To the Editor:
Condoleezza Rice said: “We need a common enemy to unite us.” The recent concentrated attacks on public school teachers prove her right. Teachers agree that we definitely need huge changes in the system, but effective change cannot be based on popularity polls or personal bias. Bill Gates says that adding more rigor to the curriculum and adding even more students to the individual rolls of the proven, outstanding teachers will improve education for all. How can this brilliant person totally lack common sense (“Gates to NGA: Tie Class Sizes to Teachers’ Skill,” Education Week, March 9, 2011)?
Some say improving our education system lies in diverting public funds to private schools, making public schools more competitive. How can public schools compete when they are required to teach and test all students, not just the select?
Crediting teachers with the current financial crisis is outrageously abhorrent and totally false. Educators who announce that they gladly accept unprofessional pay, willingly subsidize their classrooms from their pockets, and, for the sake of the children, never rock the boat over working conditions that severely limit success, and sometimes cause danger, undermine the entire profession and jeopardize the students!
A few years ago, I received a teaching award that brought with it huge amounts of affirmation and validation, plus many tangible rewards. Upon returning to the classroom, my energy and enthusiasm were exponentially magnified. How different is the experience of most other teachers.
We will begin to improve our schools only when the stakeholders choose to support, rather than demonize and reject, the teachers. We are not the enemy! We understand that every child who is successfully educated helps secure the future for our entire nation, and that our failure to educate even one student limits us all.
1999 National Teacher of the Year
A version of this article appeared in the March 16, 2011 edition of Education Week as Teachers Are Not the Enemy