How Did Conservative White Educators Become the Enemy of Education?

Dec 19, 2016 12:00:00 AM

by Terry Jones

“White privilege,” “White supremacy,” “deplorable,” and “social justice, not White justice” are phrases that have reached a crescendo in current political, social and educational conversations. Each time I hear or read the phrases, I wonder how I, a politically conservative White professional educator, have suddenly become the “enemy” and how America is seemingly more divided than united. Those who know me for my passionate belief of equality in education and my obsession for teaching the love of mathematics to academically underperforming middle school students will often quip, “not you, but those others” in a conciliatory tone that is disingenuous at best. In truth, I am the typical conservative educator, colorblind and often railing against an educational system that can truly be excellent by all standards, but is often entangled in bureaucracy rather than the best interest of students. Like other educators, [pullquote position="right"]I enter the classroom each day determined with a “whatever it takes” attitude[/pullquote] to have all of our students succeed and an “I am here to serve” stance with parents and guardians. In short, I serve the same goals as other professional educators, but at times, this is not evident. For example, a recent article written by a peer equated the curricular deficit of achievements by non-White citizens as institutional White supremacy and the author included two quotes by Republican representatives as evidence. I am dismayed that these two despicable quotes were used to buttress the argument when those on opposite side of the political spectrum have also uttered contemptible words. Conversely, I celebrate our differences as educators because this is what truly makes us a unique profession—because no matter our differences, each of us share the same stories of struggles and successes which, to paraphrase Shakespeare’s Henry V, makes us a band of brothers and sisters, not enemies and antagonists. Further, as professional educators, I steadfastly implore all of us to rise above incorrect stereotypes and reactions based upon skin color, political differences, or the words of a few and continue our quest of educational best practices despite any political or social environment. I know that this is not easy. However, elevating our profession to similar structures of Finland, Singapore, and Japan will never happen if we allow false stereotypes of political differences and skin color to interfere with educating all students with every ounce of energy, knowledge and compassion that we have. As educators, our struggle should not be against each other, but focus on professionalizing the teaching profession to ensure that every student in our school system is equitably held to the same rigorous standards. A passionate argument over constructivist strategies or improving state standards will serve everyone much better than devolving to pejorative terms that are not wholly truthful when viewing inadequacies in our educational system. I am a proud conservative educator and I welcome every reader to my classroom, and I would enjoy visiting yours as well. We may never agree politically, but we will always stand arm-in-arm in doing what is best for our students. We are indeed a band of brothers and sisters and I am honored to continue this journey with you.

Terry Jones

Terry Jones is TeachStrong Ambassador, a post-resident Colorado Educator Voice Fellow, a teacher of the year, and is currently working on his dissertation for his doctorate program. He is very proud of his military service with the 101’st division and he was recently invited to the White House to speak with educational policy representatives concerning ideas about improving education for underperforming students. He currently teaches at Seminole County Public Schools in Florida.

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