As a former Marine from World War II and Korea, I entered my first year of teaching in 1952. The principal told me that I had been given a challenging class, but as a former Marine, she knew I could handle them. Translated, that meant a class of the more difficult and challenging learners in the school. I was a teacher in a very special private school.
Sixty-five years since I first stepped into a classroom to teach, I have found it a most rewarding career. But more importantly I have come to understand that schools and especially public schools are the very foundation of our American society. I have worked in private schools, public schools, state schools and been a federal education manager.
The foundation of our society is built in our public schools, colleges and universities. Until recently the United States of America dominated the public school programs in the world at elementary, middle, high school and public college levels. Other nations are now beating us in this important aspect of society. For example, college is free in Norway whereas we have created a crushing debt imposed upon many of our graduating college students.
Today there are states and GOP elected officers that have said we should not have public schools paid for by tax dollars. There are many unknowledgeable critics who have said our schools are failing and therefore have cut tax dollars for schools and made it difficult for teachers to earn a living wage.
The United States has struggled to bring everyone into the schoolroom and offer a publicly funded quality education. In 1954, thanks to the Supreme Court ruling, we basically brought all children including blacks into the front door of our schools. In the 1970s, we passed Federal laws that ensured disabled students a desk in public schools.
The GI Bill of Rights after World War II created a nation of highly prepared college educated scientists and professionals that enabled us to create a high standard of living. While the GI Bill benefited many returning veterans, it was more significant in that it was a great benefit to society. It enabled the USA to compete with and excel over other nations. Public education paid for by the government increases potential in individual lives, but most importantly it raises the quality of life for the entire nation. An educated citizenry ensures a high standard of living for all.
Nations that value education are more competitive, are better places to live and are more likely to have long life expectancies for their citizens.
Teachers are the essential element of all schools. In many ways they are the most important profession in a society. Christa McAuliffe had it right when she said, “I have seen the future . . . I teach.” When a teacher looks in the eyes of a ten year old and sees an accomplished adult and works to bring out the best in that child, we are a stronger nation. When a teacher inspires a learner to dream of going to the stars or discovering a new miracle medicine, then we are a stronger nation.
If we are failing our children in their public schools, we are endangering the American dream. Protect our publicly funded schools so that they are the ladder of class mobility that fulfills the American dream for every child who enters our classrooms.
If you are a teacher hold your head high. You are the dream maker that will mold the foundations of our future society.
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