A little faith and a lot of love go a long way…

An Open Letter to Betsy Devos

on February 8, 2017

Well, well, well…welcome to public education Mrs. Devos. I hear you don’t have much experience in our field. None at all, to be exact. Since this is the case, I thought I’d take a moment to educate you right from the trenches.  If you truly do care about your country’s children and their education, you’ll listen closely.

See, you and I actually agree about something.  There is a big problem when it comes to American education. Where we disagree is what that problem is and how to fix it.  Since you and your own children have never experienced public education for yourselves, let me, someone who attended a public school, sends her own children to a public school and is an actual public school teacher (who has proudly earned two educational degrees) in a Title I school, tell you a little bit about our problem.

The overarching problem that needs to be addressed first is how our culture, American culture, views public education. I’m sure you’re familiar with the term “self-fulfilling prophecy.”  For example, when someone is told repeatedly that they are a failure, they become a failure. (See what I did there? I gave you an example to help you comprehend in case you didn’t have that prior knowledge. Teachers are known to do that.)  Perhaps that’s why public education is perceived by Americans as a failure – because they believe it to be so.

*GASP* “WHAT? Oh, no, I am an American who does NOT believe public education is a failure! I respect our teachers!” said 90% of Americans not named Betsy Devos. (Statistic totally made up by the way…let’s just call it an alternative fact, shall we?)

Truly though, let’s take a minute and get comfortable with an ugly truth. Americans won’t like it but it needs to be said.  Have you ever found out someone is a teacher and responded with a giggle and, “Oh! How nice to have your summers off!” because why else would anyone teach, right? Or perhaps you’ve judged your teacher friend on Facebook who publicly acknowledged he was hoping for a snow day this winter.  “Why ask for a snow day? The rest of the real world doesn’t get a day off for snow! In fact you have the whole summer off!” Maybe you were the person who commented on that news article about the local contract negotiation that “teachers are overpaid!” Was there ever a tough day at work when you wondered if you should just go back to school and become a teacher so you could just “play all day” and only work from 8 am – 3 pm?

Maybe you were the parent who glanced at the letter your child’s teacher sent home requesting donations for classroom supplies and you simply tossed it without a second thought. Have you ever met a friend or two for coffee or lunch and the conversation turned to your children’s education?  Did you participate in that discussion that bashed a particular local teacher while sipping your Starbucks? Did you gossip about what’s happening in your child’s classroom?

Perhaps your child came home and told you his/her version of something that happened at school. Rather than contact the teacher directly to respectfully find out more information you went right to an administrator or maybe you just decided to go ahead and write that nasty e-mail or make that rude phone call.  Oh, and of course you’d have to post about it on all of your social media sites. Speaking of, when a teacher or principal or school board makes any decision that you don’t like, especially when you’ve made no effort to gather all the information except maybe from the daily gossip gals at the bus stop or at the monthly PTO meeting (if you even attend those), are sure to voice your opinions about all that publicly on Facebook so everyone knows what you would have done if you were the teacher?  (Which why aren’t you? We just play all day and have summers off! AND WE ARE RICH!)

If you’ve done any of these things, you’re part of the problem and you don’t fully respect educators.  In fact, I’ll just go ahead and say it.  The majority of Americans do not value and respect American education or those who work in public education. How do I know? I see it daily. I have experienced it for 12 years. Every time I have to defend and explain what I do. Every time I am told how nice it is to have my summers off.  Every time I overhear parents disrespecting their children’s teacher.

THIS is the overarching problem with American education.  Are there other issues? Oh yes, and I’ll address some of those in my next post! However today, it needs to be said again:  American culture does not value or respect public education and educators and therefore will never see us as being successful.  (Pro tip Betsy – when a teacher repeats something as I just did, it is an indication that it’s important and should be written down in your notes.) Sadly, this is even more evident with your confirmation as our Secretary of Education.

So while you’ll decry public education and funnel monies into vouchers and private Christian schools, I will continue making our public schools a SUCCESS.  I will be the difference along with the hundreds of thousands of other American public school educators who dedicate so, so much of their heart, time and energy into loving and educating America’s future.  I will be the one to finally say it’s time to turn our country around, not necessarily with school choice, but with first taking a long, hard look at ourselves.

For the record, you do not have to agree with everything a teacher, administrator or school board says or does but you DO need to always remember that WE ARE ON YOUR SIDE.  It’s not us against you or you against us.  We are a team. You know your children best and just like you, we want the best for your babies.  In fact, many of us are even parents ourselves! We get it. We need you.  We CAN make public education a success in the eyes of the American people, but we need you.  We are in this together.

So there you are Mrs. Devos. Your first lesson in public education.  We need you too, Betsy.  We need you to stand up for public education.  To lead the shift in how our culture perceives public education.  To recognize and respect all that we do.  To acknowledge that yes, there ARE problems but there is SO. MUCH. GOOD.  So much good happening in America’s public schools.  We want you to be a part of that too.  I hope you decide to truly reform education and America in just this way.

3 responses to “An Open Letter to Betsy Devos

  1. […] An Open Letter to Betsy Devos Feb […]

  2. […] response to DeVos’ confirmation, witty blogger and public school teacher Kari Daniel recently posted a call to the American people to stop demonizing public school teachers, and to DeVos to help improve […]

  3. […] response to DeVos’ confirmation, witty blogger and public school teacher Kari Daniel recently posted a call to the American people to stop demonizing public school teachers, and to DeVos to help improve […]

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