Education is an honorable professionBy Marissa Cornelius | 02/23/2017 10:42pm
CW / Kylie Cowden
I need to admit that I was left incredibly inspired by the recent nomination of and subsequent confirmation hearings for Betsy DeVos for Secretary of Education. Of course, I was not inspired by DeVos, seeing as the only qualifications she has to lead the Department of Education are the $200 million that her family has funneled into GOP campaigns since the 1980s. Her confirmation was quid pro quo American politics at its worst, and it was disgusting to see someone so incompetent entrusted with the future of America’s schools.
What inspired me was the reaction to her nomination by the American people. I saw people that had never previously spoken out about education policy encouraging their fellow citizens to beseech their senators to fight against her nomination. Education is an issue that is all too often pushed to the background of American political discussions, and it was heartening to see it at the forefront for once. However, as encouraging as it was to see this support for America’s public schools, I was also left incredibly frustrated. If so many people care about education and believe that America’s students deserve the best, why is there still such a negative stigma attached to education as a profession?
Being an education major, I cannot even express the amount of times I have told someone about my academic success only to have them say, “Well, you’re an education major, so it doesn’t really count.” My major is often referred to as a “joke” or “not a real major,” and these comments used to leave extremely shaken and insecure. Now, they just make me angry.
One reason for this anger is that my major is not easy. I will admit that my Planning Secondary Curriculum is probably not as complex as Calculus II, but I have found that the ease of education classes make the job seem deceptively easy. I would like to see some of the College of Education’s critics attempt to make a group of unmotivated high school juniors understand why learning about the social repercussions of World War I is important. I would love to see them explain ACT math to students who are several grade levels behind in their comprehension because the public schooling system has failed them to this point. I would love to see them attempt to reach out to the student with cuts up and down her arms and explain that no, she does deserve to be alive. Being a teacher is a job that no amount of classes can ever truly prepare you for, and the amount of interpersonal skills required to be a successful educator is astounding. The difficulty of teaching should not be underestimated.
That reason for anger is incredibly personal, though. The other, more important reason that attacks on education as a discipline make me angry is how much harm this does to America’s students and schools. There are many reasons that schools are failing to attract motivated, intelligent teachers, with low pay being the number one reason, but societal contempt for the education profession closely follows that. We need our country’s best and brightest educating our students if we truly want to see our education system succeed. But we are never going to attract those type of students to education if everyone continues treating education majors as a joke. Teaching is a career that requires sacrifice, dedication, and intelligence, and until we start giving education its requisite respect, America’s schools will not be as successful as they could be.
As a future educator, I want to thank everyone who protested DeVos’ nomination.
Thank you for showing that you are invested in America’s students and thank you for understanding that a good education is foundational for our democracy. But please, don’t let your support stop here. Support America’s teachers by changing what it means to be an education major. Respect them. Uplift them. Thank them. Because like Barack Obama said, they are not just teachers. They’re nation builders.
Marissa Cornelius is a junior majoring in secondary education. Her column runs biweekly.