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OPINION | JOHN BRUMMETT: Teachers, here’s your essay

by John Brummett | May 11, 2023 at 3:04 a.m.

The state Education Department, now in service to the nationally obsessed political ambition of Gov. Sarah Sanders, is requiring this year that nominees for Teacher of the Year submit competitive essays extolling Sanders' law giving vouchers to parents to take their kids out of public schools and put them in private, religious or home schools.

For that matter, the law gives subsidies to parents formerly paying fully on their own for their kids in private or church schools.

The point seems to be that public schools are failing by teaching about race problems and maybe even mentioning gay people, so let's stomp the heathens flat.

What we're getting from Sanders is a political movement that abhors way-woke California, where I suspect some inappropriate left-wing indoctrination may be occurring, and punishes the decidedly un-woke Arkansas for the sins of California.

Because students at Stanford wouldn't let that conservative speak that time, Arkansas school teachers must snap-to if they want an award.

In service to Sarah, the state Education Department specifically requires this year that award-nominated teachers must relate in these essays how they intend to incorporate the so-called LEARNS Act in the classroom and in the "platform" they will adopt as a messaging theme for their award year.

It's unfortunate that some will pre-judge the new Teacher of the Year as merely the smarmiest gubernatorial sycophant. We should keep open minds to the possibility that the honoree is also an outstanding teacher. The local nomination would indicate excellent teaching, just as the state award would signal acceptable levels of Sarah devotion. Perhaps gymnastics teachers should apply.

The application form allows 750 words for this essay. That happens to be close to the number of words left in this usual column allocation. So, I thought I'd offer in the remaining space a cut-and-paste essay for applicant use. No one should worry about getting caught for plagiarism because no one in state government reads or cares about this column.

Consider, then, these words, and use them with my permission--to, in fact, my utter delight:

"I plan to relate the LEARNS Act to future classrooms by telling students whose parents haven't moved them to a private, religious or home school that they're the lucky ones. They're getting a smaller class permitting a teacher of the year to give them more individual attention.

"I plan to challenge my students to respond to me as the teacher of the year by being, as a group, students of the year. If they work hard and show academic success, I'll give out plaques at the end of the year that I'd pay for myself. I've always had to pay for such things myself. Now my school will be even more budget-constrained owing to all the money going with children relocated to places where they won't be taught by any teacher of the year, or even necessarily a certified one.

"I plan to respond responsibly to the LEARNS Act's ban on indoctrination of children in my charge by directing the kids on the first day of school to tell their parents we would learn in class about race problems in America. If any parents had a problem with that, they could come see me or send me an email to arrange to excuse their children to a private study hall during these times while the other students get real educations.

"I will be positive about the LEARNS Act by telling the kids to congratulate the first-year teachers on the faculty for the big raise in starting salary. I probably will choose not to mention that I, a teacher of the year, got only $2,000 and lost the assurances of the career-ladder salary schedule rewarding experience and professional development.

"I will urge the kids to study hard and get all the learning they can as quickly as they can because the LEARNS Act's repeal of fair-dismissal procedures means that I could get fired at any time, subject now only to a hearing before the school board.

"I will urge these kids to keep on keeping on in pursuit of being students of the year even if suddenly I am no longer their teacher.

"Be assured that, if I am not chosen for the Teacher of the Year recognition, I will work just as hard in the way outlined above.

"While I reject the idea that I should be made to extol a policy I disagree with in order to be recognized for my work, just as the National Teacher of the Year should not be made to write hosannas to forgiveness of student debt, I accept the consequence of failing to adhere closely to the application requirements.

"Formally honored or not, I will remain among legions of proud professional educators who strive to be teachers of the year every year for whatever students the politicians choose to place in our trust."

John Brummett, whose column appears regularly in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, is a member of the Arkansas Writers' Hall of Fame. Email him at Read his @johnbrummett Twitter feed.

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