Education Opinion

Politicians in Washington: Take a Lesson From Us!

By Jill Berkowicz & Ann Myers — October 06, 2013 4 min read
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How did the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act become Obama Care? What is it about this issue and its associated differences of opinion that is so vitriolic? Why hold the budget hostage? Is negotiation a lost art? Is compromise a sellout of principle? Apparently both sides, or, perhaps there are three sides, are focused on defend or destroy rather than repair and move on. We think hostage holding, in this case, is lack of concern for the public welfare. The time spent on rhetoric is not service, it is self-aggrandizement. And, none of them are accountable.

These elected officials should take a lesson from us. These are the very same people who passed laws and created the mandates to change our schools. They are not educators, or if they were, it has been a long, long time since they actually worked in a school. They require us to raise our standards, shift our curricula, test students often, label children by the results, and use those results to measure teacher and principal effectiveness. We work to implement these changes the best way we can, and struggle with maintaining our integrity. As we look into the faces of our students, teachers, colleagues, supervisors, and parents, we remain truthful about our belief that we cannot do this well, this fast, and without enough training. We hold nothing hostage. We do our work, as the laws require. Our jobs are on the line. Are theirs?

What if in opposition to any one of these requirements, we decided to shut down schools? Absurdity, right? We have the children’s interests at heart. We are nationally humiliated by the performance of our elected officials. We are angry and, for all the prestige and influence associated with their offices, we do a better job leading. Do they not know how hard it is to work with boards of education sometimes, or unions, or any fired up parent? If we can do it, why can’t they?

And we move on. From the inside we have a responsibility to those youngsters who come into the environments we are charged to lead. Whether superintendent, principal, or teacher we cannot, we must not, allow this maelstrom to affect our children. Our stress must not become their stress. Wouldn’t it be nice if officials in Washington followed the same guideline? While we work with what has become law, we encourage, count on, and appreciate those who carry the banners of opposition. Those who use their position as a bully pulpit to fight on behalf of all of us are necessary and encouraged. While they fight on, we lead and serve. Who is leading in Washington, anyone? Throwing the baby out with the bathwater is not indicated here. A respectful, dignified process is needed. We aren’t seeing it.

We don’t want half steps. We don’t want to win small battles in a big war. There is much to the mandates that dismantle what is good for some schools, and that offer opportunities for growth for others. Our fighters are dedicated to exposing what they believe is wrong. They use their positions and accessibility to gather information from us and fight with the tools they have. We need them to continue to fight. Here, is an article from the Washington Post in 2012! And where are we now? It is absurd to expect us to take guidance from politicians who cause a government shut down and argue, without responsibility or credibility or accountability, against common ground. Do we aspire to teach our children that democracy at its height is like the Jerry Springer Show?

Washington, pay attention and take a lesson from us. We are exhausted, stressed, confused, angry, and frustrated. We do not pass that on to our constituents. It is not without great effort but it is the right thing to do. Do you not recognize that those who are hurt by your actions include the nation’s most vulnerable? Do you care? Is the energy expended on diatribe well spent? Do you do this because the problems are too big to be solved and this diverts our attention?

You are now giving us another challenge. This one isn’t coming through law but through our moral and ethical obligation to address your behaviors. We must teach the children that our elected officials are not the heroic ones they may be reading about in their history books. These are not models, unless they are negative ones. We must encourage them to become leaders for the next decade and beyond. Hopefully, they will do better than these are doing now. We will act as models, create environments that are safe and healthy, and offer academics and experiences that will form them and endure into adulthood. Rather than spew forth blame and names of all kinds, we work. We make the most of a bad hand because we chose to lead. Our elected officials might want to take a look inside our schools and take a lesson from us.

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