As far as this presidential election goes, let's just say I've been completely underwhelmed by them all.
But Barack Obama said something in a speech to the American Federation of Teachers that is too much to let go by. He said (and this is a DIRECT quote):
"Real change is finally giving our kids everything they need to have a fighting chance in today’s world. That begins with recognizing that the single most important factor in determining a child’s achievement is not the color of their skin or where they come from; it’s not who their parents are or how much money they have. It’s who their teacher is."
Sorry, Mr. Obama, but you couldn't be more wrong if you tried.
Teachers aren't going to be the ones to give our kids a fighting chance. On the contrary, it has to come from home. It has to come from the parents. Too many people in our country expect teachers to raise their children. And quite frankly, teachers have enough to do. Teachers need to cover content. They need to teach math and science. They should teach our children how to write well. But it is NOT their job to raise our children.
Now I know that as teachers sometimes we have to become involved, but in my experience, those times are few and far between. And when we do, it is to point the students to someone who is trained to help with whatever situation. These teachers aren't trained psychologists and sociologists. They aren't planned parenthood or drug counselors. They are content-area specialists (to a degree) who've had a few classes in teaching methodology. Yes, they care about their students, but they are about as equipped to help them as the cashier at Wal-mart.
For the record, I purposely wrote that last comment to sound harsh. You see, you can't take a course in how to be a parent and give your kid a fighting chance in the world. The course doesn't exist. But if it did, the syllabus would cover topics like "Quit worrying about what you want to do, and do what's best for your kid", "Get a job and stay employed", "Quit playing softball or golf so much yourself and start coaching your kid's team instead", "Stay married", "Hold your child responsible for their actions", or "Don't reward bad behavior." Being a good parent is about making your kids what is most important, teaching them right from wrong, and holding them and you accountable for your own actions.
So Mr. Obama, if you think the way to give kids a fighting chance is to get better teachers, you're wrong. It's to have strong families, and to keep those families together. Unlike what you said, the single most determining factor in our child's ability to achieve comes from within the walls of the home. In 1964, David O. Mckay said "No other success can compensate for failure in the home." The disintegration of the family unit is the problem, sir, and that has NOTHING to do with our teachers.
If you want to see more about what I think about families, go read the The Family: A Proclamation to the World. For the complete text of Senator Obama's speech, go here.