The Four-Way Intersection

In a recent conversation, I told a friend that education was a four-way intersection of students, teachers, parents and the business community. It seemed a good description, providing certain insights to the relationship among those four groups.

The business community has a right to be heard; it does not have the right to overwhelm the voices of teachers or parents by claiming to be the spokepersons for children.

All four groups play a role in America’s future, but the relationship, the interplay, is organic and fluid, constantly changing. In the last few years, some people have attempted to alter the formula, to give one group a larger voice, or conversely, to minimize the concerns of others.

People who constantly make the statement, “It’s all about the children,” offend the teaching community, as if teachers play no role in the cognitive and social development of a child.

If teachers don’t feel appreciated, or are constantly assaulted for societal ills—just look at Time magazine’s recent cover depicting teachers as bad apples—then exactly how will they hide that hurt from their students? This state has a punitive attitude toward teachers as shown in its evaluation system, and has demonized teachers for poor student test scores, as if poverty plays no effect at all.

Recently, however, the business community ramped up its efforts to maximize their influence on this four-way conversation. Unhappy with the turbulent state of affairs in the Lafayette Parish School System, the Lafayette Chamber of Commerce searched the community for candidates to run for board slots. The Chamber then held fundraisers bringing in thousands of dollars to influence the November 2014 election.

I received in the mail a letter from one of the candidates naturally asking for my vote, but the glossy promotional card was not the first item in the envelope. In front of it was a letter on Acadian Ambulance stationery from the CEO, telling me how proud he was to know the candidate.

My first question was whether he was speaking as the Acadian Ambulance CEO or as a private citizen, but the letterhead made that question moot. I now wondered if he was speaking for each and every employee of Acadian Ambulance as well. Frankly I pondered if this was legal.

This business community’s attempt to increase their power in this four-way juncture made many teachers and parents uneasy, so uneasy that they only elected three of the Chamber’s seven endorsed candidates. It seems parents, and certainly teachers, might have a better grasp on how to educate the next generation than CEOs and Bill Gates’ types.

In the future, I hope for a smoother affiliation among the four parties. The business community has a right to be heard; it does not have the right to overwhelm the voices of teachers or parents by claiming to be the spokepersons for children.

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