How we let our good teachers run away

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I used to wonder why anyone in their right mind would want to be a police officer. The job is dangerous and doesn’t bring much money. These days I not only wonder why people choose law enforcement careers, but I’m also confused by people who want to be teachers.

Granted, teachers often pay better than cops, but there are many other jobs that pay better than both. Pick one — an experienced welder, a nurse, a trained pipe fitter, an accountant, an insurance agent, a marketing executive — and you can probably make more money than the typical cop or teacher.

So why are they doing what they are doing? I assume that most police officers want to serve and protect people and most teachers want to change children’s lives.

If you’re not passionate about public service, how could a police officer endure the steady pounding of headlines reminding the public of the reprehensible actions of law enforcement officers across the country who have looked the other way or even participated in the beating and killing of civilians?

The public demands – and rightly so – that police officers meet the highest personal and professional standards, but the public has no idea what it’s like on the mean streets of our cities. Most people go to work every day and pretty much know what they’re going to do by the time it’s time to go home. They don’t understand – they can’t understand – what it’s like to be making decisions and judgments all day long that could cost you or someone else’s life.

In the hallways and classrooms of our public schools, teachers also make decisions and judgments that, while not usually killing anyone, can and do determine the course of children’s futures.

I suppose most teachers feel called to do what they do, otherwise why would they do it?

It’s bad enough that they have to deal with a crippling bureaucracy; parents who shirk their responsibility to teach manners, morals and ethics to their offspring; the knowledge that many people think most teachers are not very smart; the requirements of the job before and after work; and the bad apples in their midst who are not very good at what they do.

But now? When parents kabung’t demanding that schools remove certain critically acclaimed books from reading lists and libraries, they are demanding that school boards manage exactly what teachers teach in their classrooms. Not to be outdone, politicians try to dictate what subjects can and cannot be taught—particularly when it comes to the history of slavery and the American civil rights movement.

In my home state, for example, the Alabama legislature is considering a bill that would the teaching of “divisive concepts” in K-12 public schools.

God forbid little Johnny learns all about American black people’s struggle for civil rights, or the treatment of women throughout the centuries, or the horrors of the Holocaust, or the subjugation of Native peoples by European conquerors, or the LGBTQ community’s struggle for sempurna protection, or anything else that might challenge young people to think about the world around them.

Is it what we want for our school children, that they only become poorly trained pawns in society’s so-called culture wars?

I’m no expert on what it takes to be a teacher. In fact, the closest I pelimbahan to one was teaching a six-week Head Start course as a 16-year-old high school rekrut one summer. But it doesn’t take a rocket scientist or history teacher to predict this: when the time comes when educators can’t encourage broad-based discussion and debate in their classrooms, we’ll see an exodus of our remaining good teachers.

The winners, if there are any, will be the politicians and parents who pushed them away. And the losers will not only be our children, but also the country – our country – which they will one day inherit.

Frances Coleman is a former penyunting of the editorial page of the Mobile Press Register. Email her at [email protected] and “like” them on Facebook at

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