Posted on www.facebook.com/EasternPSEA from a speech I gave as regional president at a recent leadership conference)
Over two hundred years ago, visionary leaders - names that will live on throughout history - advocated for a system of public education for ALL citizens because they recognized its power.
Today, small-minded politicians - names that will be forgotten within a generation - are trying to dismantle that system of public education because they, too, recognize its power.
The power of possibility, for our students and teachers alike. The power that a fairly-funded and properly provided education can have in the life of a child. The power to not only excel, but to exceed one’s own expectations. The power to achieve the American Dream, regardless of our race, religion, gender identity, ZIP code, or socioeconomic status.
There is a reason that Nelson Mandela said, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”
And that is why so many politicians who are in the pockets of privateers and profiteers are trying to legislate us out of a job and legislate our students out of a high-quality public education.
Education is the movement from darkness into light. As educators and education support professionals, we enlighten. We empower. We embolden.
We speak the truth. We ask questions. We refuse to be obsequious. We persist. We resist.
Politicians have vilified our noble profession --- taking care of our neighbors’ children --- and have tried to turn those very neighbors against us. They have force-fed our citizens the outrageous myth that they alone know what is best.
But we know better… and so do our supporters. When it comes to doing what is right for our profession, our schools, our students, and their families, WE ABSOLUTELY KNOW BETTER than agenda-driven legislators who want to deny our schoolchildren a thorough and efficient system of public education. How ironic that a concept established by our forefathers – an education system in which EVERY CHILD is afforded an equal opportunity at success – now serves as the last bastion for social justice throughout this nation.
The fact that grand American ideals such as fairness and equality are woven into the fabric of public education is something that inspires us, but infuriates our opponents! Therefore, their vitriolic attacks keep coming: against our benefits, against our pensions, against our ability to collect dues, and against our ability to advocate for ourselves. The same hypocritical politicians who preach less government interference in our daily lives do nothing but interfere in our daily lives. They even want to take breakfast and lunch away from our students!
Why? And why is the public not up in arms? Would it be acceptable for any other profession to be targeted like this, to endure legislative assaults which seek to do nothing more than punish a specific group of hardworking citizens? Of course not. So why is it okay for teachers to have war declared upon us by our leaders? The answer is simple: IT’S NOT!!!
We must organize to win this fight, because, as our opponents know, while voices carry, collective voices carry much, much further. That is why they are trying so hard to destroy us. If we fought as hard for ourselves as we do for our students, we would be invincible. But while we focus primarily on the well-being of our schoolchildren, our detractors only care about their own well-being. That is why the playing field is so uneven: because they use our benevolence and our good-heartedness against us.
Why do we think it’s okay to help students discover their fullest potential, but then we deprive ourselves of that same opportunity? Why do so many of us encourage children to reach for the stars, yet shy away from pursuing our own greatness? Why do so many of us teach young people to stand up to bullies, but refuse to do that ourselves? Every single one of you has at one time told your students that they have the POWER to do anything they set out to do. And now I am saying it to you.
Our opponents do not attack us because we are weak. They attack us because they know that in unity, there is strength. And they know just how strong we could potentially be. If all of us realized just how POWERFUL we could actually be, politicians would never even DREAM about passing a bill which would hurt our students, our schools, our benefits, or our profession.
If we all realized our POWER, we could define ourselves rather than allowing others to define us, thus making it easier for those who currently REJECT our beliefs to ultimately – even if begrudgingly – at least RESPECT our beliefs.
IF we all realized our POWER, no education support professionals would ever again need to find a second or third job just to make ends meet.
IF we all realized our POWER, no aspiring teachers would ever again need to feel a sense of impending doom about repaying their student loans.
IF we all realized our POWER, no retirees would ever again need to worry about their hard-earned pension benefits being diminished.
IF we all realized our POWER, we would declare to the world that we are the providers and the guardians of the truth, and alternative facts have no place in our schools or in our society!
IF we all realized our POWER, then we would be able to boldly and courageously exclaim that we will NO LONGER allow ourselves to serve as the unwilling SCAPEGOATS for all of society’s ills!
But the thing about POWER is that you need to recognize it, and then you need to use it, lest you lose it.
Our political opponents are counting on your silence. They are hoping that you will forego your power. Then, by legislatively destroying us, they will get to finally achieve their ultimate goal of privatizing and profitizing ALL education, desecrating the basic right of our children to receive a free public education by distorting it into a multi-billion dollar industry where students are treated as products rather than as people.
There is only one thing standing in their way: US.
A group of educators, aspiring educators, support professionals, and retirees who have the NERVE to do what is right for children rather than what is right for shareholders.
A group who has the GUTS to tell our legislators that as long as politicians are involved in education, then educators will remain involved in politics.
A group who has accepted the VAST responsibility of speaking up for those who will not or cannot speak for themselves.
Whether we like it or not, we have been thrust onto the political stage by politicians who would use our schools, our schoolchildren, and our careers as pawns in a political game.
And we know that it will get much worse before it gets any better.
But ultimately, we will prevail. Because we are POWERFUL! We are PROUD! We are EDUCATORS!