Site icon A Piece of My Mind with Shane Phipps

We Are Here to Leave a Better World for Our Children but Our Leaders Have Completely Lost Sight of This

I hope you’ll pardon me if I ramble and vent a little today. There are a lot of things on my mind as I am back in the classroom for the first time in over two weeks. During the break, I tried to force myself to steer clear of as much news as I could, but so much has happened, that became pretty much impossible.

The reason I’ve come here to vent is because I’m just tired and pissed off. I was put into a bad mood when my homeroom students, 13-year-old 8th graders, began talking about an impending “World War 3” and how they didn’t want to have to go and fight. I listened to several conversations that showed great awareness of what is going on in the world. I heard mentions made of the 52 targets—some of them culturally and religiously significant—that President Trump has threatened to strike in Iran. I heard them talking about the millions of people they saw jamming the streets in Iran, marching in honor of Assassinated General Soleimani and chanting “Death to the USA.” I heard them meticulously attempting to predict what U.S. targets Iran may be planning to strike in retaliation.

In other corners of the room, I heard a group of girls discussing the fact that Australia is burning. They were near tears when they talked about the millions of animals, completely unique to the Land Down Under, which have perished in this unimaginable disaster. I heard them wonder aloud if that kind of thing might happen here because of climate change.

I wanted to just hug all my students and tell them not to worry, that everything would be alright. But I don’t ever want to lie to my students, so I just listened and seethed.

Closer to home, Senate Bill 143 was introduced. This proposed legislation would give the Indiana governor and leaders of the Senate and House even more power to stack the state board of education with people aligned with their anti-public education agenda. For instance, while six of the positions nominated still are supposed to have a background in education, the definition of “professional experience in the field of education” would be broadened to include the term “executive in the field of education.” That is frighteningly, and I’m sure intentionally, vague. If this bill were to pass—and what’s to stop it with the super majority?—the door will be opened for executives from standardized testing companies or the big wigs behind charter school companies to have a power seat in the state school board. And don’t forget, starting next January, the state superintendent of education will no longer be an elected position, it will be the governor’s appointee. We are seeing more and more power over education policy centralized at the top. It is tantamount to a coup. 

Our children are being robbed of their futures by government at the federal and state levels. Our public schools, which educate well over 90% of our children, are in dire straits. As I walked into my classroom this morning, there were two new teachers getting their classrooms set up in my hallway alone. There are more new teachers in other parts of the building. It’s never an ideal situation to have teacher changes in the middle of a school year, but that is becoming the new normal. I guess I should consider our school lucky because we were able to fill vacancies with licensed teachers. Many schools are not able to do that. Many are forced to hire people on emergency contracts. Some of those people might make excellent teachers, but they haven’t been properly trained in all the legalities involved in the profession, so it’s likely only a matter of time before that becomes a serious liability issue somewhere down the line. Our teacher shortage, not just in Indiana, but nationally, is way past the critical point. It will continue to worsen until drastic change is made to education policy; not just teacher pay, but systematic change from the top down.

We are supposed to be preparing our children for their futures. We are supposed to be doing everything we can to leave their world a better place than we found it. Right now, I’m afraid we are failing them miserably. In fact, we are so caught up in political power plays that our children are barely an afterthought. It’s gotten so bad that children who attempt to stand up and be heard—to try to stop the madness and wake up our leaders—are mocked and scorned (see Greta Thunberg). 

Our children are watching. They are paying attention. It makes me incredibly sad to report that some of them are actually beginning to resign themselves to the possibility that their futures might be very bleak. That’s a hell of a thing to do to a child. We have one chance to turn this around. That chance comes up in November. We still have the power to change our government. Let’s vote with our children’s futures in mind. 

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