Finish this: “Public Education is…”



“Public Education is DEMOCRACY!”

That is how I finished the prompt on the March for Public Education’s Facebook Group query. (Please join this group of over 13,000 people by clicking the underlined link.)

Yes, all caps are needed. Yes, it warrants an exclamation point. Yes, public education is not just a part of the American democratic system, it the engine of democracy. To further explain, the following are five reasons public education is democracy:

1.Public education is democracy because schools are like the statue of liberty.

Public schools take all kinds of students — black, white, Christian, Muslim, Jew, poor, rich, special needs, or gifted. Public schools face poverty, mental illness, addiction, neglect, and hunger with warm classrooms led by smiling adults. Like Emma Lazarus’ poem, schools take the tired, the poor, and the wretched refuse, because public schools are open to every resident of the United States of America. Public schools are safe havens for our most vulnerable citizens.


2.Public education is democracy because students learn a standardized education, which promotes equal access to opportunities.

Students in central New York, where I have lived my entire life, are offered a standard curriculum, taught by teachers who hold master’s degrees, earn tenure, and who are allowed to collectively bargain and unionize. The New York State public education system, although not perfect, truly attempts to create a foundation for its residents. I attended four different public school districts, and although the frequent moving was often disruptive socially, the standard curriculum and high quality of learning offered by every one of the school districts enabled me to mature positively despite my often disruptive childhood.

Standardized learning and highly qualified teachers help to even out privilege and counteract disparity. Rigorous content, dynamic pedagogy, and equitable funding are all components of effective public schools.


3. Public education is democracy because all teachers are civics teachers.

Although many people complain about students’ lack of knowledge about civics and history, as institutions, public schools go a long way to civilize the huddled masses. Schools teach rules, expectations, deadlines and collaboration.

Students in public education recite the pledge of allegiance every day, participate in moments of silence when tragedy arises, and collectively learn about American government and values.


4.Public education is democracy because parents invest in their communities and have a voice in the budget every spring.

On May 16, 2017, hundreds of school district across the state of New York will offer spaghetti dinners while holding their breaths in the hope that the community will continue to support their district’s financial needs for another year.

When budgets are rejected it is often due to financial constraints, disagreements over spending, or political issues. However, in my twenty-two years of teaching, I have never taught in a school where the budget was not passed. Every budget is tense, but ultimately in Central New York, anyway, taxpayers see the value in an educated citizenry.


5. Public education is democracy because schools, like American democracy, are messy.

I have a respected colleague that often repeats the line: democracy is messy. No truer words have been spoken. Democracy is horribly untidy — riddled with disagreements, power struggles, and self-centered greed. Schools are microcosms of society, and schools represent both the best and the worst of American values and deficiencies.

Out of the mess, however, comes creativity, athletics, clubs, activities, growth, individuality, and success for millions of students. I don’t always like what happens in America, or in public schools, but I would not want to live or teach in any other type of system.


How would you finish: Public Education is…? Comment below, and consider writing a piece for this publication.

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I am a Feminist, but I didn’t vote for Hillary Clinton

There, I admit it. My dirty little secret is out. Go ahead and attack me. Unfriend me. Block me.

I marched in Washington, D.C. in 1992 to voice concerns that Roe v. Wade would be overturned, but in 2016 I did not vote for Hillary Clinton.

I co-led the group Womyn’s Action Coalition (yes, with a Y) on the SUNY Geneseo campus during the 1990s, but I did not vote for Hillary Clinton.

I live in New York State (a blue state), but I did not vote for Hillary Clinton.

I am a proud member of the American Federation of Teachers, but I did not vote for Hillary Clinton.

I hold a master’s degree, but I did not vote for Hillary Clinton.

I am a white, college-educated, middle-class woman, but I did not vote for Hillary Clinton.

I have born witness to serious abuse of my mother and sister by the hands of men, but I did not vote for Hillary Clinton.

I was raised by a single mother who did not always get child support, had to resort to food stamps, and often did not have health care, but I did not vote for Hillary Clinton.

I love nature and do my part to protect the earth, but I did not vote for Hillary Clinton.

I support the legalization, regulation, and taxation of marijuana, but I did not vote for Hillary Clinton.

I am worried about gun violence, and violence in general, but I did not vote for Hillary Clinton.

I want everyone to have affordable, quality healthcare, but I did not vote for Hillary Clinton.

I fully agree with and support same-sex marriage and equality for all, but I did not vote for Hillary Clinton.

I do not fear Islam or non-Christian faiths, but I did not vote for Hillary Clinton.

I would love to see a female president (many female presidents), but I did not vote for Hillary Clinton.

I also did not vote for Donald J. Trump.

I am the moderate voice of America — neither extreme left nor right.

I live in a blue state but in a red county.

I live on 40 acres in small town rural America.

I co-own a small business where I see my husband’s labor taxed at 70% (business and personal tax) so that for every dollar he physically earns he gets to keep thirty cents.

I own guns (lots of guns) and I love how my husband has taught our daughters gun safety and skills.

I live outside of Syracuse, NY which resembles the Allentown, PA that Billy Joel sang about in the eighties.

I love to travel and see prosperity in America, only to return home to witness economic blight.

I don’t have any friends who are extremely racially diverse than me. However, I do have many students who are.

I believe in God, but I don’t find peace and happiness with organized churches.

I would have loved to have marched with my daughters in Seneca Falls, NY on January 21, 2017, so that I could show them the amazing diversity of American voices, but there was a swim meet to attend.

I did not vote for Hillary Clinton because ultimately I did not relate to her. She spoke well, she was more than qualified, but she just wasn’t my candidate. I was tired of the Clinton, Bush, Kennedy dynasties. I was saddened by how the Democrats led Common Core implementation and the Race to the Top educational policy impacts. I was frustrated by Clinton’s role in her husband’s perjury and sexual scandals. I did not agree with her foreign policy. I was worried that she would get nothing accomplished in a republican held congress.

If you relate to only one side, you might not like my message. My moderate ideas are not sexy. Moderation will never make major headlines. No one will tweet about my message. Or, maybe you share my secret? Maybe you have kept silent to avoid tempers rising with angry dialogue across the well prepared Thanksgiving table? Maybe you too want our country to move on from hateful speech, angry posts, and polarization to a more solution oriented consensus-based philosophy of governance? If you do, then please join me to spread a moderate, solution-oriented, inclusive message so that we have a representative democracy that is intent on political discourse not on sensationalism and “alternative facts,” but one that truly demonstrates the power of the people.

If you liked this, please click the ❤ to share. I sure appreciate it. Thanks!

For those of you who have not scrubbed me out of your life, here is my follow-up article: “10 Ways to Practice and Model Civil Discourse (Or, how not to be an a-hole!).”