At this time of year, I am always reminded of what I am thankful for as a citizen of this country. Since the recent presidential election, we have all read and possibly experienced events that have made us feel uncomfortable. No matter our politics, I am reassured and grateful that our democracy is at work and that a peaceful transition of power will occur on January 21, 2017.
My father, who fought in World War Two, taught me that everyone deserves to be treated with respect and dignity. He was a small town Ohio lawyer who helped many clients who could not read, write or fully understand the laws impacting their lives. My Dad took the time to explain things and make sure they had the best legal advice regardless of what they looked like or what they could afford. Additionally, as a high school government teacher, I taught children that freedom is not free. We cannot say whatever we want without repercussions nor can we ignore the law. A free society is dependent on treating one another with respect and dignity. In fact, our freedom is built upon a willingness to listen to our neighbor no matter our differences.
What concerns me today is the fear of losing the very values that our public schools were built on and have maintained since the mid-1800s. One of the key elements of our democracy is the public school system, an institution that gives all Americans the chance of living the American dream. As we look to the future, all public schools across this nation must work to improve achievement gaps to ensure that every child has access to a high quality education, and to develop a citizenry that respects the United States constitution and is able to live and function in a democratic society.
Our public schools today stand for inclusion of all students; not some or a few but all. Every staff member and student deserves to be treated with respect and dignity no matter how rich or poor, their zip code, religion, race or anything else that makes them different.
Our country and our public schools’ strengths are found in diversity. We take any and all children who show up at the school house. We will not pick and choose who to educate nor will we send students away from our classrooms like some private or charter schools.
Respect and dignity are key components in providing an excellent educational environment; that foundation builds a great district and country. As our nation’s demographics continue to shift, I am proud to work in diverse public schools where we educate all students of color, rich and poor students, students new to our country and those with exceptional education needs.
For nearly 200 years, United States public schools have evolved, becoming more inclusive with each generation of learners. Our system provides excellent educational experiences where students and staff have been given the tools and opportunities to accomplish their goals and fulfill their dreams. Please join me and remind everyone of the inclusive values of education and that everyone in our great nation deserves to be treated with respect and dignity. Let’s not forget that public schools are the vehicle nurturing ethical citizens and leaders who contribute to and thrive in a global society.
“Alexis de Tocqueville pointed out that each new generation is a new people that must acquire the knowledge, learn the skills, and develop the dispositions to maintain and improve a constitutional democracy. We take this responsibility seriously and understand the challenge it represents for public education in our state with each successive generation.” (Rickabaugh CESA #1 Transforming Public Education, 2010 p.10)
Yours in education,