In case you missed it, the president recently said, "Against every law of society and nature, our children are taught in school to hate their own country and to believe that the men and women who built it were not heroes but that were villains." Yes, it was the president of the United States that declared that our teachers have been teaching our children and grandchildren to hate the United States.
This column originated in 1992. It was intended to be a column about education and not about religion or about my dogs Simon and Simone or about hunting and fishing, or about my hometown or humor. I have written about all of these and more at one time or another just as a change of pace. Most of all, this column was not intended to be a political commentary. Because the president made such a bold face lie about education for which this column was intended to be about, I am compelled to write about it.
We have never had a president who made such a harmful statement about our schools and the people who work in them. No doubt what he said was written by one of his speech writers. Our president has no knowledge of American history. He doesn’t even know where his father was born. On more than one occasion he likened himself to Abraham Lincoln. Yet, because he made the statement, he now owns it and it will be part of his history.
What this means is that former teachers like Tim Walz and Jill Biden plus current senators, who were also former teachers or professors, Kyrsten Sinema, James Lankford, Todd Young, Chuck Grassley, Jim Risch, John Kennedy, Ben Sasse, Brian Schatz, Jeanne Shaheen, Elizabeth Warren, Ron Wyden, Bob Casey, Jr., John Tester, Sherrod Brown, Tim Kaine, Patty Murray, Gary Peters and all of the teachers in Beltrami County and in the country have taught or are teaching students to hate the United States. He also said that when teachers teach about people like Jonas Salk, Jackie Robinson, Rosa Parks, the Mayo brothers, Eleanor Roosevelt, Sandra Day O’Connor, Thomas Edison and John Lewis, these are actually evil people and not heroes at all.
Those hateful words about our educational system, albeit it’s not perfect, should compel every educator in the United States not to vote for the president on November 3 as well as it should compel every American citizen to do the same. It’s unthinkable that he is telling the American public that our teachers, trained in our colleges and universities, are taught to tell their students to hate this country.
I am reminded of the lies Hitler was telling the German people. He spewed forth his filth about white Nordic people topping the racial hierarchy and Slavs, Blacks, and Arabs were lower, and Jews were believed to be an existential threat to the “Aryan Master race,” and should be exterminated. He repeated it so often the German people came to believe him and you know the rest of the story.
The statement the president made about our teachers cannot go unchallenged. That is an appalling insult to every teacher living or dead. To those who believe he made the remark in jest or he just misspoke, we have heard those excuses hundreds of times and they just don’t fly anymore. If he did, he should apologize to America’s teachers, which would include the former teachers in the Senate who are both republicans and democrats.
In a poem titled "Teachers" written by Clark Mollenhoff and read by President Ronald Reagan to Guy Doud of Brainerd when he became national teacher of the year in 1986, reminds us of who teachers are.
“Your patient work, your touch
Make you the gods of hope
Who fill their souls with dreams
To make those dreams come true.”
How sad it is that the president’s message to teachers is that they do not fill students’ souls with dreams but rather with hatred.
Teachers will have some reteaching to do this fall because there are adults who believe what the president said. Every teacher will need to be a history teacher and a teacher of ethics. Kids may have questions about who is a hero and who isn’t a hero. They may have questions about the freedom of speech and protesting. They may have questions about Columbus and the Confederacy.
In the same poem about teachers, Mollenhoff wrote:
“You are a hundred lives, a thousand lives.
Yours the pride of loving them
And the sorrow too.”
How many lives do teachers influence over the course of their career? 100, 1,000, 10,000? Yes, there is sorrow sometimes. Our best laid plans do not always result in the way we wish them to. Things happen that we just cannot plan for like COVID-19 and a president who tells lies about what teachers teach our children.
Let’s not forget that we are all products of our educational system which has resulted in the country we call the United States. We are not perfect. We continue to see flaws. But we are the United States because united we work together to fix our flaws, to right the wrong and and to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.
Riddle: How did the mouse pass his final test? (Answer: He squeaked by). Whenever lies are told we can’t let them squeak by. We have to right the wrong especially those that affect so many good people.
It’s true that all of our students can graduate from high school. Let’s work together to make it happen.
John R. Eggers of Bemidji is a former university professor and area principal. He also is a writer and public speaker.