I am driving eastbound on Interstate 70 from Columbia to St. Louis. The pleasant voice with a slightly robotic English accent informs me that I must stay on this road for another117 miles. The GPS is a handy tool and, hopefully, will help guide me back to the St. Louis Airport. I think about the long drive and see a sign for a Steak and Shake. It’s really a no-brainer that a cheeseburger, chocolate shake and fries will make my trip more enjoyable. I exit the highway, grab my food through an open drive -through window, and park my rental car near a farm.
A small white clapboard farmhouse and a hand-made chicken coop that resembles a saltbox style house adorn the flat acreage. A brood of chickens is pecking away at the base of a cylindrical metal feeder. The farm is typical of the many hardscrabble farms that stamp the landscape. It is a place of proud people determined not to abandon a way of life once common to most Americans.
A preacher on the car radio tells a young woman that sex before marriage is a sin and she risks God’s judgment and possible damnation. Crap.
I watch a farmer emerge from his house and walk to the chicken feeder. He grabs a hen by its feet and walks slowly back to his house. The chicken seems to accept its fate. The butcher’s bill must be paid.
A butcher’s bill has come due in Central Falls, Rhode Island and a nation awaits the fate of 93 school employees. Will these teachers and staff be brought to an oak cutting board? Will the visceral remains of teachers be wiped clean from the school district’s cutting board and stain a sawdust covered floor? Lines have been drawn, rhetoric spewed, and children await resolve.
We are a nation of contrasts, quite capable of saving humanity or wading knee deep in the blood of the innocents. Much is at stake in Rhode Island because the president and secretary of education have voiced opinions about this politically charged situation.
The “Central Falls Incident” may be the spark needed to make a nation realize that the price of the butcher’s bill cannot be paid by teachers alone. Hopefully teachers, administrators, parents, community groups, business organizations, and politicians will gather in harmony to do what is right and best for the children of Central Falls.
Editor’s Note: Anthony Mullen was interviewed by the New York Times on the teaching firings in Church Falls, Rhode Island on Saturday, March 6, 2010.
The opinions expressed in Road Diaries: 2009 Teacher of the Year are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.