Columnist: “Stop insulting our teachers”
It makes me angry when people lambast our teachers. Likening their “intrinsic value” to that of ditch-diggers is ignorant… and frankly crass.
What is the “intrinsic value” of a firefighter who runs into a burning building, or a soldier who dies on a battlefield, or a Coast Guard swimmer who jumps into icy water to rescue a drowning man? What is the value of a person who devotes their entire life so that others can succeed? What “dollar amount” do you place on that?
The Libertarian movement will never succeed because it falls back on prehistoric thinking. The “an eye for an eye, a dollar for a dollar” mentality was somewhat successful in the days of Hammurabi, but ever since the teachings of the Carpenter, the Western world has found “value” in people no matter what their station. When Nicodemus spoke to the Carpenter, he referred to him as “teacher.” In the short chronology that was written about him, he was given that title more than 90 times. If the son of God was happy to be called “teacher,” I think the profession might have just a little bit of “intrinsic value.”
Libertarians are also enchanted by the lower cost-per-child of private vs. public schools. What they forget is that public schools are the only entity who can overcome the effects of poverty and, sadly, bad parenting. Morgan County is blessed with exceptional parents, but the nationwide reality is that more and more parents don’t do what it takes to get their kids a good start in life. Without public schools, huge swaths of children – generations of would-be workers – would become ignorant and unproductive. If that happens, the nation is doomed; no amount of privately educated entrepreneurs or captains of industry could save the country. All those “dollar for dollar” philosophies become just so much noise as America devolves into anarchy and chaos.
Another thing to consider are the special needs and English-as-a-second-language children that public schools nurture, and that private schools don’t. City police are cheaper to train than a battalion of tanks and helicopters–and in many cases those police officers are just as professional as those Army soldiers. But in a war, you need the added fire power of tanks and missiles and battleships that police forces can not provide. That added capability costs money, both in the military and in public schools, that private entities can never muster.
John Adams, the most conservative of the Founding Fathers, said it best: “The Whole People must take upon themselves the Education of the Whole People and must be willing to bear the expenses of it…not founded by a charitable individual but maintained at the expense of the People themselves.” Why? Because “Democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts and murders itself. There was never a democracy that did not commit suicide.”
Our own late Senator Paul Coverdell (R-Ga.) added that, “Education is the cornerstone of liberty.” He knew, as did the Founding Fathers, that a democracy can not succeed if the populace is not educated enough to make good decisions.
Ben Franklin also opined on the subject. “The only thing more expensive than education is ignorance.” If “a penny saved is a penny earned,” then the conservative view should be to invest in public education so that future generations will be educated enough to make plenty of money. Otherwise, all those Social Security checks you hope to collect will go away because the younger generation won’t make enough money to pay them.
I completely reject Leftist ideas of “equal outcomes.” But if there is to be any wealth in America at all, all of its children must have “equal opportunity” to get a quality education. What those children do with that opportunity is up to them, and frankly, the subject of most Republican vs. Democratic debates about how big a safety net we should have for grown adults. But both parties still agree that in America, every ordinary child from any station in life can work hard and succeed in extraordinary ways. But no child can do that without a quality education, and no one do that without good teachers.
If you want our democracy to “commit suicide” by raising a generation that can’t make a living and doesn’t understand our democracy, then go ahead and destroy our public schools. If not, I suggest you thank a teacher for the “intrinsic value” of their noble work.
And stop insulting our teachers.
Dave Belton represents District 5 on the Morgan County school board.
Printed in the September 27, 2012 edition