After the confirmation of Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education in the Trump Administration, I admit to a strong temptation to just give up the struggle for public education. In the name of public education, I have written blogs, spoken to multiple groups in two states, contacted state legislators and U.S. Congressmen, given testimony before a committee of the state legislature, and posted almost daily on Facebook and/or Twitter for several years. Apparently my voice, and those of thousands of others, could not be heard. I continued sharing an occasional post on Facebook, monitoring the situation, and commiserating with nearby folks who shared my concerns. But I was truly discouraged.
This past weekend I attended the state conference of an apolitical patriotic organization to which I belong. As I was checking in at the hotel desk, a friend saw me and made a beeline, calling my name. “I have learned so much from your posts on Facebook,” she cried. “I had no idea!” We visited for a moment about the threats to public education before I checked in at the Registrar’s table for the Conference. But that was just the beginning. That night at dinner, without my bringing it up, people around me were sharing their concerns for education and teachers. Of course, I chimed in and added my two cents, and people wanted to hear what I had to say. At almost every event where conference attendees were engaged in conversations of which I was a part, the issue of the pitiful state of education brought about by over-utilized standardized testing and lack of adequate funding came up. I didn’t start it–others did. I came away from the Conference thinking that perhaps, just perhaps, the message is beginning to get through.
So, I will not give up. I will probably pace myself a little better, and I will certainly pick my battles. I still sincerely believe that public education is a foundational pillar of a constitutional democratic republic, not simply a one-way ticket into the labor force or a stepping stone toward a career. I will fight for it until my keyboard is silenced.