Monday, September 2, 2019

The New School Year

Oh, the power of education.

An entire regime is afraid of students learning about how to implement, live, and protect democracy. It is fearful of teachers and students and, most of all, ideas that dare to invite debate, disagreement and division.

Welcome to the new school year.

Most of the country is already back at school and we here in the northeast will follow them next week. Time, though, has not changed the issues that face teachers as we return to our classrooms. We are still confronted with a funding crisis that does not seem to be ebbing. Safety, standardized testing, technology in the classroom, inequalities based on race, class, and ability levels, teacher salaries, bullying, and class size continue to be compelling challenges to our system of education. It is incumbent upon all educators to keep the public informed about these issue and how we intend to address them, but we also need to make sure the public knows how they can help us with our task.

Gone are some of the attacks on teachers that were part of the political discussion under governors such as Chris Christie, and now teachers in states where pay is abysmal, unions are illegal, and educators' responsibilities grow exponentially are becoming more politically active and are flexing their collective muscles. As the economy improves and people are finding work, questions about teacher pay and benefits seem to have moderated. It's nice not to be an enemy.

But the challenges remain. Schools are not quite as welcoming as they used to be as a response to concerns over safety. Money is always an issue. And students come to school in ever more fragile states, whether from hunger, anxiety, classified learning disabilities, and depression. They also have been the recipients of a curriculum that seems to favor skills and well-being at the expense of facts, subject matter and intellectual debate.

As always, our job as educators is to ensure that this generation of children gets as thorough and interesting and relevant an education as we can provide given our resources, and to ask that the pool of resources expand to meet our tasks.

May you have a terrific year.

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