These Are People, Not Ideas

Every person employed in public education is a civil representative of the public. It’s our job to serve the public. As a teacher, I might not agree with a parent’s decisions, but it is my duty to love that family and to provide the best possible education I can for them. So, when a public servant makes pejorative (even hateful) statements about a group of the population, that person is failing to fulfill the bare basic job of a public servant.

It’s a big deal. 

I’ve seen it in the schools and I’ve seen it on both sides. I heard a teacher say, “Another parent e-mail? I shouldn’t have to listen to those crazy conservative Bible thumpers.” I heard another teacher say, “I don’t care if it’s a kid’s parent, I’m not okay with doing parent-teacher conferences with gay parents.” Most of the time, it’s more thinly veiled. Statements like “these kids” and “those kinds of parents.” Other times, it resorts to outright name-calling.

This isn’t okay.

Often, this is justified as having the permission to believe something politically. We have permission to engage in political discourse. I want to see teachers disagree on core political issues and advocate for or against policies. However, ad hominem attacks aren’t merely political discourse. They’re attacks on people. Real people. It’s not about ideas. It’s about treating people with respect and dignity.

Whether it’s spoken in a staff lounge or through the veil of online anonymity, when a public servant uses hateful speech to attack the students I love, I’m not going to sit quietly and let it go.


John Spencer

John Spencer

Phoenix, Arizona

In my sophomore year of college, I began tutoring a fifth-grader in a Title One, inner city Phoenix school. What began as a weekly endeavor of teaching fractions and editing essays grew into an awareness of the power of education to transform lives. My involvement in a non-profit propelled a passion for learning as an act of empowerment.

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