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NEA News

Interesting Times

Lily's Blackboard column from the Summer 2018 edition of NEA Today magazine
Published: August 1, 2020

That’s what I believe we are living in today, and as the main story in this issue (“10 Challenges Facing Education Today”) points out, there is no shortage of matters that command our attention. From a lack of resources for students, schools, and educators, to the U.S. Supreme Court’s harmful decision on the Janus case, the challenges we face are many, and they seem to mount by the day. Maybe by the hour.

This period is testing our values as educators and as citizens. Through centuries of struggle and evolution, our nation (well, most of our nation) finally embraced concepts that are today part of the American story, and certainly part of NEA’s ethos: All students, no matter where they or their parents are from, whether rich or poor or somewhere in between, deserve the opportunity for a great education.

Our values tell us that students in all communities deserve the support that will enable them to learn and place them on the road to success — whatever success means for them. We believe educators must have the resources to connect with students and help them discover their passions. Ultimately, that is how students will build lives of meaning and contribution that will fulfill their personal goals.

These principles did not come about randomly. They were brought to life through generations of struggle. We are now reminded of just how fragile these principles are. When I talk to other educators, it’s clear these beliefs are reasonable and fair to us. Yet in states across the nation, in communities large and small, lawmakers’ decisions and priorities are undercutting ideas that we’ve taken for granted and that define what America means across the globe.

As challenging as these times are, this is also a period of intense activism, and educators are leading the way. We are galvanizing students, parents, and other community members who share our passion.

We are leading by speaking and walking out to win more resources for students and schools. We are leading by coming up with new ideas for tackling disciplinary issues and truancy. We are leading by supporting immigrant students and demanding that politicians keep families together. We are leading by pointing out how vouchers take funding away from the schools that 90 percent of students attend and divert resources to private schools.

We are leading by running for office something educators are doing in record numbers. After all, no one has more experience and expertise in education and knows students better than we do.

I am not dismayed by these “interesting” times. I am energized by how educators are responding to them and how our determination is reinvigorating the values and beliefs that our nation holds dear.

National Education Association

Great public schools for every student

The National Education Association (NEA), the nation's largest professional employee organization, is committed to advancing the cause of public education. NEA's 3 million members work at every level of education—from pre-school to university graduate programs. NEA has affiliate organizations in every state and in more than 14,000 communities across the United States.