I hate politics.

Okay, that’s not true – I hate being involved in politics. Especially when it comes to my vocation.

Because my real name has been linked to this blog and my position and district can be further connected to me, I’ll avoid details. Let’s just say that the Illinois state budget crisis, which disproportionately affects education, is hitting our district hard, and – worse yet – it comes at a time when a high percentage of the area schools are struggling to meet AYP. So we have to try and do something to show that we’re making changes to improve scores…with less than we’ve had in previous years. Forced to do more with less: the unfortunate truth about modern education.

Since I’m on our school’s curriculum committee, I got to sit through a long meeting full of discussion of possible changes, and it was exhausting. Perhaps no less exhausting was a phrase that I kept hearing from one individual: “What’s best for kids.” In fact, it was spoken so predominantly that it felt more like a mantra than a substantive message.

And that’s what I’m beginning to grow cynical about: the politics of the message. When we distill our missions down to slogans, they become cheap implements, ready to raise high as we rally the troops or to hammer hard when we meet opposition – even principled opposition – to our own pet projects. You think there will be difficulties in making this work? Well, it’s worth it because it’s what’s best for kids, and we would know.

Maybe that’s another area where I’m skeptical – on what grounds can we know that we’re doing “what’s best for kids”? Because we’re “educated individuals”? Because someone wrote a Ph.D dissertation on the subject? Because this was “what’s best” for some other group of kids?

I just don’t know. Ultimately, we have to decide something, and in a less than ideal world, we have costs and benefits to weigh.

Perhaps – and what do I know, I’m merely a novice at this education game – we should stop dealing in idealistic slogans about “what’s best” and merely focus on doing right by our kids however we can. We may not always be able to give kids “the best,” but we should be able to give them our best, and I don’t think anyone can fault us for that.

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