Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Restoring Optimism for Public Education

Public education is in a state of crisis. It is vilified by uninformed media, greedy business people, and opportunistic politicians who decry it as a failed institution and a waste of tax dollars. As a result, political leaders, policy makers, and legislators decide to limit further investment in this otherwise essential public service. 

The result of this condemnation is ongoing underfunding, dwindling resources, discouragement, and a teacher shortage now in drought conditions. Perhaps the greatest casualty of this onslaught is the erosion of public confidence in its schools. This is indeed a sad and unjustified loss.

An essential part of the job of every public educator must be advocacy for the profession. This is hard for many of us. It does not fit in our wheelhouse. We were never trained with any sense that public relations was a key essential among our job skills. As a result, some shrink from this duty. I have heard it said, “I just want to go into my classroom and teach.” Unfortunately, the ostrich approach is one of the limitations we must overcome.

However, we have those champions among us who step forward and lead. Understandably, when an institution is under attack, supporters often respond emotionally to the attacks. This sometimes results in acrimonious replies and accusations laced with vitriol. For all of us who have become disgusted with politicians, we cringe at their affronts and hate-instilling rhetoric.

To build a brighter future for public education, we need to frame our narrative with positive messages. Let us tell our public what is still right about our school, how they are making a difference, and how much more we can accomplish if we have adequate resources. This builds alliances and supporters. People want to be part of a positive and hopeful cause.

Eschew the urge to fight back. We appear small as a result. Confrontation intimidates many. Fill the message with the many wonderful things happening in education today.

If you think about it, this can be really easy. Our work in service to humankind writes a million positive stories every day. The time is now to bring forth all the good there is in our profession. We need to emphasize the benefits to civilization as well as the rewards we reap as career educators.

People want to hear the positive messages. In a world where the nightly news is inundated with stories of sadness, suffering, and sometimes horror, we have the opportunity to be the shining star that guides our culture. People want to hear what is right with the world. So let us all start and end our conversations with all that is good in public education. When we all do this, our public support will return.

So sing it with me: “The sun’ll come out tomorrow. Bet your bottom dollar, . . .”

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