In reflecting back on 2014, I feel great gratitude for my experiences and lessons learned. Those experiences come in the form of people I have met and the lessons gained by having crossed their path. First and foremost are those who I have met since March when I started substitute teaching in the Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS) system.
Within the MPS system there are so many passionate and dedicated individuals who work and volunteer everyday to not just teach and administrate, but who try to heal the many broken lives of students coming from broken urban neighborhoods. Broken lives that make it very difficult for those who want to learn and those who want to teach.
In teaching, I have gained so much inspiration from administrators and other staff who manage the schools, teachers who work in the classroom, and, most importantly, the students. Why do I say “most importantly, the students?” It is because their success in the classroom is absolutely the key to our success as a country, the true assets of our nation or any nation for that matter!
As a substitute, I have gained a wide range of insights through my assignments at over a dozen different schools. Some of those being within the most economically disadvantaged neighborhoods in the city of Milwaukee, where our policies and politics (primarily at the state and federal levels) have consigned them for the last 40 plus years.
Prior to coming into teaching I had spent over 35 years in the private sector, mostly in the sales and marketing of computer and software systems that automate business, information, supply chain, and logistics operations. The primary component involved in the return on investment for those systems is the elimination of human labor. That component became an increasing difficult ethical dilemma for me to cope.
My exit from the private sector labor market in 2012 prompted some deep soul-searching and knowledge acquisition that took me down an interesting eye-opening, path of awakening. That path culminated in my reemergence into the public sector labor market as a substitute teacher. While substitute teaching in an economically challenged urban area can be difficult for sure, I have never felt my life more meaningful with the exception of marrying my beautiful wife of 34 years and the birth of my two wonderful sons.
My path to awakening has been energized on many fronts not the least of which is the effects of economics on education. Public education is under a devastating attack from fictional narratives authored by neoclassically trained, orthodox economists to inform ruthlessly, sociopathic neoliberal political interests who prey on our country’s celebrity-obsessed, pop culture-focused citizens. A toxic narrative that strives to teach that healthy, educated citizens free from the financial insecurity of growing old or becoming disabled are not the most important assets of our country. Instead, that narrative teaches us that abstract numbers, labeled as US Dollars, are THE most important assets and ignores the human beings who underlie and, in many cases, suffer from those numbers. It teaches us that the US government is some kind of foreign, hostile agent, rather than being formed by people who we elect to represent us.
My hope in the coming new year (and hopefully years to follow) is not only to educate students but also to educate those who may wander by to read this blog. To make them aware of the vital importance of public education and the forces that seek to undermine it and us as a country.