Speaking of evidence

I’m going to put my educator’s hat on for a minute here.

Actually, my educator’s hat is pretty much permanently affixed to my skull at this point, being that we just completed the first week of school and we educators have basically been eating, breathing and sleeping school-related everything since well before the doors opened on day one. You could say we’re bushwhacking on an education safari. We’re deep-sea diving in a sea of education. We’re on the education roller coaster at the education amusement park. We educators are educating education out our ears and, this past week anyway, our sweat glands. We’re passing out materials, schedules, and rubrics; we’re memorizing names, we’re communicating with parents, we’re prepping curricula, we’re going to bed early, getting up early, we’re inhaling two out of three meals a day, and saving half of the third for the next, so that we can focus our hearts and minds and most of our other internal organs on educating.

So when I come across a politician talking about how he or she is going to “save our failing school system” by “not wasting money on school funding,” I want to throw up education all over him or her.

For not only is it the time of year when educator’s brains are inundated with all things education, it is also the time of year political candidates tell us all how we are failing at education and what they are going to do to help us do our jobs better.

I actually love politics, and I love it when political candidates finally get around to talking about public schools, but never is it more obvious that a politician is completely clueless about education and educating than when he or she professes to claim that federal and state government should back off and let local governments take charge of funding their own schools. And a candidate cannot advertise his or her educational ineptitude any more than to make this claim in Maine, where the resources available to rural farming communities are in no way equitable to resources available in affluent coastal communities.

Education stakeholders in Maine (that would include everyone who lives in Maine) should be concerned with how the politicians they vote for prioritize education and school funding. For me, red flags arise and flap vividly and violently whenever I witness political candidates talk about our “failing” education system. If any candidate has the slightest clue of how hard teachers, administrators, food service workers, cleaning crews, school committee members, aides, strategists, and students work to try to adapt the institution of public education to this ever-changing world of ours, he or she would never, ever suggest that we are outright “failing” at that. Yeah, teaching is hard. Learning is hard. We learn from our mistakes, but we focus on moving forward with the new knowledge of what works and what doesn’t.

There are lots of ways we can make public education better in Maine. There are so many great ideas we can explore! Looking at the evidence, focusing on failure and funding our schools less are two things we’ve already tried, and they really, really do not work. Let’s instead use the evidence of our challenges and successes to invest in excellence and innovation in public education. Are you listening, political candidates?

James Tatum Gale

About James Tatum Gale

I have been a teacher in Maine schools for twelve years, and a writer and musician since childhood. I acquired a Master's degree in Teaching from USM, and a Certificate in Math Leadership from UMF. My undergraduate degree is in Philosophy with a concentration in Comparative Religion from the University of Maine (1994). I live with my wife, Erin, and my dog, Sally, in Bowdoinham.