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Good Enough for the 4th of July, But Not for the Classrooms of North Carolina

The history of my country is accented by acts of enormous bravery, men and women who did what they were told, and more, in the face of the ultimate sacrifice.  But among those acts of bravery, for which we owe our independence and freedom, were people who did what they were told by the powers of authority, not to do.  The Boston Tea Party is an example, when patriots risked their freedom and even their lives to dump bundles of tea into the Boston harbor, rather than pay the British taxes, imposed without representation.  Other such acts of civil disobedience include:

BostonTeaParty
BostonTeaParty.jpg
  • Refusal to pay federal taxes in protest of slavery and the Mexican War
  • Street marches, hunger strikes, and submission to arrest and jail in order to gain the right to vote for women.
  • Harriet Tubman’s underground railway and other actions which helped to end slavery.
  • Sit-down strikes and free speech confrontations to eradicate child labor and improve working condition.
  • Sit-ins and illegal marches to gain civil rights for all Americans.

We were taught about these acts and their courageous actors in school and we celebrate them on days like “The 4th of July.”  They are part of our identity as “the land of the free and home of the brave.”  But, if this nation’s most arrogantly conservative legislature, the North Carolina General Assembly, has its way, such acts will be considered grounds for refusing teacher licensure, in the interest of keeping our children safe.

Protect Students in Schools (Senate Bill 867) was sponsored by Senaters Chad Barefoot, Trudy Wade, Buck Newton and others. The bill suggests that a teacher, who has been “..convicted of a crime, whether a misdemeanor or a felony … indicates the employee poses a threat to the physical safety of students or personnel.”1

Among the crimes listed by the bill are murder, rape, kidnapping, robbery, arson and…

CIVIL DISOBEDIENCE

I have written a number of blog posts (here, here, here and here) about the declining state of public education in my state, since radical conservatives took the legislative, executive and judicial branches of our state government. Without collective bargaining, North Carolina teachers have little voice in determining the direction of our schools, beyond the voting booth — which the legislature and Governor McRory seek to influence with long awaited for raises, averaging 4.7%. 

To put teacher salaries into context, on average North Carolina’s pay for public school teachers averaged $1,549.93 below the national mean, between 1970 and 2010.  However, between 2010 (when conservatives took control of both houses of our General Assembly) and 2016, NC teacher salaries have fallen to $7,911.66 below the national average.  Part of this may be the General Assemblies elimination of a higher pay scale for teachers who continue their education through graduate degrees.2&3

It seems to me that in this time of rapid change, we need to empower our professional educators to lead in our schools with permission to be flexible and creative, as they craft and facilitate learning experiences that help students to become innovators and resourceful learners. But, if our legislature’s desire is to turn public education into a market place and our schools into customers for corporate products and sources for corporate profits, then creative, resourceful, passionate, and well-spoken teachers are a factor to be avoided. 

 

1 Barefoot, C., Wade, T., & Newton, E. S. (2016). Senate Bill 867 (S867). Retrieved from North Carolina General Assembly website: http://www.ncleg.net/Sessions/2015/Bills/Senate/PDF/S867v1.pdf

2 Teaching Salary Data by State. (2016). Retrieved from http://www.teacherportal.com/teacher-salaries-by-state/

3 Estimated average annual salary of teachers in public elementary and secondary schools, by state or jurisdiction: Selected years, 1969-70 through 2009-10. (2010). Retrieved from National Center for Education Statistics website: https://nces.ed.gov/programs/digest/d10/tables/dt10_083.asp

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Comments

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  • Anthony C. (Walden)

    Civil Disobedience seems to be a resourceful tactic used throughout history when things are not going in the direction that we as citizens desire. While the overall view of disobedience tends to be negative, there is one reoccuring factor taking place, and that is a leader is emerging to guide us towards success. Without these individuals, we might not have succeeded in gaining freedom in various regards. For example, as you mention The Boston Tea Party, it all began with an individual coming up with this idea. While it didn’t create a resolution right away, it was a turning point for the colonists rebelling. Tea was a crucial resource for the British as they used it to cure illnesses and believed that drinking the water one was not healthy. Dr. Roland Barth (2007) stated that one needs to “believe in what you want to make happen” (Laureate Education). Colonists believed that they could have their freedom from the King if they proved themselves. We as educators need to prove to the Legislature that we are more than just pawns in a game chess. We have have desire and passion to do the right thing and make the world a better place for children of all ages and capabilities. It is unfortunate that the world of education is becoming a place of business where the end game is who can make the most money of off testing materials, text books, electronics, etc. While there are benefits in these areas, leaders have lost sight at the overall purpose of education, to create a better tomorrow. All we are creating now is who is the better test taker, who produces the best test scores, or what schools have the newest technology. We need a leader to disobey the ordinary and lead us into a change for the better!

  • Eunice A-W. (Walden)

    Policy makers are very significant in the
    formulation policies concerning education. Their thoughts and inputs in the realm of education are valued by many. What they decide is law in most cases. They are people found in our legislative houses and never in schools let alone in the classroom, but they dictate what should be taught, how it should be taught and how students should be assessed. Policies they proposed are such that they conclude on a teacher’s effectiveness based on students’ performance in state standardized test scores. Based on these analysis educators stand the risk of being asked to vacate their positions because their work is unsatisfactory. The question here is why should individuals who do not spend any time with students be the ones to determine what should go on in schools? Why would individuals who do not have any idea about the diverse needs of students in schools dictate how students should be taught? Why wouldn’t these individuals in high places liaise with people on the field to get valuable information that can put them in a better place to make reforms? I believe it is time to for teachers to take the bull by the horn and do what is right for students. It is true that how our students perform might determine our retention, but we should not entertain such fears. Students are meant to obtain the best learning experiences in our hands. Yes! We are supposed to work with a defined guideline, but that
    guideline can be tailored to suit students in our classroom. We are supposed to use prescribed text books, but we can provide our students supplementary materials that would help them learn better. Stakeholders like parents should be made aware that for fear of being fired, some teachers are encouraging their students to memorize information in textbooks so that they can recall information needed to pass standardized tests. These students are not gaining any knowledge
    or skills because the teacher is expected to complete content within a specific time. Students are receiving quantity and not quality. In this day and age where with a click of a button one gets access to a lot of information, I believe teachers should not relent in their efforts by making all stakeholders know how policies being passed are negatively affecting teaching and learning in schools. Creating awareness of the repercussions certain policies pose through the internet is the surest way forward. When parents who are the major shareholders in their children’s education get to know this sad, but gospel truth more pressure will be mounted on policy makers to get the people on the ground involved when there is a need to pass any legislative instrument. Let us
    rise up and speak against the alienation of teachers in policy making. The power is just a click away!

  • Natalie Suarez

    It is unfortunate how teaching keeps being diminished and how teaches are mistreated by the government. It is expected though, regardless of the salary, that instruction is one of quality, that classrooms must be completely prepared for instruction and that all needs must be met, in order to teach students how to take a test, because that is all that counts now. These policies should not be implemented by the government, especially when they come from people that have no experience whatsoever in education. Every year there is one more obstacle created for teachers to prove themselves as great educators. Many are leaving the classroom for these reasons, and there is a lack of motivation due to those decisions made by the legislative houses. We must be leaders and change how education is being manipulated, affecting all the ones involved in working for the students.


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