on strike .... for public education

It's Labour Day Monday.

Usually, I am soaking in the last day of summer freedom, while looking forward to getting back to school, reconnecting with my kids from last year, and looking forward to meeting the new little ones that I get to share with their families for the coming year.

Usually, I have already spent hours (unpaid) in my classroom, thinking about how the children will interact with their environment.  Reflecting on their learning and how I can support it.  Moving furniture, making sure the house area is inviting, checking over the dress up clothes, putting out intriguing bits and pieces from the beach or the forest (magnifying glasses included), looking from all angles to see that the classroom is warm, inviting, intriguing, but not overwhelming.  Making sure that it is a place that 20 (or so) little people can feel that they belong and can make it their own.

But not this year.

This year I am on strike.

And I have been since the middle of June.

It is a complicated strike with a long history.  If you are interested, here is an entertaining 3 minute synopsis.

It is not a battle over wages and benefits.  

It is a difference in belief in what public education should be.

And it has got me thinking. There's lots of time to think on a picket line.

I believe, more than ever, in the importance of public education.  

Public schooling is available to everyone. Everyone  -  regardless of gender, religion,ethnicity,  socio-economic status, learning needs, family situation.  All students in the community have the same right to walk in the front door and the same right to a desk in a classroom.  

Students attending public school interact and learn with their classmates - students who may look different from them, may have different beliefs, may have a different family situations.  In my books, that is a good thing.  

Public education supports everyone.  Robert Niles states:  Education ought to be about lifting up, not weeding out.  Without a free, public education system open to all, those who are born without money and power never will have a change to make their lives better by developing new knowledge and skills.

Let's look at education systems that work.  Finland is top of the educational charts.  When Finland gave  their education system a make over in 1963, they chose "public education as its best shot for economic recovery"  (Smithsonian).  Equality  was their "prime directive".  Well funded schools,  well trained, well paid and well respected teachers, a nation-wide curriculum with guidelines, intentionally leaving room for local autonomy - and it is successful.  (Smithsonian:  Why are Finland's Schools Successful?)

Public education is vital to a healthy democracy.  Wendy Brown of UC Berkeley

Without quality public education, we the people cannot know, handle, let alone check the powers that govern us. Without quality public education, there can be no substance to the promise of equality and freedom, no possibility of developing and realizing individual capacities, no possibility of children overcoming disadvantage, or of teens reaching for the stars, no possibility of being a people guiding their own destiny or of individuals choosing their own course. Above all, there is no possibility of being a self-governing people, a democracy. 
If such capacities have always been important to democratic citizenship, our increasingly complex world demands them all the more, and quality public education is the keystone to their acquisition. Without quality public education in our future, there is no future for democracy. 
Without quality public education in our future, we face a huge divide between the educated and uneducated, corresponding to a divide between the rich and the poor and magnifying the power of the former, the powerlessness of the latter. This is plutocracy, not democracy. 
Without quality public education in our future, we face a populace taught only the skills needed for work, ill-equipped to understand or participate in civic and political life. This is corporate oligarchy, not democracy. 
Without quality public education in our future, we face a people manipulable through their frustrations, mobilizable through false enemies and false promises. This is the dangerous material of democracy’s opposite — despotism if not fascism.  (Wendy Brown: Without Quality Public Education There is No Future for Democracy)
 Education is powerful.  I believe in a public education system that supports and is part of creating people who go out and change the world for good.

And that is why, sadly, I walk the line.

disclaimer:  I am not looking to engage in a debate over the benefits of public vs private vs homeschooling.  Everyone chooses what they believe is best for their children. 

full disclosure:   I went to a private Christian school grades 1 - 9 and a public high school. I teach kindergarten in a public school. My children attended the public schools in our small town, k - 12. 

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  1. Well written!!!!!! I just got off my shift of walking, talking and thinking too. Holding the line!!

  2. I just finished my shift and am taking a break before cleaning the house. Great blog post explaining the situation. I am holding the line with my colleagues and hoping for a resolution soon.
    Terri's Teaching Treasures

  3. I did my shift in the rain today too. Beautifully written. #iwillholdtheline

  4. That's an EXCELLENT post, Sandi!
    Thank you.

  5. Nice to find a K teacher here in BC! We are all in this together!


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