Dear Mr. Christie,
Before you were elected in 2009, you wrote an “Open Letter to the Teachers of New Jersey”, in which you promised you would be a “strong ally for teachers in the classroom.”
You concluded your letter by saying, “We may disagree on some issues, but I know we agree on what’s most important – delivering the best education we can for our kids.”
My, how your tune changed.
On Tuesday, June 25th, you accepted a “Citizen of the Year” award from the privately-funded Children’s Scholarship Fund of Philadelphia—and told parents that they “have to challenge a status quo that wants to maintain a system that serves their interests, often, ahead of the children’s interests.”
I’m sorry, to which “system” were you referring with this comment? Teachers? (The NJEA, which is made up of teachers?) The teachers who you said seek to deliver the best education they can to the children of New Jersey?
To me, this subtle, underhanded, yet very powerful attack on teachers and their union is the single most despicable, divisive, and damaging way in which you use your influence as governor. History has taught us that stereotypes are dangerous, that labeling is dangerous, and that lumping all people with a commonality (in this case, those who devote their lives to teaching our children) into one group is extraordinarily dangerous. Would you blindly claim that all lawyers are corrupt? That all politicians lie? I would hope not, because it is impossible to make such a claim and be correct.
I’d like to believe that you yourself understand the danger in attacking a group of people—especially one made up of people who dedicate their life’s work to the children of the state you govern; but the poison you spew is received by people who are inherently resentful of teachers and willing to attack them, and public education as an entity, without any grounds for their beliefs. In short, in an effort to promote your agenda, you are actively, purposefully, and aggressively promoting an unfounded stereotype that is damaging to children, to teachers, to communities, and to public education in general. Surely you understand the implication of your words—and to me, that is what makes your blanket statements even more shocking, abject, and detestable.
I am a proud teacher and a proud union member, and I can whole-heartedly and very honestly say that I have never seen evidence that my colleagues want to “maintain a system that serves their interests, often, ahead of the children’s interests.” Never. Not once. I work with caring, dedicated, and intelligent people, and I know our students’ lives are better because they are instructed by such individuals.
So I ask you: where is the evidence of your claim? To whom, specifically, and to what, specifically, are you referring when you claim that teachers put their own interests ahead of the interests of their children?
Even if you truly are committed to “delivering the best education we can for our kids,” your attacks on teachers and on public education are consistent and deliberate. I can assure you that what you are doing—particularly in promoting your “reform” agenda that seeks to turn our children into test-taking robots and advocating for the expansion of unproven charter schools and the use of taxpayer money for private institutions—will have a more divisive and damaging effect on children’s educations than you can possibly imagine or be expected to understand.
After all, you are not an educator. And short of your own privileged public school experience in one of the wealthiest districts in the state, you simply do not understand the dedication, love, passion, and work ethic that drive teachers to do their jobs—and do them exceptionally well. Further, you do not understand that to address the problems of public education, one must address the problems in society that can make it virtually impossible for some children to be successful in ANY school—even with the very best teachers.
Ignorant people who have no understanding of or respect for our educational system will always attack teachers, and that is sad. It is immeasurably sadder when someone with the power, education, and influence that you have takes advantage of such knowledge and falls to such a level of ignorance.
In 2009, you promised to be a “strong ally for teachers in the classroom” and to improve education for the students in New Jersey. Your subsequent words, though, are counterproductive to the goals you yourself set and damaging the climate educators work each day to create.
You still have time to support teachers in their tireless efforts to make our children better people—and in turn, make New Jersey an even better state.
If not, the climate you have created will continue to destroy the institution you claim you are trying to improve.