Why I'll Always be #ProudOfPublic

Since the confirmation of Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education on Tuesday, students, teachers, parents and all of those in support of public schools have been posting on social media with the hashtag #ProudOfPublic to show support for their local public school systems. This trend involves listing their public schools from elementary to high school and what college they ultimately ended up attending to show public schools ultimately work.

In case you need a refresher, Betsy DeVos is a pro-charter, big-time Republican campaign-donor billionaire with no experience who thinks public school teachers are overpaid and all schools should be equipped with guns in case a stray grizzly bear comes waltzing in. Yeah... Anyway.

My entire life was shaped by the lessons I learned in public school, both inside the classroom and outside. There was never a time in my life where I was unsure about what school I was going to attend (except for senior year — at that point I had NO idea where I was going to be the next year), and there was never a time in my life where I didn’t have access to free, reliable and trustworthy education. It was always a given that every weekday, from 7 a.m. - 3 p.m., I was in school learning about Shakespeare and trigonometry and the like.

This was my parents’ reality, my grandparents’ reality and what I expect to be my child’s reality. Public schooling is a right that everyone has access to, and Betsy DeVos threatens the very sanctity of having free access to education. So, Mrs. DeVos, this is for you — this is why I will always be #ProudOfPublic.

I was lucky enough to grow up in an upper-middle-class area of Virginia, where our schools were renowned and there was a magnet school program in my local high school. Though I did not like every teacher I came across in my public-school career, I was fundamentally and soundly shaped by the experiences public school afforded me. I learned not only to read, write and that mitochondria are the powerhouse of the cell; but how to work hard, learn from my mistakes and that anything is accessible if I’m willing to work for it. This whole thing may sound like one of those cheesy posters hanging up in a classroom, but it’s true. I will always be grateful for my public-school experiences and that, no matter what tough time my family was going through; I knew I was going to wake up every day, go to school and work towards my future.

Public school didn’t just teach me some cliché lessons about hard work and good grades — the friends who went to public school with me, those who knew public school was their single ladder to success they would not have been afforded otherwise, taught me not to take a single thing for granted. It was the expectation in my house that I would go to 12 years of public school, graduate, go to college and get a big-girl job. My friends that viewed a high-school diploma as their key to success humbled me and made me and so many others realize that nothing is guaranteed. Some viewed their high school graduation as just another stepping stone to their futures, but for me, it was a victory. It was a win in my life that I celebrated, as did many of my other friends who now had their key to their future lives.

I experienced my fair share of bad grades, so-so teachers and boring classes — but that doesn’t mean public schools are a failure. Far from it — from these bad experiences, I learned how to celebrate a good grade and hard work, the value and importance of a good teacher and how life-changing a good class can be. I cannot imagine a life where I didn’t have access to public school, let alone school in general. I’m aware of my privilege when it comes to this and that not everyone was afforded the same excellent public-school experiences as I was. I recognize that, and recognize that for some, public school was their only way out and their only way to succeed. Did you ever consider that, Mrs. DeVos? That making schools for-profit crushes a good percentage of people’s abilities to get a high school diploma, something that is looked at as a necessity nowadays? I don’t think you did, considering no one in your family has ever had to take out a single federal loan to finance their higher education, and that your life has been padded with ease and no sign of struggles.

A good majority of my family members are educators, and I have seen the lengths they go through to ensure that their students receive the finest quality education they can provide. Buying their own supplies, staying hours after school to tutor their students, giving up sleep at night to grade papers and determine who needs help — and that is just part of the list. Public school teachers are the most hard-working, under-appreciated state employees — I’ve had teachers who arrived at school at 6 a.m. to meet with students and left later than 8 p.m. to chaperone clubs or study hall to ensure that all of their students were taking advantage of every opportunity they were provided. Public school teachers do not deserve the complete lack of respect that Mrs. DeVos has for them; they are shapers of the future and deserve to be treated as such. They are underpaid employees who sometimes have to work second jobs to make ends meet, yet every single one I have met wouldn’t change their profession for the world. They know that they’re changing lives and giving their students a future; which makes every cent of their own money spent on supplies and every sleepless night grading papers 100 percent worth it.

Betsy DeVos thinks public schools don’t work, that they’re a failing, outdated institution. I’m here to say they do work and they’re here to stay. Myself and the 91 percent of American people who attend or attended public schools in their lifetime are all here to say that. I would not be who I am today without the incredible assistance I received from everyone I came across in my public-school career.

I’m a proud product of public schools, one that worked her ass off to be where she is today. I am, and always will be, so very #ProudOfPublic. 

Photo Sources: cover photo, gif 1, 23