As COVID-19 restrictions begin to subside, it is a good time to thank the educators in our community for their perseverance, creativity and commitment. Throughout the Hudson Valley, we saw a number of schools respond in a variety of ways to pandemic impact. In our own community, our children largely were present in the classroom over the last two years even as their teachers’ own children may have had completely different experiences.
Amid the vapid anti-school rhetoric dominating the media, we ought to be reminded that our teachers are there for us. They are there for our children, our grief, our funerals, our dysfunction and our sickness. They celebrate our joys, but they carry the burden of our family’s emotional, economic, health and psychological distress. As quick as we are to criticize and as valuable as good criticism is, we must never lose sight of their service, humanity and the value of their work.
It is no accident that the long anti-public school sentiment that pervades much political discourse has eventually led to the diminishment of funds and support for educators. This discourse has led to a steady increase in the number of early retirements and a steady decrease in the number of individuals entering the profession. Simply put, the profession is not valued. Thus, we are witnessing the erosion of a system that, although it has its issues, has served this country well. A democracy depends upon a level of competence and participation in order to find its validity.
This latest current of anti-educator rhetoric has manifested itself in verbal and physical attacks on teachers and school boards who merely seek to provide an informed, healthy and safe learning environment. It’s sad to think that, even as teachers carry the weight of our lives during one of the most trying times in our country’s history, we still permit a culture of uniform disregard for the contribution educators make. While the lack of gratitude is shameful, the impact on our democracy is dangerous.
If you can, please take some time to thank a teacher and encourage young people to consider the profession, or at least don’t deride those who pursue it.
James Hoch, Garrison
Hoch is a former member of the Garrison school board.