BY SHARON MARTIN
What do some state governments have against teachers? Is it because we earn more than $30,000 a year? So do Oklahoma legislators. Are lawmakers more important than teachers?
I have gone to school for more than 18 years. Until our union negotiated for our insurance premiums, I brought home less than $1,500 a month after retirement, taxes, and insurance were taken out of my check. My brother, without a degree, earned more as an apartment complex handy man. My daughter, a college student, brought home more waiting tables at Chili’s. When the state agreed to provide my insurance, I got to keep a whopping $200 more of my paycheck.
I’m not complaining about my pay. I could have chosen a career in the private sector and earned more, but I have always thought that teaching was one of the most important jobs in the world, a job on which all other jobs depend.
And I believe that education is social justice. Some of you have been warned that social justice is not the American way. Why? Is it wrong that every citizen has equal protection under the law? Should we bar some citizens’ access to the courts? Whom should we exclude from the education system? Do we deny opportunity to the portion of the population that we don’t like? Is a caste system, nobles and commoners, the American way? I think not.
My education affords me opportunities that many of the uneducated do not have. I want everyone to have the same choices that I have. We can say that we are all born equal, but that is a lie. Education is the equalizer. We should not insure a chicken in every pot, but we must make sure that every able-bodied citizen has the ability to earn enough to afford the chicken and the pot.
I can think for myself. I want everyone to have that capacity. We all need the ability to see through the bull manure that legislators, advertisers, and members of the media spread liberally on shallow ground. This requires an education, whether you get it from public schools or well-stocked public libraries. Both should be available to everyone if we want to retain the right to think for ourselves and to govern ourselves.
Beware of those who would deny you a good education and a social safety net. Beware, too, those who would give any class of Americans everything for nothing. Neither of them believes in American democracy, despite their flashy lapel pins and Constitution-quoting speeches.
– Sharon Martin lives in Oilton, OK and is a regular contributor to The Oklahoma Observer.