“The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. Intelligence plus character—that is the goal of education.”
Most people would readily agree: Education matters. Schools matter. Kids matter. Teachers matter.
And when we achieve Dr. King’s goal for education, it follows that people matter. Humankind–regardless of race, religion, national origin, gender or sexual identity–matters.
Even to the mathematically challenged like me, this equation seems simple enough.
Then we see this on the evening news: a teacher is handcuffed for questioning administrative salary increases. We get the message in this image: teachers do not matter. That Louisiana English teacher, Deysha Hargrave, is right; we should all be appalled. Teachers in her district have not had a pay raise in ten years. Ten years.
Teachers in many parts of the country say that in order to do what they do, they must secure a second job, a part-time gig, to supplement their teacher salaries. Schools are often so poorly funded that these same teachers must dig deep into their pockets for basic classroom supplies.
But teachers matter? Education matters? Kids matter? Humankind matters?
How can we expect the best and brightest to enter a profession that requires advanced degrees but doesn’t pay enough to cover transportation, rent and food? If we aren’t interested in the quality of candidates attracted to teaching, how can we say education matters? How can we continue to say kids matter?
Our culture values education for the tangible returns we can recoup from our investments. Certainly schooling provides a means to an economic end. Diplomas and degrees are employment requirements. There can be no denying the statistical correlation between schooling and earning. Why don’t we apply this principle to the people we entrust with our most precious possessions, our kids?
Our kids matter. We want them to excel academically. We want them feel safe and confident. Teachers make these things happen. Therefore, teachers do matter.
And beyond individual classrooms, the world continues to shrink. Global issues threaten to morph into local challenges: climate change, race relations, health care, food and energy production. Will we have the intelligence and character to collaborate in the search for solutions? Teachers definitely matter.
As Dr. King asserts, education–true education– is so much more. Education is an ignited curiosity and thick questions that may not have concrete answers. Education is accepting that we are part of a world that is so much bigger than ourselves. Education is understanding value in humanity in all its shapes and forms. It is education that will ultimately determine the fate of humankind.