Most teachers see the good in everyone. They go into teaching because they care about children, and they take what happens in life personally. They are usually defiantly protective of their turf.
Many years ago, I started out disliking the late Benjamin O. Canada, who was superintendent of Atlanta and one of the first school leaders to get rid of recess. He moved to Portland, again as a superintendent, and it was when he was there that I learned he was a huge proponent of the arts for children.
I had to like him for that, and this created dissonance in my thinking. It taught me that people are complex and not always easily understood.
If you believe in great public schools for all children, it isn’t always easy to like people you don’t like. Or you admire them for some things, but not for their attacks, or complacency (however subtle), concerning public education.
Oprah gave a rousing speech on behalf of women worthy of serious praise at the Golden Globes. She’s, of course, a celebrated talk show host and a great actress. I have no objections to her winning an award. Her speech moved me. But I am leery of her becoming President if that is indeed her intent.
I like Oprah, but I don’t like Oprah. Why? Well there are many reasons why one might object to her running for President, and many reasons why some might want her to be President.
I worked hard to be a teacher, and I always worked in public schools. It wasn’t always easy. Oprah highlighted Waiting for Superman, the Bill Gates backed propaganda documentary that was harshly and unfairly critical of public schools, and supported charter schools. She gave a platform to people like Michelle Rhee, who, many believe, helped push the transformation of public schooling to privatization.
Sadly, Oprah is not alone. When it comes to public schools we have to separate the like from the dislike with a lot of people. It’s tough.
Many of us like President Obama. He’s missed. But Obama never stood for public schools either. Race to the Top was terrible. One never saw the President standing with the teachers union. He loved charter schools and the many corporate partners who would privatize public schools.
I admire Michelle Obama too, but her school lunch program and her discussion of health for children never included a fight for the loss of recess in our schools.
I know people who met Arne Duncan and said he was a nice guy. I don’t doubt it. But he made terrible policy for public schools, and really was out of his professional realm.
Some of my family and friends could not understand that, while I voted for Hillary Clinton, I was not thrilled about her. I tried. I warmed up to Clinton by reading the first part of It Takes a Village. She wrote sensitively about children and poverty. She mentioned autism on the campaign trail which no one else talked about. There’s plenty of good about Hillary Clinton.
But, as an educator, it’s hard to forget that she backed high-stakes standards and charter schools in a huge way. I’m sorry she’s not President, and she probably would have picked someone better than Betsy DeVos, but I doubt she would have been a great friend to public schools and their teachers.
No Presidential candidate ever seriously discusses the many issues surrounding how we educate children in this country. For public schools being truly a democratic institution, there is little debate. It’s shuffled under the rug by corporations more powerful than teachers and citizens will ever be.
Even Bernie gave little attention to public schools. His Bernie Bro believers, which included yours truly, had to explain away his definition of a charter school.
It’s one of the most exasperating issues for parents and educators, but education goes relatively unmentioned in each campaign.
And celebrities, even those who you would think would know better, seem out of touch and eager to jump on any corporate bandwagon, and the flavor of the month school reform.
It’s hard for parents and teachers to fathom. Tell me you didn’t wince when you heard Tom Hanks was supporting Laurene Jobs and her XQ Super Schools.
Many of these people back segregated charter schools and condemn public education. Some may know it. Some may not. They might be fine individuals and have lots of good ideas about other issues, but when it comes to public schools in America, they fail. Many attended public schools and benefited from public education themselves.
Even Bill and Melinda Gates strike a dissonant chord with me. Melinda Gates especially has penned some moving essays about women and motherhood. I like much of what she says. But the arrogance she and her husband display about education, and the blind trust they’re given due to their wealth, is frightening in a country such as ours. I fear they seek to replace schools and teachers with unbridled technology.
So, how do you like who you don’t like when you support public schools? It’s everyone’s personal decision how to go about it. If you love public schools, you will keep fighting for them beyond the celebrity and political rabble.
And most of us will support those politicians in our hometowns, states and the country who seem to get it. We will hope if they are elected that they won’t cave to those special interests, and sometimes likable people, who are on the opposite side of the fence.