My process for writing this blog has followed a similar, predictable pattern since I started it three and a half years ago.
Typically, I will change out of my comfortable casual clothes, slide into one of my thousand-dollar dark suits, a starched white shirt and tie (with gold cuff links of course), grab my white wide-ruled notepad, take a seat at my ample desk in my fancy tiled room next to my gold-plated eagle sculpture, and carefully begin crafting my words and sentences, editing and re-editing with my black sharpie pen until I have the final draft ready to type, sometimes many hours later. Then, I will get on the computer and transfer the words from the notepad to my WordPress website to publish and finally share my thoughts with the world.
Pretty straightforward, right?
And, to think – all this time – I assumed my process was somehow unique.
Imagine my dismay when I saw this tweet from our newly inaugurated president, Donald J. Trump.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 18, 2017
Son-of-a-bitch! The president totally stole my writing protocol.
It’s fortunate a random photographer wandering through Trump’s estate was able to capture this totally spontaneous image of the president hard at work or else you would never have believed me.
I can imagine the president sitting there at his desk, rubbing his fingers on his chin while spinning the sharpie in his other hand, thinking to himself: “Hmmm. I guess I should say something about education in my inaugural speech. What can I write that would best capture the essence of my astute and well-informed feelings and beliefs about education, yet without wasting more than about 18 words?”
We don’t have to imagine any longer what the president might say. It’s been said.
This was one of those occasions in life when someone says something so frighteningly dumb, I pretend to be Jim Halpert on The Office and look at a non-existent camera like this:
Regrettably, the president’s words linger in the air like malodorous flatulence, and as a frightening portent of possible things to come.
I remain absolutely bewildered that the president settled on this particular statement of utter rhetorical buffoonery. After three weeks of drafting and honing his words with a team of professional speechwriters, he settled on this odd collection of words to be immortalized into our nation’s historical records for generations of Americans to read long after we are all dead.
If the president were to read this blog, he would likely just dismiss me as just another hater or loser. He’s done this to people far brighter and more important than me. But, at least he’s nice enough to remind us that it’s not our fault that we’re stupid and insecure.
Sorry losers and haters, but my I.Q. is one of the highest -and you all know it! Please don't feel so stupid or insecure,it's not your fault
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 9, 2013
The bottom line is that this statement truly reflects what our new President thinks of our public schools and teachers:
- We have more money than we know what to do with.
- We are intentionally depriving our students of knowledge … oops, make that ALL knowledge.
- We suck.
Because I’m trying to remain professional, I’ll refrain from saying the words I want to say.
But, I am angry and tired and fed up.
I’m angry at an uncaring politicians who are intent on labeling and punishing teachers and schools. Angry at a society that is quick to blame teachers and schools for every failure of our culture. Angry at policy makers who lecture us that “poverty is just an excuse” and assert these kids just need to show a little more persistence and grit. Angry at non-educators who claim that teachers and principals need to work a little harder without any commensurate increase in pay or benefits. Angry at people who just don’t care to deal with the truth and would rather hold onto their false stereotypes and dogmatic idealism. Angry at voucher wolves who circle the wounded body of public education ready to pounce and steal away a pound of flesh.
In short, I’m not sure our state and national leaders are able to handle reality and do the things necessary to make a meaningful impact on our schools and children.
President Trump, Betsy DeVos and their corporate cronies choose to either ignore or distort the facts to fit their agenda of school choice, vouchers, and private charters–all in the name of profit.
At this time, it seems appropriate to reprise a segment I directed at our former state superintendent a few years ago.
It is a scene from the movie, “A Few Good Men,” the one where Colonel Nathan Jessup (Jack Nicholson) gives his angry, impassioned response to the cross-examination from Lieutenant Kaffee, played by Tom Cruise . As a Marine, I can actually recite the original scene from memory!
I have taken the liberty to rewrite the scene to bring it over to the context of public education. In this new version, I have flipped the roles so that Jack’s rage is now directed at those who seek to disparage and destroy public schools, people like our new president and his Secretary of Education nominee, Betsy DeVos.
It helps if you channel your best Jack Nicholson as you read the words!
Better yet, play the video so you can hear Jack and imagine these were the words he was saying:
YOU CAN’T HANDLE THE TRUTH!
Reformers (including President Trump, et al.): Why are you failing? Do you not care about children?
Public School Educators: You want answers?
Trump: I think I’m entitled.
Educators: You want answers?
Trump: I want the truth!
Educators: You can’t handle the truth!
President Trump – we live in a world that is plagued by poverty, and the broken children from that world need to be loved by people with hearts. Who’s gonna do it? You? Your billionaire friend, Betsy DeVos? We have greater challenges than you can possibly fathom. You cry out for vouchers and charters and you curse public schools and teachers. You have that luxury. You have the luxury of ignoring what we know. That public school teachers, while poorly paid and under-appreciated, undoubtedly save lives. And our existence, while grotesque and incomprehensible to you, saves lives. You don’t want to hear the truth because deep down in places you don’t talk about at parties, you want us to fail, you need us to fail.
We use words like commitment, compassion, love. We use these words as a backbone of a life helping children. You use them as campaign slogans. We have neither the time nor the inclination to explain ourselves to a man who rises and sleeps under the blanket of the very society created by the finest school system in the world, and then questions the manner in which we provide it. I would rather you just said thank you, and went on your way. Otherwise, I suggest you pick up a lesson plan, come to an urban classroom and teach a class. Either way, we don’t give a damn what you think you are entitled to.
Trump: Do you care about children?
Teachers: Of course, that’s our job.
Trump: Do you care about children?
Teachers: You’re damn right we do! Do you?
To close, I’d like to share the following quote from Lawrence Peter, the author of the well-known book, “The Peter Principle,” from 1968: “Sometimes I wonder whether the world is being run by smart people who are putting us on or by imbeciles who really mean it.”
I think President Trump really means it. And that’s what worries me.
Whew, I’m ready to get out of this suit!