PROFILES IN COURAGE
April 3, 2015 -- In 1957, then Senator and future President of the United States, John F. Kennedy, published a book that would earn a Pulitzer Prize that year entitled Profiles in Courage. It is a volume of short biographies of United States Senators who, risking their political futures, stood up to the powerful interests, party bosses, and constituents, and did what they believed to be the right thing, putting principle above politics, despite the impact that those actions and decisions might have on their careers.
The anti-testing movement has had more than its fair share of profiles in courage - Dr. Joseph Rella, Superintendent of Schools in the Comsewogue District, who could potentially lose his administrator’s license, and as a result his career, because of his outspoken opposition to the Common Core learning standards and the State testing regimen that has devastated public education in so many districts in this state; Jeanette Deutermann, a mom whose volunteerism in the Opt Out cause is a full time job that has no doubt deprived her of income and time with her children; and Beth Dimino a teacher in Port Jefferson Station who is refusing to administer the tests, despite the consequences – the likely loss of her teaching license. Whether you agree or disagree with their positions on the issue, it is difficult not to recognize their courage and civic virtue in sacrificing self for what they believe is the greater good.
One would be hard pressed to find similar profiles of courage in today’s New York State Legislature. That truth is evident from the debate that took place in the New York State Assembly this past Tuesday evening over the education reforms included in the state budget. It was a truly surreal experience for any viewer with the stomach to sit through the televised proceedings, as one after another, Assembly Democrats rose to speak, lambasting the reforms they deemed harmful to public education and children, only to sacrifice conscience, and conclude their statements, “I vote in the affirmative.” The same is true of Senate Republicans who made similar statements, but nonetheless followed their caucus leader’s marching orders.
If you’re not willing to stand up for children, then who are you willing to stand up for?
Yes, courage often means, as Kennedy points out, standing up to popular opinion and constituents when you believe they are wrong – but you're in agreement with your constituents on this issue!
With the imposition of the Common Core learning standards, recommended reading lists of literature, poetry, informational texts, and biographies abound for every grade level.
What we now need is a recommended reading list for our representatives in Albany - at the top of which ought to be Mr. Kennedy’s book, Profiles in Courage.
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