I hear from a few of his former students. Some of them are my age and some are well into retirement. But they all say pretty much the same thing: how much my dad helped them when they were his students, how much his teaching and personal attention helped them achieve success, and how thankful they were to have a teacher who cared about them personally.
Many thoughtful people have noted the importance of good teachers and education. "An educated citizenry” said Thomas Jefferson “is a vital requisite for our survival as a free people." Franklin Roosevelt said “The real safeguard of democracy is… education.” And John Dewey, meanwhile, claimed that “Democracy has to be born anew every generation, and education is its midwife.”
We know that good teachers help make our children into smart and successful citizens and active participants and defenders of our American democracy. And just as our military defends our democracy from foreign threats, so too do teachers and schools protect our democracy from internal foes like ignorance and apathy. Perhaps we should try treating teachers with the same respect and appreciation that we generally accord people in the military - like having teacher honor guards holding the flags before games at Fenway Park or Yankee Stadium.
In any event, surely it’s time to stop treating teachers like the enemy and recognize them for their impact on the success of our state and our country.
I, for one, would be happy to salute them.