It's August in the valley, which means school is back in session. Teachers are getting their classrooms ready. Students are learning about teachers and schedules. Parents are looking forward to the end of summer camps.
It has been a tumultuous two years for education, especially for public education. The pandemic exposed systemic problems we have been ignoring for years. Public education became the canary in the coal mine for our nation’s political ills. Teachers and teachers' unions became scapegoats and public enemies. When one political agenda item lost its combustibility, another would be added to continue to fuel the flames. The “problem” of unions turned into the shadowy term of CRT (Critical Race Theory), which turned into the fear of LGTBQ+ rights.
For what purpose? Why are people attacking and trying to dismantle a system that 90% of American kids are a part of? That is a question that cannot be answered in the amount of words allowed here.
The attacks will destroy our future and increase the disadvantages our children deal with compared to the rest of the world. We are already seeing it. Teacher shortages, the cutting of art and music education, focusing only on standardized tests, the loss of creativity for both the student and teacher, removing social-emotional lessons, and teachers unable to support the diversity within their students.
Imagine a hundred students in a large room, all on computers, learning from a computer program, while a room supervisor monitors. No group work, no fun and engaging lessons, no individual thoughts. All so these students can pass a standardized test and move on. No teachers serving to be role models or mentors. What would these students truly learn? That their worth is valued by the score on a test and not by their creativity, problem-solving, human connections and individual thoughts.
So how do we prevent this future? We start by supporting our public schools. Yes, financially, the state and federal government need to provide so much more. On a community and individual level, our support needs to come from words and actions. Instead of cherry-picking issues and creating hate, we should be investing and truly addressing the real issues. Funding, teacher and school staff pay, addressing and changing standardized testing, creating community schools, and allowing for more creativity and critical thinking are the true investments in our children’s collective futures.
The biggest change we can make today: Change the anger and hate to love and support. Instead of pointing fingers, we should be opening our arms, rolling up our sleeves and asking what is needed.
Public education is what shapes and creates our nation. We should not break it apart, dehumanize it, and send it to the wolves. We need to foster it. Our great nation did not become what it is after day one. Our ancestors let it grow, let it adapt and change. They listened to what was needed and what has changed. Our country became great because we supported our nation with our words and actions.
Our public education needs the same words and actions now.
Katherine Silveira is an art teacher and a parent of two in Desert Sands Unified School District schools. She is also a candidate for the DSUSD school board. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article originally appeared on Palm Springs Desert Sun: If we keep politicizing public schools, our country will be lost