The other night, I sat with some relatives in an aging kitchen as the sun went down over my great-uncle’s farm. We were discussing politics, wondering what the heck happened here in Wisconsin: How could people not see the cause and effect of all that is going on? How could they vote against their own self-interests for Governor Walker? My uncle told me I deserved to take a licking as a teacher if this ignorance is what education provided. I laughed and agreed.
I shared how my son was worried about a neighbor of ours that we like. He knew our neighbor was likely a Walker supporter, and we most definitely were not. I had shared that our friendship surpassed political differences and that we didn’t often talk politics.
My cousin looked at me and said that those times were past. It was time to talk politics, to speak up, to share more. If we don’t take every moment to talk, we will lose for sure.
And tonight a moment came.
Talking with my neighbor at dusk, he said, “I sure believe teachers should be paid more…”
You know what follows that statement almost every single time? BUT.
Essentially his points came to two: education is failing because the best teachers get let go so teachers with seniority can stay and we can’t just keep pouring money into education.
I felt like I was listening to Fox.
So I talked. I talked about the cronyism that will be rampant in education, and asserted that the teachers who have the most to lose are the ones who stand up to administrators, who question the system, and who advocate best for kids. I gave examples. I spoke from the heart, particularly feeling this year what the lack of a union will do to me.
And then I talked about the monied interests trying to take down public education, whether it be the mega-textbook companies like Pearson or the chartered school movements. I said he was listening to monied interests and the schools he knew, the neighborhood schools built around community trust and ideals, were dying.
And then I had to go.
So, dear cousin of mine, you are right: It is time to talk. To take every available moment to talk. Because we don’t control the airwaves, because we are heavily out-financed, and also because I believe, I have to believe, that “the truth will come to light” (Thank you, Merchants of Venice)!!