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Alternative facts have no place in public education

hainesMy generation witnessed President John F. Kennedy’s call to service in 1960.

“Ask not what your country can do for you; ask, rather, what you can do for your country.” It has been suggested that JFK spoiled inauguration speeches for all future presidents with the delivery of that one line.

The seed was sown, though, and many Americans found paths to enter lives devoted to public service and improving the general welfare as mandated in the Preamble of the Constitution.

That generation is retiring now, and a new president apparently perceives spending on public schools as wasteful.

To enumerate every act of kindness and generosity paid forward to other people’s children in a 30 year career would require more space.

Still, on average, teachers – arguably the least-compensated credentialed professionals in the country – typically spend between $500 - $900 each year on classroom supplies to keep the classroom running. Whether it is a question of classroom decorations, boxes of pens and pencils, cases of photocopy paper or running to the office store when the copier breaks down on exam day, the tally always at least doubles the potential tax write-off in the spring.

An internet meme once quipped that teachers are the only employees that steal stuff from home to use at work. Supplies and sundries, however, are the small stuff. Many teachers go far beyond the delivery of instruction in service to our common humanity.

One former colleague made a habit of packing two lunches when she noticed a student did not have lunch money or a packed lunch. A special place in heaven is reserved for a coworker, some years ago, that adopted a newcomer to this country following a family tragedy and put her through college. My “gold medal” goes to a colleague who learned that her student was under threat of deportation by Immigration and Naturalization Service, and used a three-day weekend to transport that promising student across the border into Canada where that young woman thrived as a college student and future citizen.

Virtually all teachers burn the proverbial midnight oil by the barrel while correcting papers and planning lessons. Too many have worn foul weather gear in their classrooms. Others still work in century-old edifices where rewiring for modern information technology would create a fire hazard.

These altruists that dedicate their lives to the cultivation of lifelong learners fail to recognize the nation described in the dystopian vision of President Donald Trump’s inaugural address. We are aghast and agape at his characterization of “an education system flush with cash, but which leaves our young and beautiful students deprived of all knowledge.”

That is just, as the president likes to bellow, “wrong!”

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