Saturday, April 6, 2013

Of Sausages and Communes

“Laws are like sausages, it is better not to see them being made.”
            ---Otto von Bismark, Chancellor of Germany (1862-1890)

             When I was a little girl, the birthday wish was the great, unspoken secret of childhood. To break silence and tell another living soul a birthday wish was to break a sacred compact and tempt the fates. My wish was always the same, year in and year out. I hoped in earnest for something I knew would take a very long time to achieve, if in fact I would ever be able to achieve it. Before blowing out the candles, before closing my eyes, and before making that wish, there was always a sneaking glimpse made in the direction of my grandfather. I use the word sneaking because I thought if anyone saw me look his way they would quickly surmise the nature of my perennial hope and the jig would be up. With the mystical power of the wish thus broken, the chance of my birthday wish ever coming true was nil. So sneak I did, and then with the full force of childish fancy, and the power of young lungs, I blew out those candles with the hope that I would one day be as wise as my grandfather. Joseph Hyland, barber to many in our small town, was the most knowledgeable, kind, sensible, humorous, well-read human being a little girl could know, and from a tender age I wished to be as knowledgeable, kind, sensible, humorous, and well-read as he.
            Achieving wisdom takes time and patience, faith and experience, thoughtfulness and hard choices. Wisdom has to simmer on a slow boil for decades. Wisdom knows when confronting its adversaries whether to stand firm and engage, readjust strategies, or retreat. Wisdom listens and philosophizes. It is the ultimate reward for the individual who struggles with the lot that is human existence and learns from their experiences. In short, it does not happen overnight and it happens to people differently, if it happens at all. Just because someone clocks in time on planet earth it is not a given that pearls of wisdom will fall from their lips, as they did with my grandfather.
            Being a teacher I have taken this long view of wisdom. It is active both inwardly and outwardly while centered on the individual. Each student has the potential to be wise, but it is up to them. Their perspective is key yet without rigorous intellectual engagement on their part, it is an exercise in futility. Our American nation, founded as a constitutional democratic-republic, is centered on the individual. We are born with the natural rights of life, liberty and property and the government was designed to protect these God-given rights. Aside from that, the individual is the director of their own show. Life is a struggle, but where there is struggle there is fertile soil for the tender roots of wisdom. As educators we can help students in this pursuit, give them as much background information as possible, but ultimately they will leave the cozy nest of childhood and have to confront the adult struggle that is the human existence. It’s best to know as much as possible before the journey, and teachers can help pack the tools in the suitcase, but the student, ultimately, has to decide to pick up the tools and get to work.
            As a student, I remember the frustration I felt with the endless rows of desks placed in straight lines that adorned the typical classrooms of my youth. That they modeled the factory system the last turn-of-the-century did not escape me. We were but cogs in a great industrial machine designed to churn out young workers bees on an enormous conveyor belt that was the public school system. Our knowledge was disseminated by way of an assembly line, without regard to our personal interests, talents, or goals. Everyone got the same schooling in the same amounts and in the same way.
            In hindsight, those were the musings of a cynical teen. Today, as a teacher, I see those desks in neat rows as islands of individuality, where the goal was productive citizens capable of standing on their own two feet. Graduates left the cozy nest with grounding in the fundamentals, with the tools to succeed, including the knowledge that the American political system, our grand national experiment, functions best under the watchful eye of the individual citizen. Whereas back in high school I saw sameness, in reality my teachers were providing the basic building blocks of knowledge to us all. These days, public schools have become a factory of a different, worrying sort. Instead of producing individuals with the indispensable knowledge necessary to participate in our great democratic republic, the powers that be have swapped out the individual for the group. Schools are presently great factories, industriously churning out future liberals that rely upon group-think and communal decision-making more than developing the wise individual. This is the utopian vision of our collectivist future.
            How do liberals do it? Crises are useful things. There has been a perpetual crisis of one sort or another in our public schools going back decades. Keeping the public education system in crisis mode allows the state to step in to solve problems, and as it does so, the state takes more control away from teachers and, ultimately, parents. The obvious, simple, inexpensive solution to what ails our educational system is parental involvement. Greater cooperation between school and home is the obvious fix, but it is at odds with what progressives truly desire, which is for the state to take over as the child’s ultimate father and mother (read: nanny state). If you think that’s too outrageous, then consider this: Recently, comedian Chris Rock caught flack from conservatives over the issue of gun control. According to Politico, Rock explained why the President’s opinion should be the final arbiter in the debate over the Second Amendment saying, “The president and the first lady are kind of like the mom and the dad of the country…And when your dad says something, you listen. And when you don’t, it usually bites you in the ass later on.”
            While not eloquently expressed, Rock makes the point: the experts know what is best for you and your children. Liberals, whose progressive lineage traces back through FDR and Woodrow Wilson, find their roots in German socialist thinkers like Otto von Bismarck, who advocated statism, colloquially known as the nanny state. Statism is “the principle or policy of concentrating extensive economic, political, and related controls in the state at the cost of individual liberty” (dictionary.com). Bismarck’s influence on American thought can be found in a slew of social programs from the New Deal to Obamacare. American acceptance of government administration (the experts) operating behind the scenes, far from the public view, has put our nation in the position where the group-think of the commune has replaced the wisdom of the individual at the price of liberty. Take Bismarck’s famous quote about sausage-making. That might be perfectly acceptable in the centralized, socialist utopia that was pre-war Germany, but that socialist dream turned into a communal Nazi nightmare a few years down the road. Americans have inherited a republic, an empire of liberty, and if we are to keep it then we ought to watch how the sausage gets made. We must know what goes into the sausage, how it is processed and by who, how it is cooked and for how long, what sides are served with it, and lastly who picks up the tab. Liberal don’t especially like us watching how the sausage gets made. Remember what Nancy Pelosi said of Obamacare: “We have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it, away from the fog of the controversy” (listen to Pelosi for yourself on youtube). It is the responsibility of citizens to enter into that fog. It is a wise, mature, engaged citizenry that asks questions, deals with controversy, and suggests alternatives. Citizenship takes initiative and initiative rests with the individual.
            Progressive politicians do not especially like democratic-republics where they must answer to the run-of-the-mill rabble each election cycle. Ours is a style of government that is messy, noisy, controversial, and, I think, beautiful. Remember, if liberals know what is best for the masses, it must be a real slap in the face for them to take their marching orders from the average Joes on the street. If statist government is staffed by experts, what need is there to encourage children to pursue wisdom? Classrooms instead are increasingly engaged to implement the liberal worldview, as has been the case for progressive policy-makers going back over a century. Today when educators are legally obligated by federal and state laws to implement the Common Core Curriculum much control is taken from the teacher to personally determine what is best for the individual child. When teachers are told to slow down studies and forgo a broad-based education in favor of one with less breadth but with greater depth, red flags need to be raised. When educators are told that students make their own knowledge and are admonished to be less “sage on the stage” than “guide on the side,” it begs the questions of where does wisdom come from if not from those adults who have acquired it? And how will younger generations benefit from the lessons of the past if not from wisdom of those around them? (The excesses of the Chinese Cultural Revolution come to mind.)
Currently, group work and collectivist thinking are seen as more valid than individual pursuits to prepare students to be college and career ready. And while we can acknowledge the necessity of learning how to cooperate with co-workers, the individual also needs to be able to stand their ground and be able to think for themselves. Ask around at your child’s school how curriculum is being implemented. Today’s students often hesitate when asked to work on their own. They are timid to leave the security of the tightly clustered desks that have adorned their classrooms. Over the years their leaning has repeatedly involved the assistance of a learning partner or been achieved through the communal embrace of the group in task after task. In the Internet age, rote, or essential, knowledge of the basics is viewed as a dusty vestige of an antiquated system when penmanship and recitation passed for learning. The hyper-focus of schools on STEM education (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) to the detriment of the humanities, and the scaling-back of history classes in particular, comes with a price.
The price to be paid for the progressive vision of America’s future will be calculated by the next generation in terms of civic engagement and individual liberty. Will this generation remain perpetual youths, lost in a communal dream, disinterested, disengaged, and incapable of addressing the real goals of the nanny state or will they be mature adults, citizens capable of wisely questioning mommy and daddy, and thinking for themselves? If the former is to be the outcome, then the slow death of liberty will continue, unabated, in our once free republic. But if it is to be the latter, it will take more than wishing to make it so. It will require us all to dive into the fog of controversy and fight for the principles our great nation was founded upon.
 
         
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Thursday, February 21, 2013

Teachers as Tabloid Fodder

The problems facing our educational system in the U.S. are profound and overwhelming. The effect of a shrinking tax base on school funding, growing global competition and outdated curriculum, eroded family support for children, implementation of a Common Core Curriculum, revamping teacher evaluations, the needs of special education students, the rise of technology and the purpose of schools in the new millennium are just some of the topics that are being decided by politicians across the country. In classrooms, seasoned professionals are challenged by the mighty changes that are being foisted upon them, but you would never know it if you went by the stories carried by the big three cable news networks.

I recently conducted an unscientific search for the key word "teacher" on the Fox, CNN, and MSNBC websites. The stories shown below were dated from mid-December 2012 to mid-February 2013. While it is interesting to note the underlying themes running through the stories each network has pursued, what was most enlightening was the bizarre nature of the topics covered by the big three. On some level these stories are noteworthy, yet they are frequently focused on the salacious, the superficial, or the one-off absurdity; more tabloid news than serious journalism. If our country is to actually address the problems found in our schools, then it is essential that the media be taken to task for trivializing educational issues. They are to blame if the public does not understand what decisions are being made about our schools, and by whom, and how this will affect the future of American children.

Consider how the stories below must taint the nation's perception of teachers if this is the steady diet they are fed from the media. Teacher morale is at an all-time low and is it any wonder? We care about kids! That’s why we were attracted to the profession in the first place. Yes, changes need to be made, but is the profession really going to attract and retain the best and brightest when prospective teachers see educators through the lens presented by America’s cable news networks? I urge these networks to provide more balanced coverage that includes educating the public, as well as politicians, about the problems and the potential solutions. The media’s role is vital. If all we do as a nation is to remain fixated on sex, money, and violence the classroom, we would but solve a few of the peripheral issues. To address the weighty concerns of education in 21st century America, a sobering conversation is in order. Unfortunately, it is a conversation that many in the media are unable to broach.

Fox News
¨      Pension Plans & Retirement Investment
¨      Sequestration & Teacher & Other Public Employees
¨      Yoga in the Classroom
¨      Guns for Self-Defense in Schools
¨      Teachers’ Unions & Negative Effect on Students
¨      Teacher’s Work & Copyright Law
¨      Universal Preschool Proposal in SOTU
¨      More Teachers Needed in SOTU
¨      Car Insurance Discounts for Teachers
¨      Daycare Kids Abused by Teachers
¨      Sandy Hook Events and Aftermath
¨      Violence in Schools (various)
¨      Teacher & Child Pornography
¨      Competition to Save Schools
¨      Rubber Room Teachers
¨      Experts Battle Teachers’ Unions
¨      Teacher’s Racy Tweets
¨      Lack of Respect Epidemic in the US/Schools
¨      New Federal Rules on School Food
¨      Unions & Failing Schools
¨      Workplace Violence & Drills Post-Sandy Hook
¨      Teacher Charged in Child Sex-ting
¨      NYC Misses Deadline to Revamp Teacher Evaluation Plan
¨      Bar Exam for Teachers Proposed
¨      Teacher Test-Taking Fraud
CNN
¨      Sandy Hook Teachers
¨      Gun Discussions in Classrooms Post-Sandy Hook
¨      Bill Gates’ Ideas on Good Teachers
¨      Teacher Accused of Student Sex
¨      Trans-gendered Teacher Sues Catholic Prep School
¨      Bill Gates: Help Schools with Technology Investment
¨      Teacher Duct Tapes Students’ Mouths
¨      Need to Close Achievement Gap
¨      Teachers Honored at White House
¨      Teachers Fired for Sexual Misconduct
¨      Autistic Student Abused at School
¨      Lack of Respect Between Teachers & Parents
¨      Teachers Under-fire from Parents, Politicians
¨      School Violence
¨      Oldest U.S. Teacher Celebrated
¨      Teachers Arrested in Child Sex Sting
¨      Deer Breaks Into Classroom
¨      SOTU Message for Education
¨      Teachers in it for the Kids
¨      Should You Hold Your Child Back
MSNBC
¨      Sex-ting Teacher Arrested
¨      Teacher Attacked by Man with Hammer
¨      Teacher Suspended for Anti-Gay Comment (2 stories)
¨      Teacher Sex with Student (6 stories)
¨      Teen Attacks Teacher
¨      Gold Star Teacher Honored
¨      Search Warrant Executed on Teacher
¨      Teacher Felony Gun Arrest
¨      Teacher Absences Hurt Learning
¨      Teacher Evaluation Bill
¨      Teacher Misconduct Trial
¨      Obama Honors Teacher of the Year
¨      Science Teacher & Hubble Telescope
¨      Parents to Control Teacher Bonuses
¨      Teacher Made Student Smoke Cigarettes
¨      Teacher Sent Nude Photos to Student
¨      Teacher Cleared of Molestation
¨      Teacher Criticize for Anti-Gay Facebook Comment
¨      Teacher Pay Tied to Test Scores
¨      Jailed Teacher in Sex Case Fired
¨      Teacher Made Student Eat from Trash
¨      Teacher-Murder Trial
¨      Teacher Brings Opera to Students
¨      Teacher Breast-Pump Settlement with District
¨      Teacher Sues School over Student-Phobia
¨      Teacher Testing Fraud
¨      Teacher Evaluations a Sham/Fraud
¨      Teacher Retirement Investments
¨      Teacher Threatens Students
¨      Teacher-Student Love Triangle

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Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Why I Heart the '80's



Today I came across this letter from my father, Robert, who passed away in 2009. Whether the topics were political or sports-related, his letter is a reminder of what wonderful things letters were to receive. His correspondence also gives a good snapshot of conservative thinking nearly thirty years ago.
 
15 April '84
 
Dear Ky,

     We received your letters yesterday and as usual were very enjoyable. The past several days have been very dismal. Temperature is in the high 40’s but it’s been quite breezy and raining. The front part of the week was a lot better. Kate [my sister] and I went to Opening Day. The Chiefs lost 3-2. [The letter was enclosed in the program for the Syracuse Triple A baseball team.] The sun was nice and bright but the breeze was so strong that the chill factor dropped it to about thirty or less. It would have been beautiful if the wind hadn’t been blowing.
     SU didn’t get to the Final Four. They went to the Eastern Finals and lost their first game. They had a lucky draw of they wouldn’t have gotten that far. The coach seems to do a good job getting the players to commit to SU but can’t seem to blend their talents together. He seems to be so indecisive at the most inopportune time.
     I can’t wait until you and I can sit down and discuss the election. Ma and I were watching a program titled “Moneyline” on CNN. One of the money experts on the program was asked if any of the democrats had a chance to beat Ron. He said if all the voters asked themselves if they are better off today than they were four years ago, that Reagan would be elected in a landslide. I personally am getting very tired of the liberal democrats giving the country away. If people don’t like their financial situation they either have to get a better job or a second one. You have your whole life ahead of you. If you work hard and learn all you can, you will be able to be in a position to be very comfortable, with a chance to help change things you don’t agree with. But through my eyes, based on the here and now, I hope Ron will be returned to help get the budget back in line. After all the welfare programs that LBJ started, he gave millions away to welfare, and it didn’t help anybody. All it did was to perpetuate ignorance and laziness. You can’t give a man money, you must teach him how to earn his own. This allows him to maintain his dignity. To continue to give something for nothing only creates a never ending dependency on the system.
      Work looks like it will be better this year than last. The last three weeks have been good. This will insure a good first half. Our build work looks good, and for a change so is the body business. [My father was a tool designer.]
     The editorials in the paper have been fairly bland lately. About the only thing that gives the paper any snap is the election coverage. Mondale, Hart and Jackson are starting to sound like the Three Stooges. Neither Hart nor Mondale have any charisma, and Jackson’s meetings sound like church revivals. None of them offer any constructive answers on how they’ll make it better than what Ron is doing. Ron is a little short on foreign policy, but we must take care of our home obligations first.
     We just finished watching Richard Nixon on “60 Minutes.” They taped 38 hours in 1983, and CBS bought two hours to air on “60 Minutes.” He looked good after all the years. He was extremely candid. Some of his answers were very good. His humor was a side of him that I never saw before. He would be a popular man on the speaking tour if he decided to do so.
     Pa was up for dinner today (Palm Sunday). The money enclosed is from him...I’ll close for now as I want to watch a Stanley Cup hockey game. Sure will be nice to go to a ball game with you and Kate, and discuss a little election strategy between innings. Miss you a lot. Have a nice Easter.

            Love,
            Rob


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Thursday, February 14, 2013

Conservative Teacher: It's Not an Oxymoron-Part II

In part one, I conducted an online search for “republican teacher”or “conservative teacher” and uncovered a high level of toxic discourse directed towards public school teachers who do not fall in line with the accepted liberal doctrine. It was as if being a conservative teacher is an oxymoron.

Those who commented on the topic were incredulous that a teacher would cast a ballot for a conservative candidate, with the consensus being that those who did must be either a) self-hating or b) ardently anti-abortion. While social issues are a strong reason for anyone to vote republican, an educator’s self-interest does not automatically parallel those of liberals. Like any other voter, it is those twin pillars of the conservative movement, smaller government and lower taxes, that attract teachers to the Republican Party. In this post lower taxes will be explored.

The party of lower taxes, the GOP, needs to appeal to the bottom line when it comes to public school teachers. Teachers pay taxes, too. We pay federal and state income taxes. We pay school and property taxes. We pay sales tax, county tax, capital gains tax and all the other taxes that our government pilfers from hard-working Americans every week. I, like all Americans, would like to have more of my money at the end of that week. While some have argued that voting democrat is in my own best interest, there has yet been a solid explanation of how this helps my wallet. How does voting democrat leave more money in my paycheck? It doesn’t. It is the party of big government, and big government costs money, whereas less government means less spending and that puts more money back into my pocketbook.

Take the recently passed federal payroll tax increase. As of January 2013, every working American is contributing an extra 2% of their income to keep social security afloat. That is a considerable amount of money, and teachers are not exempt. Let me illustrate a point with a personal example. My teachers’ union, like many nationwide, has negotiated with our district a small yearly pay increase. Aside from earning recompense for professional development, this yearly pay increase is the only way teachers in our district have to increase our salaries. (Whether or not merit pay is more equitable or produces better teachers is a topic for another post.) The 2% payroll tax increase, calculated between today and the year I plan to retire, eats up a significant portion of the total value of my yearly pay increase over the course of my career. How is that helping teachers? Democrats want to argue they are looking out for teachers, but taxes hit us just a hard as they do everyone else. The GOP is the party of lower taxes, and as such, our liberal-minded colleagues should give the party a second look.

Another liberal argument is that democrats support more funding for our public schools. I would argue that more money is not the answer. The red tape that comes with state and federal aid is a huge problem. There are strings attached to every dollar districts receive here in my state. School boards are not afforded much leeway in allocating monies as they see fit. Instead, aid allotments are tied to categories that must be funded, such as technology or textbooks or capital projects, etc. Districts are required to spend money on state approved projects, whether they need them or not, or else they lose the money outright. This divvying up of funds results in some truly mind-boggling outcomes: a district may install a brand new football field the very same year teachers in that district are laid off. Newly purchased technology goes unused by students due to a lack of adult supervision in computer labs. A wide range of materials, stocked in libraries, go unread by children due to cut-backs of librarians. Let the professionals on school boards make the decisions on how to spend district aid. They know what’s best for their students, and they are accountable to voters. Free up school boards with less government strings attached and you will see a more personalized approach to your child’s education. School districts, given the ability to budget in more logical and local ways, will not have to resort to a continual series of tax hikes to fund our schools.

These are just two of the reasons why teachers should give conservative ideas another look. Teachers have more in common with the goals of the conservative movement than many republicans might think. Progressives have taken teachers for granted for too long, and the GOP would be wise to look to the ranks of public school teachers for future votes.


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Saturday, February 9, 2013

Conservative Teacher: It’s Not an Oxymoron-Part I

The Internet is full of sites where readers can vent over issues big and small. Try a search for the terms “republican teacher” or “conservative teacher” like I did recently and you will see what I mean. You will discover the depth of toxic discourse directed towards teachers who do not fall in line with the accepted liberal doctrine laid out for educators in our public schools. It was as if being a conservative teacher is an oxymoron.

A well-known liberal blog came up in my search. They had hosted a discussion that speculated on whether there currently exist any teachers who vote republican. The thread went on, in varying degrees, to berate educators who would vote for the GOP. Those who commented were incredulous that any public school teacher would cast a ballot for a conservative candidate, with the consensus being that those who did must be either a) self-hating or b) ardently anti-abortion. While social issues are a strong reason for anyone to vote republican, the “self-hatred” accusation is an old tactic used by liberals to close the ranks and deflect from the issue at hand. (Having once been a liberal myself, I am aware of how this accusation is used to stymie debate.) An educator’s self-interest does not automatically lie with the Democratic Party, as many might assume. Like any other voter, it is those twin pillars of the conservative movement, smaller government and lower taxes, that attract teachers to the Republican Party. In this post smaller government will be explored.

The U.S. was founded as a republic, but keeping our government a republic, about which Benjamin Franklin once cautioned, is becoming more and more difficult in the era of big government. According to dictionary.com, a republic is “a state in which the supreme power rests in the body of citizens entitled to vote and is exercised by representatives chosen directly or indirectly by them.” It is this “supreme power” that is getting lost in an age of institutions being too big to fail. The larger the government, the smaller the individual, and it is this belief in the supreme power of the individual that set the thirteen original colonies on a path of independence from the big, impersonal government of a British monarchy. To be American is to be skeptical of the government. It is part of our history and ingrained in our national psyche.
 
The heroes of the American Revolution made their case for independence citing the philosophy of Natural Rights. Natural Rights argues that each individual is born with the God-given rights of life, liberty, and property. This is echoed in the Declaration of Independence: We are endowed by our creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. It is at the heart of our constitution and we ignore it at our own peril. John Locke, the British philosopher who inspired our founders, postulated that living in a state of nature, before there was any form of government, most people would behave rationally and conduct themselves accordingly. Others would not, and those individuals would murder, rob and oppress at every opportunity. Thus, government was created to protect the good people from the bad. The government’s job is not to give us rights but to protect the rights that we are born with.

The liberal perspective inverts this idea, with their argument being that the government grants people their rights. At the 2012 Democratic Convention it was said that the only thing Americans have in common is the government. On the contrary, we have our rights, we have our humanity, we have our freedom, we have our individuality, we have our history, we have our core beliefs as a people, we have our aspirations, we have our love of liberty, we have our founding documents, we have our heroes. The list is endless. To put it in perspective, government exists at the consent of the governed, not the other way around, or as I explain to my students, we are the boss of them.

As educators, we are overly regulated in this era of big government. Politicians, persuaded by liberal talking points, pass mandated programs that abrogate the good sense and judgment of seasoned professionals in the classroom. Teachers and students alike live under the tyranny of the standardized test, with little wiggle room for those children who express their knowledge in ways that don’t fit neatly onto a scantron form. Common Core group think has damped down the creative impulse that brings that spontaneous spark to learning that inspires students. Federal “Race to the Top” money provides job security for the bureaucrats at the state level while hamstringing those of us at the local level. APPR, designed to rate teacher effectiveness, has choked off large parts of the day for teachers and administrators alike whose time would be better spent in the company of our students. The more government regulation there is in our schools, the less likely teachers are to be inventive. More and more often, new ideas, creative problem-solving, truly individualized education for students needs to pass the approval of departmental chairs, colleagues, and administrators before implementation. Big government works against the best interest of educators and not for us.

Let teachers teach! We are educated experts who yearn to implement what we know, see, and feel is best for our students. We all don’t have to teach in the same way in order to educate children well. Let us play to our individual strengths. Government regulations, while well meaning, put each teacher in the same box, forcing us to teach in lock-step with our colleagues. This is part and parcel of progressive liberalism. Instead, let districts focus on the handful of teachers who are in need of improvement. Everyone knows who they are. If you don’t, talk to your neighbors, attend a PTA meeting, go to your child’s soccer game or orchestra concert and ask around. For the rest of the teachers, let them be creative! Let them take personal control for their decisions and let them answer for it! Less government means more freedom for everyone, educators included.

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Friday, February 1, 2013

What Every Teacher Knows

Every teacher knows that students raised in a stable family environment have the best shot at a solid education and a better life. We see it everyday in our classrooms. You can pick them out without even knowing a thing about their family background. Ask any teacher. Make note of this year’s valedictorian at your local high school. Chances are they come from an intact family. Teachers know within the first few weeks of the school year who has the skills, desire, and support to do well and who does not. We do not need data from standardized tests to tell us what is readily apparent to even the novice teacher. The biggest lesson I learned my first year teaching was how significant my parents were to my achievements in life. Every phone call home that year ended with a thank you.

Every teacher also knows that students raised in a dysfunctional family environment are least likely to succeed no matter what we do as educators. These are the kids that try our patience while they are breaking our hearts. Every teacher knows what a profound effect parents have on the life of a child. Author Sarah D. Sparks wrote about childhood trauma in the November 7th edition of Education Week. Ms. Sparks explains that the bad stressors that come with being raised in a dysfunctional home are so toxic that often children can never overcome their experiences. It literally changes their brains. While bad stress like the death of a loved one may effect even the most supportive of families, the parents in a stable family are able to model coping mechanisms that teach their children how to deal with stress throughout life. Positive adult support here is the key.

Without that positive adult support and the piling on of one toxic stressor after another, the outlook for those children raised in dysfunctional homes is particularly grim. Researchers at the Centers for Disease Control analyzed data from 17,400 adults and found a connection between unstable family life and high-risk behaviors in young adulthood and beyond. Poverty, homelessness, frequent moves, neglect, domestic violence, an inconsistent food supply, mental illness, drug and alcohol abuse can effect brain development in young children. Known as the ACE study, researchers found that the more childhood stressors the greater likelihood that young adults will have intercourse by age 15 resulting in teen pregnancy and parenthood, become alcohol abusers or IV-drug users leading to hepatitis, and later in life they found an increased risk of heart disease.

Is it any wonder that when students come to school loaded down with these toxic stressors that social studies, science, reading, and math are about the last things they want to deal with?

What did the authors of the study conclude? Developing supportive relationships between schools, parents and their children are all we have right now. As a nation, from politicians to administrators to educators, we are merely putting band aids on gaping wounds. Classroom techniques do not work, nor does remediation because they are too little too late. Doping kids up on more medication does not get to the root of the problem either.

So, what’s the solution? Stopping the problem before it begins, and this is where conservatism comes in. We need to work as conservatives to continually stress the importance of family life. Both father and mother make significant contributions to their child’s development. Every teacher in their heart of hearts knows that intact, stable families work. While conservatives need to continually stress that marriage before having children actually works on many levels, please look to teachers as allies in this endeavor. We are there everyday and would benefit from your support.

How can you help? Uplift teachers you admire and that your children talk to you about. Make a phone call, send an email, stop by with a coffee, have your child create a thank you note, tell the principal what a great job your child’s favorite teacher is doing. Reach out to teachers in all the little ways and let them know they are valued in your child’s life. Let us know when we get things right. Stick up for us with personal examples you have witnessed first hand. You don’t have to defend all of us, but you could defend some of us.

These are some small ways that conservatives can begin to bridge the gap with teachers in their own districts. That way, come November, your local teacher may think much more favorably of what you have to say when you talk about your favorite republican candidate. Let teachers know they are valued, because everyone knows that often it's the small things that can positively influence the electorate.

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