If a principal ridiculed a staff member before her peers, he would be placed on administrative leave pending an investigation and transferred back to the classroom—or he would have his contract revoked outright.
If a superintendent became intimately engaged with another senior staff member, they would both be placed on administrative leave and, eventually, terminated.
It seems, then, that the public holds educators to a higher standard than that to which it holds the president of the United States.
David Brooks (2017), referencing Spanish philosopher Javier Gomá Lanzón, says that “moral education happens by power of example. We publish the book of our lives every day through our actions, and through our conduct we teach one another what is worthy of admiration and what is worthy of disdain.” Boards of education have little tolerance for amoral behavior and even less tolerance for the public embarrassment of their school systems; public confidence in public schools is, after all, a precious commodity.
Yet even still, it is my contention that educators have been subjected to a limiting set of success criteria that needs to be expanded. Educators themselves need to step up and set up their own commitments to a set of internal accountability measures. Civility, order, and respect need to be privileged—even if such character traits aren’t ranked and quantified in teacher evaluations—for as Brooks (2017) reminds us: “Public figures are the primary teachers in this mutual education. Our leaders have the outsize influence in either weaving the moral order by their good example or ripping it to shreds by their bad example.”
Schools are melting pots, drawing together diverse ingredients to produce a well-balanced meal appealing to many distinct palates. As such, they should serve to highlight each and every contribution to the stew. Our challenge is to find our voices again as educators, to band together to find the common ground that has made public education an indispensable institution—and to create a public in spite of inequalities of resources, opportunities, and outcomes.