Monday, December 18, 2006

I am only one; but still I am one.

This past Friday a letter, written ostensibly to support higher teacher pay, was printed in the opinion section of the Atlanta Journal Constitution. In spite of its stated purpose, however, much of the letter strayed from the point and seemed to place ALL the blame for ALL the failings of public schools squarely upon the shoulders of teachers.

Several readers took exception to this attitude and responded making the obvious point that the success or failure of the educational experience is the result of attitudes and actions of many other persons in addition to the classroom teacher. These responses, printed in the Sunday paper, included one by Mike Leach who stressed several points which I have been proclaiming from my “soap box” for several years. He wrote in part:

Public school teacher's pay is a legitimate issue, especially when contrasted with frivolous occupations such as entertainers and pro athletes, but that's a social issue for another debate. The real problem with public education is the public.

Parents fail in their responsibility to send respectful, disciplined, motivated, kids to the schools. Administrators have allowed the schools to degenerate into day care centers and self-esteem incubators. The list goes on: Self-centered students without the discipline to behave and pay attention during the education process; disgruntled special-interest groups and parents who hide behind the hired gun lawyers; school boards afraid to remove disruptive students; taxpayers who don't revolt and march on the offices of the superintendents and school boards to demand long overdue improvements.

Only when the public performs its responsibility will the teachers be able to perform theirs.

Mike said it very succinctly. The school environment is a microcosm of society at large. The moral and ethical ills of society have become the ills of the public education system. The remedy for the unhealthy condition of the public schools begins with the renewed health of society as a whole.

Each student, parent, teacher, and citizen must accept responsibility to be the best that she or he can be (the best teacher; the best parent; the best student; the best citizen). This mindset with its inherent work ethic and sense of teamwork will enable students to be successful. And successful students will change the society that they are preparing to lead.


This related quote is variously attributed to Edward Everett Hale and Helen Keller :

I am only one, but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something. I will not refuse to do the something I can do.

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