I've watched all the debates, and I've decided that the one thing that will sway me is where the candidates stand on education. That makes sense to me, since everything I have is affected by the American educational system; from my finances to my employment status to my healthcare, nothing I do would be possible if it weren't for public education. So obviously I have a vested interest in the candidates' views on this important issue.
Over on Ravelry, one of the teacher groups has been discussing some remarks made during last week's debate, and there have been some strongly-worded replies to this statement:
MCCAIN: We need to encourage programs such as Teach for America and Troops to Teachers where people, after having served in the military, can go right to teaching and not have to take these examinations which – or have the certification that some are required in some states.
Here is what I wrote, and it's what I believe, and it's what pushed me over the edge into the liberal--or, according to my family, socialist--camp:
McCain’s statement assumes that the only things standing in the way of growth in the teaching profession are exams or certification, and that is simply not the case. Other obstacles include low pay, high stress, increased duties (with no extra pay), governmental pressure, apathetic and/or combative students, unsupportive parents, and–above all–zero respect or status.
Teaching requires a level of dedication that not everybody can or wants to give. It takes a desire to reach children at their level. It demands flexibility and a willingness to grow as a learner and as a teacher. It calls for a thick, thick, thick skin, but it also calls for compassion and sympathy for students.
As others have stated, McCain implies that anybody can be a teacher, but you and I and everyone else who has stood in front of a classroom knows that this is a ridiculous claim.
I don’t sanctify the teaching profession, and it annoys me when others refer to teaching as “a calling.” But I do know that allowing random people to go into the classroom just to pay down debts or to rejoin civilian society or to mark time until they find their “real jobs” is a disservice not just to the teaching profession, but also to the students who are placed in those classrooms. And that doesn’t just affect those kids for the semester, but it can have a life-long impact on their attitudes toward learning, toward various subjects, toward their community, and toward themselves.
What McCain doesn’t realize is that when he talks about education, he’s not just talking about teachers. He’s also talking about students, and that means he’s talking about our future.