“If we teach today’s students as we taught yesterday’s, we rob them of tomorrow.” -John Dewey
No one denies that public schools are in a crisis. And few would deny that some private schools can perform better than some public schools, but that is largely because they can also turn away students with special needs.
Many of those students’ special needs are related to poverty.
According to Stanford University’s Center for Education Policy Analysis, students whose parents make more than $200,000 typically score 300 points higher on the SAT than students whose parents make less than $20,000. And their study finds the gap to be widening. Without strong free public education, children born to poor parents will often face a bleak future.
The governor of Oklahoma dismissed striking teachers from that state by saying they are like teenagers who want a new car. To drum up irrational fear of the teachers’ strike, the governor claimed without proof that striking teachers are being manipulated by the anti-fascist group “Antifa.”
Striking teachers in Oklahoma aren’t just asking for modest pay raises, they are asking the state to reverse decades of neglect when it comes to public education. One middle school teacher, Jami Beshear, said, “We’re not interested in a better car, we’re interested in our students having a better future.”
After adjusting for inflation, schools in Oklahoma have lost 30% of their funding over the last decade. While Oklahoma teachers receive some of the lowest salaries in the nation, they are also concerned that students are having to share duct taped textbooks with missing pages. They are concerned that funding cuts have resulted in four day school weeks to keep the lights on. They are concerned that on certain days of the year students must try to concentrate without adequate heating or cooling because the state legislature values private profit of rich adults over the education of the state’s children.
Education is more than learning job skills. A proper education teaches students to think critically, to feel humanistically, and to act in solidarity with the common good. No wonder some politicians want public education dead. Who will believe their corporatist propaganda if the public is well educated?
We must not leave our public school teachers out on a limb by themselves. These are the people who hold the future of this nation, our children, in their hands. We must rise up with them.
Jefferson taught, democracy rises or falls with public education. To paraphrase the old bumpersticker, if you think the cost of education is expensive, you should consider real the price tag for ignorance.