Michelle Rhee recently resigned as the head of the Washington school district after closing 23 schools and firing a fairly large number of principals and central staff. One of her statements echoed the familiar concept that what is best for the child has a higher priority than what is best for adults, which in this case was some administrators, teachers, and office professionals. It is first important to note that her educational experience, although impressive, is not vast and her personal education is significant, but also not vast. Her selection then and continued focus on “what is best for the child” deserves some merit, but there is a significant flaw in this approach.
We are teaching children with the intention of producing responsible adults. When we focus on what is best for the child and forget what is also best for adults, we diminish our ability to produce children that respect adults because we are proving that we don’t respect them when they are administrators, teachers, or even office workers in the educational environment.
Children must see adults respect other adults and simply firing administrators, teachers, and office staff without due process and sufficient guidance, training, and time to improve is a complete failure to respect these individuals. Such practices greatly diminish the child’s reason to become an adult. In effect we are saying “Stay a child because we will always do what is best for you so there is definitely no reason to become an adult.” We also teach children that “due process” means nothing.
While it may be true that many administrators, teachers, and office workers could use more guidance and training – this is not the approach that makes that happen. Many of these individuals want to do better for the children they serve. Many have vast training and experience and do not deserve being treated poorly.
What should happen is that those performing poorly should and must receive the opportunity to correct problems, but they must also receive the support needed to make that happen. If we suddenly make the teaching profession into a potential for professional failure, then we could remove so many teachers and administrators from the classroom that the entire system falls deeper into chaos. It would be far better to retrain and support dedicated educational professionals at all levels.
It is also not uncommon for new people in the field of education to underestimate why we have unions. It is because of power hungry people that lack the experience of situation where power has corrupted those that have the power. Children deserve to be treated as children and then as young adults and finally as adults.
What is best for the child may not be what is best for the child that is becoming an adult. How we treat adults around our children is key to respect for everyone concerned.