My heart goes out to Caroline Lee, the longtime educator who had an abuse charge over her head for 10 months. After a polygraph test and case review, they can finally speak the word of a dedicated educator with a long career rather than the word of a student with a history of disciplinary actions. Lee tried to turn the initial concern into a “teaching moment” and look at what she got for trying to do the right thing.
As a retired educator of 43 years, I can easily imagine that I could have been placed in a similar position. Here at Duval, I was a teacher of the gifted for 19 years, which included grades K-8. A big part of my job was to motivate students to think and solve problems.
We discussed all sorts of things, including the issues and the candidates on the ballots in many elections. I was careful to mention all points of view, to refrain from sharing my personal opinions and I always ended by saying: “Please tell your parents about what we discussed and ask them what they think about it. They are intelligent people, who have good reasons for their choices.”
Although my students’ parents have voted for both parties over the years, I have never had a single complaint. I have always thought (and still do) that forming educated voters and future leaders requires knowing the facts and understanding the issues to make good decisions. Judging by the newly elected members of the school board, teachers like me would face all kinds of allegations, even without an unlikely accusation of physical abuse like Lee.
Right now, I’m very confused about the use of the word “freedom” as a right reserved for certain people, who seek to impose their positions on others and deprive them of their rights. How is this freedom? Unfortunately, current educators like Lee – and education in general – seem to be prime targets.
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Even our sadly misquoted founding fathers were educated freethinkers and problem solvers. The country that the “people of freedom” claim to defend would not even exist if they had been more rigid in their thoughts.
Of my 33 years in public school classrooms, 20 were in Duval County. In Atlanta, I was director of the Center for Teaching & Learning, a federally funded teaching facility. Although housed at Mercer University in Atlanta, we have worked with the State Department of Education, all Atlanta area college and university education departments, teachers from approximately 13 school districts and other educators nationally and internationally.
I may have known hundreds of thousands of teachers and aspiring teachers over the years. They couldn’t be more caring and dedicated and are probably some of the best influences your children will ever have.
As a mom and a grandmother, I understand that you want the best for your children. It is normal to want to protect them and protect them from the evils of the outside world. What worries me are violent movies and video games; scantily clad women giving girls a poor self-image; and rude, superficial celebrities or politicians who, like playground bullies, threaten and belittle those who disagree with their views.
We should do a lot to protect our children and prevent them from growing up too quickly, but public schools do not particularly belong in this equation. In my opinion, the talent and energy expended to blame them would be much more productive if directed elsewhere.
Rhoda T. London, Jacksonville
This guest column is the opinion of the author and does not necessarily represent the views of The Times-Union. We welcome a diversity of opinions.