I’m not really a pet peeve kind of person. I mean, I suppose I have a few random hot takes — such as putting two “e’s” in “judgment” or overusing the phrase, “it is what it is” when the reality is you really just want the conversation to end. But if pressed to share a potentially more precarious vexation, I think it would be this growing idea that so much of life is a binary choice.
We all do it… sometimes totally seriously…
If you’re not for me, you’re against me.
If you’re not anti-racist, you’re a racist.
If you didn’t vote for Hillary, you must love Trump.
With all due respect to those who sincerely possess the above convictions, I get it. I understand. I simply don’t believe the binary to be true. Binaries seem more what we employ to explain away what’s most difficult to fully comprehend.
There’s a current, popular binary that the Intramuralist finds increasingly disturbing. I feel like there’s this thought being promoted that you’re either pro-teacher or anti-teacher. Related black-and-white categories evolve to be as simplistic as all teachers are good or all teachers are bad… the union is all good or all bad… Sorry, friends. None of those make sense to me.
Like many, no doubt, I have dear friends who are professional educators. Starting with my gifted madre, teachers have sweetly shaped me into much of who I am today… It was Evelina who spurred on my interest in government, the popular Mr. C who inspired me to be observant of current events, and the articulate Carol F. who taught me to love Tennyson. It was Virginia D. who made me work, Mrs. Greaves who made me write, and Coach Potter who made writing a joyful, rhythmic discipline.
Combine that with dear friends who’ve become teachers or teachers who’ve become friends. Several have been lifelong friends (… shout out to you, dear Roni). Several others, we have delightfully met here. I am grateful for each of you.
I also have tremendously deep gratitude for those who have selflessly invested in the lives of my children. From baseball to biotech to even basic hygiene, I have so much respect for you. Call me pro-teacher, therefore, if you will.
But I think there’s this trickle down evolution of thinking, that if we’re pro or anti anything, we fall prey to ignoring what doesn’t fit our narrative. Like if we’re pro-teacher, we can’t admit that we’ve at times had some bad ones — not bad people, just educators who weren’t all that good at what they did. That doesn’t change anything about the excellence of Evelina, etal.
It seems this has trickled, too, to the school board races across the country. Sadly, in my opinion, here is where national elected leadership has done the rest of us a tremendous disservice when they choose to be disparaging of those with whom they disagree; Democrats and Republicans alike have modeled awful interactions. Hence, now at the local school board level, rumors, accusations and insults are way too common. Just because a singular board, member or candidate may act or say something foolishly, that does not make all boards, members, or candidates to be foolish. There’s no need to be pro or anti school board; it’s simply not a binary assessment.
One school board situation that isn’t helping — and one that is having significant state (and potentially national) implications, especially in the hours before the gubernatorial race is decided — is in Virginia’s Loudoun County, home of the nation’s highest median household income. Loudoun County Public Schools has become the current center of the education debate. With the school district’s stated intentional effort to become more equitable and inclusive, there have been multiple intense interactions with parents, concerned about the perceived extremity of the district’s approach. Unfortunately, the friction only intensified when a parent was arrested for his outburst at a public meeting, upset about the district’s perceived lenient transgender bathroom policy. The dad was arrested even though his daughter was assaulted by a male student, who had dressed as a female and freely entered the girls’ bathroom under the policy. To make the situation sadly worse, it was recently uncovered that the district’s superintendent lied about having knowledge of any assaults in their restrooms. He knew of the assault even when he allowed for the arrest and shaming of the parent, who was the father of an actual victim.
All this to say that we have to find a better way to handle the educational challenges that continue to evolve in this country… How do we best care for our students? What should we be teaching? What should we not? How do we not oppress one student in order to meet the needs of another? When does the woke-ness go too far? Is Critical Race Theory a thing? How are political affiliations getting in the way? How do we deal with the very real challenges of teacher pay, classroom size, and school safety? How do we sustainably fund? How do we better care for those with special needs? How do we improve education in impoverished communities? What’s the role of standardized tests? What’s the deal with Common Core? What’s the wisest way to handle the transgender restroom situation for all students? What’s an effective disciplinary approach to bullying? Are letter grades still effective? How can schools and parents partner more together to better care for students social and emotional development? What role belongs only to the parent?…
I am no expert, friends. Not even close. But these are the conversations we should be having. It isn’t about being pro-teacher or anti-teacher or pro-education or anti-education. It’s about focusing on our students, listening to the entirety of our communities, partnering with parents, leaders humbly leading, teachers utilizing their sweet gifting, and no one attempting to enact any political agenda. The political agendas seem to be distracting us from acting in the best interest for all our kids. Their well being — the well being of the entirety of students — should always come first.
No judgment, friends. Ever.
By the way, that’s with only one “e.”