As a 12-year resident of Montclair with two children in the school system, I wanted to voice my support for Dr. MacCormack, the Board of Education, and our educational experts.
Just a little background on myself: I’ve been active in the schools for several years, even serving as the School Action Team Chair in the past. In recent years, though, I’ve diminished my participation in the PTA and SAT because of the acrimonious nature that I’ve found often exists. So I’ve chosen to volunteer in the schools instead, often lending a hand wherever needed and even tutoring children in classes and grades other than my own.
In recent weeks, though, I’ve felt a burning desire to speak up for those of us in the community who don’t agree with the vitriol being spewed toward the school board and superintendent. There are two issues, it seems; the common core implementation, and the response of those opposed to it.
I’m not an educational expert, so I can’t and won’t opine on Common Core or its implementation. I can say that I think our children should be more challenged academically, and I welcome anything that achieves that. I also believe that evidence-based decisions (using data gathered with assessments) are the best means of ensuring success.
As for the actions of those opposed to the Board and Dr. MacCormack specifically, recent events have left me speechless. It seems that they have resorted to the Tea-Party–like tactics of sabotage and birther-esque, unsubstantiated claims in the name of doing what’s right for our children. It’s almost as though we’ve come to a “Judgment of Solomon” moment when those who purport to advocate for our children act in ways contrary to the long-term well-being of our children. And perhaps the most unfortunate outcome of those actions is not the discord created amongst those in the fight, but the apathy and withdrawal elicited in those of us on the outside looking in.
Instead of engaging in the fight, I choose to focus on what we all have in common. And there are several things upon which I think we can probably all agree:
1) We do our kids a disservice when we tell them not to trust their teachers or administrators. In fact, positive relationships between students, parents and educators are important to our children’s success.
2) Our children need, and deserve, better examples of civility and compromise than what we’re providing. Sabotaging a test that you don’t agree with, or making unmerited and unsubstantiated accusations against people you don’t agree with, is not behavior we would want our kids to emulate. The tactic of “You’re wrong and I’m right” may work in politics (although the jury’s still out on that), but it definitely doesn’t work when it comes to raising and educating children.
3) Dr. MacCormack and the rest of our educators have studied and worked their entire lives to educate children, and they want nothing more than to educate our children. We may not agree on their tactics, but we should agree that their motivations are earnest.
4) The vast majority of us want to do what’s best for our children. And whether we agree with the methods being implemented or not, it’s fair to say that the BOE, the Superintendent, our educators, the community and the parents all want what’s best for our children.
This could well be our Judgment of Solomon moment, and each of us is the judge. As a community member or parent, what should we do? Choose positivity, civility and optimism over derision, petulance and discord. And support those who value and show those qualities. I beg the parents and community leaders: leave the educational discussion and debate to our educators. Let’s support them in every way possible. Let’s speak highly of them to our children. Let’s attend BOE meetings simply to listen, learn, and ask what we can do to support our educational experts. Let’s give them the time to prepare our kids for the educational challenges that are coming, and let’s hope they succeed. And let’s always remember that we have a common goal: preparing our children for college, career and life.