The first time I can remember an election was in my kindergarten class in 1984. Mrs. Booth polled the class on who their parents were voting for and I remember President Ronald Reagan easily trounced Walter Mondale something like 19-4. I believe the experience left me fascinated with elections for some time because I remember asking my parents about Ronald Reagan and paying close attention to presidential elections after that.
We also had a day where we dressed up as pilgrims and Indians, no longer politically correct I suppose, but I learned a lot about Thanksgiving. Gratitude, a virtue we need more of today, was stressed.
I had an American history teacher in high school in 10th grade who was exceptional at storytelling. I’d come to find out that a lot of folks down in Mississippi can spin a good yarn, but this teacher had a real gift. He told stories about Eddie Rickenbacker, Alvin York, and other American war heroes. I must have retold the stories because my father, an Air Force pilot, wrote to the principal praising the teacher. He deserved it and the teacher helped cultivate a lifelong love and study of military history.
I was never good at math but I am thankful for the teachers who were patient with me and for the ones who didn’t make me feel stupid.
Last week was National Teacher Appreciation Week. Teachers deserve a lot of credit because many people either do not want the job or could not do the job. Some, like in ministry, prematurely leave the job because of burnout or perhaps a few are drawn to a more financially lucrative profession.
Here in North Carolina, much of the news about teachers are focused on the growing political protest over pay and education funding this week in Raleigh. Currently, funding for education for K-12 in North Carolina is about 39 percent of the state budget, the largest expenditure for the state.
Teachers are receiving another raise, the fifth consecutive one according to the General Assembly. Just from observing, I think there is a danger in over politicizing the profession through this protest on Wednesday. There are some great words by the conservative professor and writer Anthony Esolen who wrote:
Teaching, for me, has always retained much of that happy boyish enthusiasm; it’s why I find it hard to understand people who turn teaching into politics by other means. Why would you do that? Wouldn’t it be like sitting on a Rembrandt while holding forth about Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton?
Unfortunately, it appears many public school teachers are being used as pawns in an escalating political fight for power in the state. It’s unfortunate, but it’s an important reminder too of finding ways to empower teachers to be successful today, and I think many reasonable people, regardless of their level of support for public schools, understand that the status quo of just spending more money does not produce the desired outcomes for students.
So much of our culture and life is being politicized today. Teaching is definitely another profession that is falling victim to this current tendency. But teaching is about creating a legacy and impacting individuals for life. The teachers that had the biggest impact on me weren’t about a political agenda but pointed me to higher principles and truths and cultivated life-long learning.
Teachers are incredibly important. It’s the primary way students receive intellectual growth. I’m looking forward to attending the rally to talk to some teachers about improving instruction. I hope I hear about some solutions merely beyond the political and just dollars and cents.