By S. Derrickson Moore
At the Las Cruces Farmers & Crafts Market this month, I spotted a woman carrying a sign: “EGYPT. LIBYA. WISCONSIN.”
Some looked puzzled, but I thought the connection was pretty obvious.
What really seems to be in contention are the same old battlegrounds: power and resources. Who has the right to determine who gets what, and how?
I shouldn’t have been surprised to find teachers first on the frontlines in the first major American protests of what is turning out to be a worldwide watershed year.
Similar battles hit home long ago, when my teacher mom went out on strike against my dad, who was president of the school board in our district in Muskegon, Mich.
So I’ve heard all the arguments on both sides. And there’s no question about which side I’m on.
I’m with the teachers.
It seems frivolous to even go there in an era when 10 percent of Americans control 90 percent of the wealth (and we all know in our hearts that public school teachers aren’t in that top ten). That top ten should realize it’s in their best interest, too, to ante up a bit more in taxes for the best possible investment: America’s kids.
And I’m not about to quibble about middle class salaries. I have a basis of comparison. As a journalist, I’ve had my tires slashed and my life and family threatened. I’ve weathered staff cuts, long hours and many technological changes. Journalists work hard in what is often classed as one of the most stressful jobs. But even though most teachers probably make more than most journalists in this region, I don’t begrudge them a dime.
I witnessed the career of a very good teacher close up, for 20 years. And I know the truth about their alleged “short hours” and their “months of summer vacations” that seem to irritate so many conservative pundits. (And I suspect those who are screaming the loudest make several times what the average teacher makes.)
I still have vivid memories of the times I’d wander into the living room at midnight, or even at 2 or 3 a.m., to find mom still grading papers, preparing lesson plans or working on displays for her elementary school classes, or later, when she taught high school history and art, to help bring historical events alive, or trying to find ways to scrounge art supplies for talented kids who could not afford them.
She nurtured the best in so many kids and cheerfully took on “problem” gifted students and steered them to creativity and college when they could have drifted into drugs and dropping out.
Caring for students was a year-round activity for her, even when she wasn’t spending her “extended summer vacations” on educational training required for ongoing certification, or courses she took on her own time and time to offer more to her students.
She was still giving her all when she died at age 54.
She deserved great medical benefits and the comfortable retirement I wish she’d survived to enjoy.
I’ve heard sad tales from dedicated teacher friends in Las Cruces in recent years, who have worked long and hard and looked forward to finally getting some time off after decades of dedicated service. I know a talented teacher whose carefully planned retirement was subverted by antics in Texas that gutted her pension fund, a haunting harbinger of what’s being threatened in Wisconsin and other places around the county, including more drastic educational cuts in Texas.
If we’re willing to offer tax bailouts and bonuses and big incentives to “attract the best and the brightest” in banking, why don’t we do the same to reward and attract the best to those professions doing the world’s most difficult and vital tasks: police, firefighters, service men and women, researchers, healers and of course, those who teach and prepare us to do all those jobs?
Teaching is the hardest job in the world. And being a good teacher ranks with good parenting as the world’s most important job.
When we’re deciding what to cut, it shouldn’t be at the expense of the soundest investment we can make for the well-being of our future: the education of our kids.
S. Derrickson Moore can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org; (575) 541-5450. To share comments, go to lcsun-news.com and click on Blogzone and Las Cruces Style.