My Turn: Renard Cuthbertson: Response to “Fixing Education” from May 19

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, June 4, 2024

By Renard Cuthbertson

I do not agree with the stance of this particular column, “My Turn: Fixing education in the U.S.” in the local newspaper, Salisbury Post, Sunday edition, dated May 19, 2024, takes. In this op-ed, Mr. Arey states that while listening to NPR, he has encountered the latest “conundrum of teachers’ (sp) salaries” being in the forefront of needing more funding. He sees this as a problem. He lists the online programs he feels are important (reading, writing, language, history, art, math, science, coding and other subjects of importance). 

While I do agree with Mr. Arey that technology does have its place in education, the fact that he solely bases his opinion on the fact that teacher’s salaries are in question and referring to them in his op-ed as merely facilitators is offensive. Personally, I know many teachers who do not merely rely on technology to teach their students. For many students, an engaged, hands-on approach is necessary and is employed on a daily basis.

As merely facilitators, this would take the professional approach away and eliminate the need for highly trained, highly qualified teachers providing equitable and highly structured instruction that is necessary to the growth of our nation’s youth population. Professionally, I have been employed in the school system as well as other community organizations that benefit the students who attend these schools; therefore, I have a vested interest in the students I have been privileged to serve. None of them was solely educated by relying only on technology.

While he is correct in stating that “slower” students at times do feel embarrassed by the fact that other students are moving at a faster pace than they are, in today’s world, with differentiated instruction in place, students are given a level playing field. The fact that there are tutors and other educational outlets and resources available to students also helps to eliminate the stigma of being considered a “slow” student.

I also disagree with his stance on putting neighborhood schools within walking distance of all students. While in a perfect world, this could solve many problems, however, in this time and space it is not feasible. There are many options that parents can be given such as homeschooling, private school, early college and public school. His stance on “knowing everyone or will in just a few short weeks. Then the parents of these children learn who the parents are of their children’s classmates” could be solved by more parent involvement in the current school in which a student is enrolled.

Parents are given many opportunities to attend school events, although sometimes these are not scheduled at times they could attend. I do believe when that occurs, parents should be offered the chance to attend at another time to review what was presented at the time they could not attend. Parent-Teacher Association/Organizations (PTA/PTO) are prevalent in schools as well as “booster clubs,” which enable parent and community involvement. I believe that instead of just taking facts from NPR, Mr. Arey would do well to become involved in local schools in his community in order to get a first-hand view of what actually happens in a classroom.

Mr. Arey goes on to say that he believes that there should be a work-place incentive that allows parents to bring their children to work with them while they are learning and being facilitated by an adult or other teenager. He also mentions that older students mentoring younger students would be ideal as a solution, as well as providing individual technology. I believe he negates his entire argument that all teachers are doing is relying solely on technology in this statement. In the Rowan-Salisbury School System, already a 1:1 Apple device community, each student is provided with their own iPad or laptop. While these are used as learning tools, they are not the only way students are taught or the only pathway that students employ to learn. Each individual has their own learning style. Had Mr. Arey spent any time or mentioned that he had personally spent any time in a school setting, he would have observed this to be true.

While Mr. Arey gave some insight into his opinion of the NPR newscast that he listened to regarding teacher salaries, it is my belief that teachers are invaluable and irreplaceable. No amount of technology usage, older student to younger student mentorship or tutoring by a facilitator can ever replace the highly qualified teacher providing equitable and highly engaging instruction, differentiated by individual learning styles that can be enhanced by the use of different modalities of delivering instruction, including technology usage. I believe Mr. Arey should visit a local school in order to gain a better vision of what true education led by a teacher looks like and not solely rely only on NPR.

Renard Cuthbertson lives in Cleveland.