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Has anyone not heard this expression? It's a sentiment that anyone who wants to understand the problems facing American education must confront. While politicians proclaim their desire to remedy what ails our educational system, they uniformly refuse to confront one of the cornerstones of its deterioration, the dogged sentiment against intellectual achievement and prowess in this nation. It is neither unpopular nor unprofitable in this country to ridicule intelligence. We have a President who has spent eight years pandering to the proponents of this sentiment. And, in my eyes, this is one of his greatest crimes. It is incomprehensible to me that we can continue to allow this anti intellectual bias to flourish and stll expect our educational system to prosper. In other words, addressing the educational reforms necessary to rehabilitate our system will accomplish little, if we cannot restore the respect that a good education should command.

One of the great advantages of early childhood education is that it deals with the child before he or she has learned to disrespect education, or before the child, in effect, learns how not to learn. Currently it may be the most powerful weapon in our arsenal when we confront the corrosive effect that the constant ridicule of educational achievement has on our students. And it is encouraging to see how fully Obama seems to be engaged in the pursuit of better and more comprehensive early childhood education. I think this is the first real hint that we have a chance to really accomplish some good for the next generation in this field during the upcoming administration.

As much, if not more than anywhere else, Obama must be the anti-Bush in the area of education. I've always believed that Bush has, in many cases, mangled the languge and mispronounced words deliberately, as a sign to his base that he has no respect for the niceties and formalities of education, only the practicalities. This group proclaims education only has value if it can make you more money or help you to survive. And they delight in ridiculing anyone who has used their education to simply gain knowledge or in furtherence of an intellectual pursuit. If Obama, with his own record of educational achievement, can use the presidency to explain the value of education, beyond that a college graduate makes more than a high school graduate makes more than a dropout, he will have achieved a great deal.

On its face, the title of this diary, of course, refers more to the disrespect of the profession of educator than to the direspect of education itself. But the two are really inseparable, not only because you cannot have good education without good educators, but because educators are the embodiment of education. If their profession does not deserve respect, why should the subject of that profession deserve respect? You cannot ridicule teachers and expect your children to derive the full benefits of their education. Education is a participatory endeavor, and if the students don't participate, they won't benefit. And this is the point, I do not want to moan and groan about the treatment of teachers by society, as unfortunate as I feel that treatment may be, I want to emphasize that we will not gain the benefits from our educational system that we should, if we do not respect both the educators and the education they provide. And this is a part of our educational problem that does not require enormous funds to repair, it requires leadership. So I hope this is an area where President Obama takes full advantage of the bully pulpit to attempt to mitigate the damage done by the current administration. It will not be an insignificant accomplishment, if at the end of an Obama administration, the nation once again understands and appreciates the value of an education and those who provide it.

Originally posted to niaman on Thu Jan 01, 2009 at 08:06 PM PST.

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