The Value of School

As we traipsed around the halls of Julia’s elementary school on Thursday, enjoying all the craziness of the “Beyond Words” literacy festival, I was more and more impressed by the quality of the materials that the students had prepared for the festival – from Julia’s poem poster and other written work to woodblock prints and other kinds of art. (The girls here are standing next to Julia’s poster. They’re supposed to be holding hands, but it looks like Vivi is the campaigning politician shaking the hand of a constituent.)

The students’ stuff was impressive on its own but also as proof of the really amazing teachers at Sibley – and, I’d say, at most public schools. Working with a hugely varied group of kids, the teachers manage to encourage, induce, coax, and compel the students to learn an immense amount – and in addition to acquiring the three Rs, to create a lot of really wonderful, beautiful work.

All of this goes to demonstrate one of the towering stupidities of American society: that the teachers who are literally responsible for shaping the next generations of Americans are grossly undervalued, both in absolute terms and in relative terms. I don’t think it’s excessively hyperbolic to say that any one of those elementary-school teachers does more good for America in a week than a Wall Street banker does in a year.

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