For those of us who respect, even revere, our public schools, a time may be approaching when our feelings must translate to action.
The likely secretary of education appointment to President-elect Donald Trump’s rapidly forming Cabinet is like a “shot across the bow” that warns public education of coming challenges.
If Betsy DeVos is indeed confirmed to become head of the U.S. Department of Education, we can be assured that our public schools will be tested. She has a long history of commitment to both school vouchers and charter schools, each initiative implying that public school education is inferior.
My first reaction is to question how well acquainted DeVos really is with what our historically well-regarded public schools are achieving. Is she aware that public schools accept every single school-age learner with the unqualified allegiance to provide the highest quality educational experiences possible? Does she acknowledge that teachers in our public schools have undergone the most thorough, research-based preparation to become licensed to instruct?
Is she cognizant of the considerable support resources found within a public school, chosen to supplement and enrich the learning experiences of all students – those more subject- and grade-ready as well as those with special needs? Can she imagine the level of dedication public school teachers exude as they muster the energy, creativity and talents to provide excellence in opportunities for such a variety of young learners, day after day, while facing far too much criticism from many who have probably not visited a classroom since being a student?
Vouchers for school choice and charter schools with selected missions will not improve the quality of education our young people deserve. Choice implies that parents somehow know what is the most educationally sound learning experiences for their children.
Our public schools have tirelessly struggled with providing these experiences for all children, and while criticism has nagged them all along, the classroom teachers in this “noble experiment” have provided ample evidence of notable success. They deserve our frequent expressions of appreciation, an experience far too many rarely hear.
Here is mine: I could hardly respect and support you more. My qualifications are nearly six decades in the trenches/schools.
If the new secretary of Education is serious about introducing ways and means that will more likely guarantee excellence in education, she will energetically and creatively support our present public schools enterprise. Public school educators need and deserve the secretary’s encouragement.
John H. Wilson is a professor emeritus at the College of Education at Wichita State University.