Dan Rather: Dear Teachers
On Steady, Dan Rather and Elliot Kirschner posted a letter directed to teachers, telling them they “nurture the flames of democracy.
How do teachers do that? Rather and Kirchner focus on how teachers show a willingness to “confront America’s complicated history.” Nowadays, they fear, inclusion “is treated as a weakness” even as it is fundamental to our form of democracy.
If the US has a claim to distinction on the world stage, it comes from our pluralism and a system of government that calls for us to respect every group and not simply allow them to be shouted down and silenced by any one group. That provides not just diversity of the population, but of the ideas we embrace as a culture.
Rather sees that mission as one to be celebrated. As he writes in the piece:
I would like to use whatever platform I have to shine a spotlight of deep respect on these invaluable public servants. And I am pleased that if you search for quotes from me online, one of the most popular is this:
“The dream begins with a teacher who believes in you, who tugs and pushes and leads you to the next plateau, sometimes poking you with a sharp stick called ‘truth.’”
I believe every word of it. These aren’t empty sentiments. They come from my lived history. A while back here on Steady, I shared my own experiences as a student of public schools, including an emotional return to my elementary school in Houston.
For all the challenges our schools face, right now millions of children are learning about the world and themselves thanks to dedicated teachers. Teachers are going the extra mile, reaching out to kids in need, tweaking lesson plans to include new insights, passing their own inspirations to the young people before them.
The work is not easy — far from it. And it can be an incredible grind, especially when it seems that society doesn’t value it or is even outright hostile to teachers. With this as a backdrop, it is understandable that many are choosing to leave the profession. This is not a reflection on them, but rather on the nation that is allowing it to happen.
Teachers, you are our inspiration and our hope. You nurture the flames of our democracy. You literally save lives. You work miracles every day. Your resourcefulness, resilience, and creativity are boundless. We saw it during the heart of the pandemic. And we see it now. It is all the more reason you should not be taken for granted.