Who Supports Our Teachers?

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By Dan Coulter

What happened?

How did we get to the point where political pundits are attacking America’s teachers?

Against all reason and contrary to the facts, how can these pundits call teachers lazy, underworked, and overpaid?

These attacks were sparked by a controversy in Wisconsin that pitted the governor against teachers. If you’ve followed this situation, it’s obvious that teachers are not the primary target. The governor and his supporters in the media are actually trying to weaken organized labor, and the state’s unionized teachers are convenient scapegoats. It’s doubtful the attackers believe their own propaganda. To them, what happens to teachers is just collateral damage.

But this is collateral damage we can’t afford. These attacks in the national media affect teachers across the country, at a time when support for education is crucial to help our nation pull itself out of a recession and compete globally.

I’m particularly concerned about special education teachers and programs. They’re too often seen by overzealous budget cutters as "extras" or “non-essentials” and can lose support in tough economic times. And they’re exactly the people and programs that can help children with Asperger Syndrome, autism, and other special needs become productive adults. The good news: proper support is a bridge that can help many students with disabilities become highly efficient and loyal employees, using their strengths to far outweigh their challenges. The bad news: disparaging teachers and slashing education budgets pulls the supports out from under that bridge.

What can we do? Speak up.

First, if you have a teacher who has provided great support to you or your child, write that teacher a note. Tell him or her how much you appreciate what they’ve done. A couple of sentences of support could be a tremendous boost right now.

Second, send a note to your schools principal or board of education, or write or call your elected representatives. Write a letter to the editor of your local newspaper, or leave a comment on the website of a local or national news organization. CNN, for example, makes it easy to leave comments at cnn.com about a variety of issues and programs, and often uses viewer comments on the air.

In these contacts, share a brief anecdote about what a good teacher or teachers have done for your child, and encourage support for teachers and education. Many public servants will tell you education is important, but seeing widespread public support can help them protect education funding when it’s under attack.

Because it’s really our children’s futures and the strength of the country that’s under attack.

I once worked for a company that pulled itself out of a market collapse that forced it into bankruptcy. The company cut jobs and expenses where it made sense. But it also protected jobs and increased investment where it made sense. That’s how it emerged from bankruptcy to become successful again.

Attacking teachers and slashing education budgets might save some money in the short run, but it puts our children on a dead end road and sends jobs to countries that support teachers and invest in education.

It’s up to us to be the voice of reason and flag our elected leaders away from that dead end -- and toward the productive future our children deserve.

Ask yourself why South Korea and Singapore encourage respect for teachers and pay them on par with lawyers and engineers. Do they value their children more than we do?

Let’s all take a long look at our children, think ten or 20 years down the road, and make our voices heard.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Dan Coulter is the producer of ten DVDs about Asperger Syndrome and autism, including “Asperger Syndrome: Success in the Mainstream Classroom." You can find more articles on his website at: coultervideo.com.

Copyright 2011 Dan Coulter All Rights Reserved Used By Permission

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