Teachers of New Jersey Deserve More Respect

Some of you reading this might feel I’m a little biased towards the subject matter at hand. After all, my wife is an educator in New Jersey and this blog highlights a growing issue, nationwide, about the state of education in this country. But I assure you that my appreciation for this profession has always been a part of my character, ever since I was a teenager petitioning the Board of Education to reconsider teacher dismissals.

As many of you might already be aware, the state of New Jersey, under the leadership of Governor Chris Christie, is facing radical changes. One hot topic continuously in the headlines is that of our current educational system. The argument however, has proven to be anything but straightforward.

Propaganda has existed as far back as reliable records have been collected. It refers to information widely spread with the intent to harm a person or group and generally appeals to one’s emotions not intellect.

It taps into the core of our being to scare ordinary people with fictitious or inaccurate information, all in an effort to further one’s cause – preying on a person’s fears for results. From our government to advertisers to everyday citizens simply looking for allies, we sometimes resort to all kinds of storytelling in order to gain the perception that we’re victorious.

Educators in New Jersey have been at the center of such propaganda – fueled by our own governor. I can only imagine what those living in other states in this great nation must think about New Jersey and our supposed underperforming school systems. It certainly doesn’t make this life-long resident happy to know our governor’s continued rhetoric is further tarnishing the reputation of our state.

As I said my wife is a teacher here in New Jersey, and while it’s difficult to hear the character attacks she and other fine teachers must endure, there was a bright spot recently while watching President Obama’s first State of the Union Address of 2011.  I’ve become somewhat unfamiliar with a politician who can stand before those they serve without doing something Governor Christie has become famous for – assigning blame.

While no one is arguing that school systems are sometimes plagued with ill equipped teachers, it is important to remember where a child’s ideas about education are first nurtured – something Christie has continually overlooked in his battle to reform education.

From Obama’s State of the Union: “That responsibility begins not in our classrooms, but in our homes and communities. It’s family that first instills the love of learning in a child. Only parents can make sure the TV is turned off and homework gets done. We need to teach our kids that it’s not just the winner of the Super Bowl who deserves to be celebrated, but the winner of the science fair; that success is not a function of fame or PR, but of hard work and discipline.”

As a former student grounded in family values, I’ve always believed that education is contingent upon three factors: the teachers, the student and the parents. If even one of those areas falters, the educational experience will ultimately suffer. We can no longer be naïve to believe that better teachers will undoubtedly produce better students. Students and parents need to accept responsibility as well in order to achieve the best results possible.

Obama also went on to say: “Let’s also remember that after parents, the biggest impact on a child’s success comes from the man or woman at the front of the classroom. In South Korea, teachers are known as “nation builders.” Here in America, it’s time we treated the people who educate our children with the same level of respect.”

A level of respect? Over the last year New Jersey’s Governor has done all he can to demoralize those individuals holding the responsibility of educating our future – blaming them for everything that’s wrong with education in our state.

Christie continues to try and sway residents into believing that New Jersey’s entire educational system is failing – never mentioning the actual numbers and statistics to back up his claim. But after a little digging I discovered that while there are 200 failing schools in our state, there are also 2,285 that are succeeding – less than 10 percent are failures. In this writer’s opinion, New Jersey educators aren’t doing such a bad job after all, and truthfully our governor should be revering and praising those who are a success – rather than making it appear as though every school is a failure.

But as I said above, Christie needs someone to blame – someone he can use to call upon the emotions of residents in order to gain allies for his personal goals. That is not leadership – that’s bullying.

We talk about reforming our school systems and I’m in full support of making positive changes to help further the education of our youth – providing them with the best opportunities possible. But not at the cost of demonizing those hard working teachers of this state who are enabling 2,285 school systems to prosper.

Governor Christie, I suggest you take a moment of your precious time to stop bullying the citizens of New Jersey and listen to what our President has to say. Because “A man can fail many times, but he isn’t a failure until he begins to blame somebody else.”  – John Burroughs.

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