Vote to support our schools, our teachers, and our kids

A Liberal Dose


Late October, which means a young man’s fancy is wending toward the great Fall Classic…yes, election day. There is a lot riding on this mid-term election, some of which I will discuss in coming weeks. For the most part, though - at least on a national scale - most of those decisions will hinge on decisions made in other states. But we still have a chance to make a big difference here in Tennessee.

I have to say, as scary as things have looked in the last few years, I have recently been seeing reason for optimism here in my little hometown. I am encountering more people who are tired of the vitriol and the full-scale ideological warfare and who are willing to listen to what the other person has to say and are then willing to once again “disagree without being disagreeable.” I have met more people who have expressed, once again, a desire to support the best person for the job rather than the one who has the right letter beside their name on the polls.

That’s why, this week, I am writing about something that I think a big chunk of our citizens agree on and with which we can help make a difference.

I’m talking about education and about treating our public-school teachers with appreciation and respect.

They have a hard job. They have to control a classroom of energetic kids, stretch their supplies to the limit and augment them out of their own pocket (which doesn’t have much in it), deal with sometimes unreasonable or angry - or absent and apathetic - parents, and spend their off-hours preparing classes and grading tests and homework. People talk about them having the summer off, but they spend a good deal of that time preparing for the coming school year. Plus, during the other nine months, they work 12 or more hours per day, so it balances out to a year-round job anyhow.

And, more and more since the turn of this 21st century, they have to do it all with the state government interfering left and right, adding to their burdens while cutting their budgets. At present, this includes a governor and a state legislature that wants to tell teachers how to do their jobs, including how to teach about the things they went to college to learn how to teach. What they can talk about, what they can say, how they can say it. It is a legislature that decides - for every school in the state - not only what books they can have in their library, usually with very little if any knowledge about said books, but that has decreed that teachers have to go through the libraries in their own classrooms and catalogue every book in them by hand - on top of their already maxed-out schedules, without falling behind. In some cases, we’re talking about a couple hundred books. More and more teachers are finding it easier to just… not have books in their classrooms at all.

And the governor. We have a governor that wants to pull funding from already suffering public schools - including rural ones like ours - to set up private charter schools at taxpayer expense that can get around state standards, to advance a particular political agenda. He brought in a private company - from Michigan - to set up those schools, and the guy in charge said the most reprehensible, insulting things about our public teachers. And to this day, Bill Lee has not condemned those statements. On the contrary, there is a move as of this writing for a state commission Lee set up to overrule the many local school boards in Tennessee who voted against that company’s schools, and in favor of our teachers. Let that sink in – THEY WANT TO OVERRULE YOUR SCHOOL BOARDS.

When you vote for governor, don’t just go blindly down the ticket. Remember all these things, and vote accordingly.

--Troy D. Smith, a White County native, is a novelist and a history professor at Tennessee Tech. His words do not necessarily represent TTU.       


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