Sacrificing children on the altar of politics
August brings with it a certain dread as we near the change of seasons. We become painfully aware that we will soon shift from complaining about the heat and humidity to complaining about the cold and snow. It’s what we do — every year. But no one dreads this time of year more than students who are not excited about returning to the routine of curfews, homework and testing.
To make matters worse, students start Day 1 posing for pictures so Mommy can post them on Facebook, which she places alongside a yellowing picture-of-a-picture she took long before Facebook existed, a picture of the same child on Day 1 of kindergarten, all those years ago. It probably doesn’t help that accompanying that post are Mommy’s tear-jerker paragraph about how Johnny or Jenny or Tyquon or Taniqua “grew up too fast” and the question, “Where did the time go?” I love seeing those first day of school posts, but just look at some of those kids’ faces, and you know they don’t share my — or Mommy’s — enthusiasm.
On a more serious note, however, is that during this time, as we’re focused on another school year, I think about how politicized education has become. I started teaching in 1996. I was excited and full of ideas and ready to make a difference. And though I transitioned three years ago into another career, I still take pride in knowing that I did make a difference. Former students, colleagues and parents continue to remind me of that. As much as I got frustrated, particularly toward the end of my career, never have I doubted that I was doing what I was meant to do, that I had the “it” that teachers who capture students’ attention and respect have.
It goes without saying, therefore — though I will say it — that I value quality education. I believe young people deserve the best educational experience possible. That means academics, athletics, friendships and more. The entire experience matters. Not every public school teacher will tell you that public school is not the best environment for every child. But I will. Some students soar in public school, but others drown. Some thrive in any situation. Peers’ bad behavior doesn’t bother them. Common Core — miraculously — doesn’t crush them. Nothing seems to get in their way. Most children are not so impervious to what takes place around them, however, and for them, there needs to be options. It’s called school choice. Whether home schools, charter schools, voucher programs, or public schools, school choice is vital, and yet it remains controversial.
Evidence reveals that students enjoy academic success when parents are allowed to choose their academic environment. This is especially important for minority and poor children, who have flourished when given those choices. Removed from the public school setting, many students’ grades skyrocket, their confidence explodes and their opportunities multiply. Many are lining up, begging for a place in a non-public school.
So why does the Democratic Party continue to oppose school choice? Why does the party that ranted during its national convention and continues to rant about the importance of education, its commitment to blacks and Latinos and its support of the poor embrace a come-hell-or-high-water commitment to keeping kids in schools that, for whatever reason, do not serve them well? Of course, this same party also balances its faux favor for our little ones with its passionate praise of Planned Parenthood. I think that’s what you call irony or an oxymoron orÂ…hypocrisy.
Why are these “progressives” willing to sacrifice our youth? Because they’re in bed with teachers’ unions. For this unholy alliance, they have sold their souls, as well as our offspring to unions doing the same. The Washington Teachers’ Union, for example, is coming after Walmart, which is asking people to nominate teachers to receive school supplies and a $490 gift card. According to a union press release, Walmart’s sin is that it is “one of the country’s biggest funders of school privatization efforts, or charter schools,” having given more than $2.3 million to the D.C. Public Charter School board. Union President Elizabeth Davis said, “Walmart and the Walton Family have consistently sought to privatize our schools and destroy public education.” Perhaps she never considered that Walmart wants to give children the opportunity to go to a school where they can thrive so they have the future everyone desires. Do they not deserve that? Apparently, Davis and her comrades think not. So to punish Walmart for caring, the union is calling for a Walmart boycott.
Democrat laypeople need to be aware of what’s going on. I believe if they did, they would rise up and speak out. After all, Democrats want their children to receive a quality education, too. Black folks want their children to have a good future, too. Poor people want opportunities for their children, too. But the Democratic machine would rather cater to these knuckleheads who speak out of both sides of their mouths.
If knowledge truly is power, children have the right to receive it free of politicians’ quest for it. As students head off to school this year, I urge everyone, regardless of political affiliation, to support our kids; consider the benefits of school choice. And while it may be cute, it’s not enough to put up pictures of kids on the First Day of School. It’s more important to put kids first — and to hold politicians and parties accountable when they fail to do so.
Adrienne Ross is an author, speaker, columnist, editor, educator and Southeast Missourian editorial board member. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.