News outlets and the blogosphere have been filled with stories and opinions concerning the so-called “Walk In” being staged Monday in support of teachers and our schools. Let’s attempt to separate the rhetoric from the emotion.
Anything that encourages parents to visit our schools is a good thing. Unfortunately, those who will attend will likely be those already involved in their child’s education, so educators will be preaching to the choir. Those who truly need to hear and see what’s happening in their child’s schools probably won’t attend. But what’s so wrong with those who educate our children wanting to advocate for needed improvements and changes? Nothing.
Are these “Walk Ins” politically motivated? Of course they are. Everything is. What critics are really upset about is the direct correlation to the North Carolina Association of Educators; the requests for attendees to wear “Red4Ed” clothing, a signature of the organization, doesn’t diminish those concerns.
The modern-day NCAE was formed in 1970, a result of the merger between the N.C. Education Association and N.C. Teachers Association. Under the longtime direction of A.C. Dawson, a highly respected educator, the new organization was extremely effective. Those of us who remember Dawson can testify there was never a stronger champion for teachers, but he was equally adamant in advocating for public education, persistent but universally respected because he stayed out of the partisan marshlands. After his retirement NCAE veered heavily into the political arena, endorsing and even contributing money to political candidates. It lost much of its effectiveness in telling how to improve teaching and public education because its messages were drowned out by its politics.
NCAE has become the target for Republicans eager to retaliate against NCAE’s almost total support for Democrats. That’s what really has them up in arms. In addition, many perceive NCAE has become too protective and defensive of the status quo, foot-draggers instead of education innovators.
But we cannot and must not allow public education to become a battle between parties or support groups. Education is too important to fight each other instead of fighting for improved outcomes. Let’s not lose sight of our goals of ensuring every child receives the education they will need to become productive citizens in a competitive marketplace.
Simultaneously, we must do everything we can to treat those who educate them as respected professionals, with the best working conditions and compensation we can afford. This demands all stakeholders be open to new ideas, settle for no less than the best and brightest in our classrooms, insist on rigor in our curriculum, expect every parent to be involved with his or her child’s education, while also demanding government leaders provide adequate funding. We should all be partners in that mission.
Where does that leave us regarding the “Walk In”? No matter how well intentioned this effort might have been it has become a distraction, and whatever distracts or detracts from our education mission should be dismissed. Let’s find more effective and balanced ways to accomplish our goals.
Campbell is the executive producer and moderator of NC SPIN, a weekly panel discussion on state issues that airs on WMYT “MY TV12” at 10 a.m. on Sundays and on WJZY “CW46” at 6:30 a.m. and 11:05 p.m. on Sundays and on WFMY-TV at 5:30 a.m. Sundays.