I’ve never been very good at handling shame.
As a young child, I felt ashamed that my parents were divorced while all of my friend’s parents seemed happily married. My single mother did the best job she could raising the last six of her eight children, but we were poor and both our clothes and our house made that clear to everyone else in the neighborhood.
There are other instances in my life where shame has reared its ugliness upon my psyche, but I’m grappling with a new and surprising source of it at the moment: Eastern Michigan University.
You see, I’m a public school teacher now. I received both my bachelors and masters degrees from here. My wife is a professor here, my oldest daughter attends this college, and my youngest daughter is considering the same.
You might say that I’m all in on Eastern Michigan University.
I am true EMU.
But I’m ashamed of my alma mater’s enthusiastic support of the Education Achievement Authority, or should I say the administration’s support of it. The education faculty, as many of you know, has been passionate in their denunciation of this sad state of affairs.
Some people might think I’m being melodramatic, but if they do it’s likely because these folks don’t truly understand what the EAA is all about, which is nothing less than a stepping stone on a path to shredding public education as we know it.
It’s too complex to delineate in this space, but I’ve been a teacher for 22 years now and I’ve watched with alarm as political and corporate forces have aligned to, first, undermine and, now, dismantle the public school system.
Some are motivated by political ideology. Others are motivated by the lure of profits. But as Governor Snyder’s secret “skunk works” group showed so clearly, powerful interests are already working zealously, if surreptitiously, at the task.
If they succeed – and they will succeed unless people of good conscious rise to oppose them – our society will lose one of its foundational pillars. The public education system acts, not only as a means of opportunity for individuals and a supply of workers for businesses, but as a sort of cultural glue that binds our society together.
The day we privatize education will presage the eventual privatization of clean air and water, of roads and public transportation, of public safety and infrastructure, and so on. Do we really live in an age where the concept of the “public good” is considered anachronistic and naïve?
And none of that, important as it is, accounts for the damage this is doing to our education students, both in terms of student teaching opportunities and graduating from a college that is increasingly perceived as anti-public school.
Jim Stapleton, a member of EMU’s Board of Regents, recently defended the administration’s support of the EAA by saying they were rushed by the Snyder administration to enter into an agreement, as if that’s a legitimate excuse. Moreover, he suggested they hoped to get some political benefits in exchange for that support.
Talk about shameful.
Or maybe the greatest shame should be reserved for those of us in the EMU community who stand idly by while our college’s administration assists in the efforts to diminish the public school system. To ignore evil, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, is to become an accomplice to it.
Simply put, the Snyder appointees on the Board of Regents are not representing who we are or what we believe. I pledge to stop watching this situation unfold from afar and join the education faculty experts in opposition to this ideological and extreme policy.
Who in the EMU community will join me?