Let’s Not Tell Students the Sky Is Falling

Two Saturdays ago the following letter of mine appeared in the Las Vegas Review-Journal.  In the ongoing budget kerfuffle, I worry that the rhetoric of some of my teacher colleagues has crossed the line into irresponsible territory.  Frankly, even the insinuation that money is the biggest factor in student achievement is bothersome.  Yes, there are things we need funding for, but why haven’t we gotten this fired up over the epidemic of failure in our schools? 

Astute readers will recognize that this letter canibalizes part of a post I put up here about a month ago. 

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As a fellow English teacher, I appreciated Elizabeth Strehl’s Wednesday letter in defense of education spending, but I can’t condone her statement that, “If the proposed budget cuts to education happen, our schools and therefore our children may never recover.”

Perhaps such education advocates are exaggerating to emphasize their point, but can’t these academic Chicken Littles see the danger of their hyperbole? If these budget cuts do pass, what message have we now sent to our students? Might young people pick up on the idea that their fate has been sealed and that further work is pointless? Might the economic situation be used by some as an excuse for failure?

Lobbying for schools is noble, but I hope the fatalism so prominent in this conversation won’t turn into a self-fulfilling prophecy.

To all students out there: The ultimate force in your academic achievement isn’t the money coming from politicians, it’s the effort that comes from you. Don’t take our concern over the budget the wrong way. No matter what happens, we believe in you. Your future will always be yours to control.

3 comments on “Let’s Not Tell Students the Sky Is Falling

  1. Now Huston,
    You can’t honestly believe that this argument will ever convince a liberal, do you? Those students are merely pawns, they have no control over their destiny. Without the Nanny state to govern everything they do they can’t be expected to make good decisions. That, unfortuneatly, is the assumption underneath the paultry brain of a liberal…

  2. Actually as a liberal, I would agree that teachers shouldn’t go out of their way to discourage students about the impending collapse of public education. What they should do is invite students to investigate the arguments of those who claim government can’t afford to educate young people and those who claim that the reason governments are bankrupt is because they refuse to tax the wealthy and spend all their money of worthless military geegaws and bailouts of banks and corporations who are too stupid to run their businesses in the black. Let the kids do some research on the topic and look at the facts and draw their own conclusions.

  3. You’re both right. It’s true that a lot of teachers now are using students to further their political agendas. I find this video especially disturbing:

    http://trevorloudon.com/2011/04/socialist-teachers-discuss-indoctrinating-public-schoolchildren/

    I believe that a teacher should teach students HOW to think, not WHAT to think. I never bring politics into the classroom. When budget problems have come up in my college classes, I’ve given them resources to become informed if they choose, but it’s not something we spend class time on–what they think or do about it is up to them.

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