Monday, June 09, 2008

The professionals

I want to return to a point my wife made in the comments and the response it received. My wife said in part:

You dont know what we have put up with this year: the fear of our son being discriminated against because of his last name. The fact that I have been approached while I am volunteering my time at his school about my husband's articles and why he is so anti-education. Excuse me if I have lost faith in our educators and am saddened by the outright meanness by others who do not want to see the other side. (Your comment about "stout" certainly proves my point.)

John Foust responded:

Sorry, Doreen - Yes, if you stick your name and neck out, people are going to have an opinion about you. I've ticked-off as many as five districts simultaneously and many times have attracted a crowd carrying pitchforks and torches. Volunteering and being friendly and not holding grudges helps, of course, but there are plenty who will pre-judge you on your name, as there are those who will assume flaws in your mind or character due to the color of your skin or the brand of your shoe. Don't let it stop what you do. And think of the other Widgersons! {sic} They are probably thought guilty by association.

Let me elaborate a bit on my wife's frustrations. My son goes to Hadfield for four more days. After that, the school year ends and this fall he'll be attending a private school.

Hadfield, by all accounts, is as "central city" of a school as you can get in Waukesha. It has a diverse student population: white, latino, a few African Americans. When another school was threatened with closure last year, many of the parents feared their children would be sent to Hadfield which they considered a "ghetto school." Coming out of the Milwaukee Public School system, I have no idea what they are talking about, and they should seriously re-examine their bigotry.

Hadfield has a reading program and is probably nicer than the elementary school most of us attended as children.

My wife thinks its important to be involved in the schools, so she volunteers once a week. She's been approached twice in the last couple of months about my column, even though she is there to help the teacher.

The first time a teacher's aide told my wife flatly that her husband needed to spend more time in the classroom. My wife was stunned that someone would even say that to her when she is already volunteering at the school, otherwise she would have responded, "I don't think you want that."

The second time came from my son's teacher, who for no reason and with no warning asked my wife why her husband hates education so much.

We had been wavering on whether to put our son in private school before this. After all, there is a financial cost. I actually think there's a benefit to public schools, especially when they have a program of set standards and goals. And most of the other children in our neighborhood go to Hadfield.

But after those two incidents by supposed professionals, there is no way we can consider sending our child back to the public schools.

Do I think my child will be discriminated against? Probably not consciously. But given union behavior towards children before, and now towards members of my family, I'm not willing to take that chance.

I will not have my son subjected to any discrimination, conscious or otherwise, by union employees, nor will I allow my wife to be confronted when she is doing charitable work. They are not responsible for what I write, and if I cannot depend on educators' supposed professionalism then I will not subject my child to their whims.

When we were told that it was not necessary to schedule a teacher's conference this spring, I didn't think anything of it. But now I wonder, was it because of the progress my child made this school year, or because my wife volunteers, or was it because the teacher just doesn't want to deal with me? If these supposed professionals cannot contain themselves in a classroom setting, how can I expect them to behave during parent-teachers' conferences? How can I trust they are making the best decisions with my child's education in mind?

At the same time, I will not be silent on public school issues. As a member of the community, I not only have a right but a responsibility to speak out. I will not stop writing my column, and I will not stop writing my blog.

Furthermore, I find it absolutely outrageous someone would dare say, "Sorry, Doreen - Yes, if you stick your name and neck out, people are going to have an opinion about you." My child and my wife are not pawns that the teachers union can push, and they don't deserve to be treated any differently because of what I write.

Even if the teacher and her aide have a prejudiced opinion about anyone named Wigderson because I happen to write about education, these taxpayer-paid educators should be able to contain themselves and behave in a professional manner towards my wife who is volunteering her time and towards my child. And if they cannot, then they should no longer be teaching and leave the job to the professionals.