Today, I read another ridiculous anti-educator post, this one by Thomas Friedman, another journalist who has something to say about education. There’s a boatload of people just like him now at the center of the discussion for education, people who didn’t have much of an opinion since the last time they told their teacher that a dog ate their homework. If they can do it, why can’t teachers do that too?
I posit: Educators have an obligation to discuss more than education.
To a few, this might be obvious, but the general populace doesn’t seem to think so. For one, many teachers consider themselves too busy to engage in a heavy dose of public advocacy. Yet, even the ones that do get the generic tag “whiner.” It sucks because it immediately stigmatizes anyone who has an ounce of intellect or perspective on a critical issue. In other cultures, teachers are respected and in some cases, are the cultural equivalent of royalty and government officials. Here, teachers can only voice their opinion if they’ve a) left the profession b) became a PhD or c) did something absurdly outrageous / courageous.
On the Internet, it’s more exacerbated. Because successful bloggers must follow the Problogger School of Blogging, we’re often asked to remain on topic. Humans are a creature of habit, so when they go somewhere on the Internet, they expect to read things pertaining to that particular topic. A friend of mine also reminded me that we have a hard time not making a metaphor for school in one form or another about everything. I guess so, but if there’s anything people like Clay Burell can teach anyone, it’s that we can go beyond this idea of school.
So what’s an educator like me supposed to do?
Well, I think the key depends on the person. For me, it’s pushing myself into the national dialogue, letting my voice escalate to a pitch that people can’t ignore, speaking for the voiceless, writing until this mess makes sense. I can’t help but speak on poverty, race, and culture since so much of what influences what happens within schools is a reflection of what’s happening in the battle for those huge ideas. I figure I’m at least afforded the opportunity to undo what Friedman did with that erroneous article. Many of my mentors like to say that not only can I write about such things, I must, and I have a duty to speak up as no one else will.