As I listen to accounts of the teachers who lost their lives protecting their students from the gunman at Sandy Hook Elementary, I think again of the rampant teacher-bashing of the past two years in Wisconsin.
Though the recent school shootings in Connecticut obviously demand rethinking of our positions on gun control on a national level, in the wake of Newtown we face local challenges as well. In our own back yard, we must work to restore respect for our teachers, first responders, and other public servants.
In our state, we have seen negative attitudes especially toward teachers cynically exploited by legislators for their own strategic and economic gain. We have seen them and other public employees wrongly blamed for our state’s financial problems, and unfortunately many Wisconsinites have bought into this scapegoating.
Unappreciated as never before, many teachers feel discouraged. Some have left Wisconsin or their profession altogether. Bright young instructors must be thinking twice whether to look for teaching jobs in a state where they have been so vocally disparaged.
The six teachers and school staff killed in the Newtown massacre were genuine heroes. Though 20 children died, it appears that many more survived the horrific attack because of these brave womens’ actions.
The next time we hear someone irritably complain about teachers’ pay and benefits, let’s take a moment to remember the love and courage of the educators at Newtown who, as much as any soldier, gave their “last full measure of devotion.”
Thomas R. Smith
River Falls, WI