Both Sides Now?

Perhaps you can recall the Joni Mitchell song where she looked at clouds, life, and love from both sides, and after experiencing both sides of the issue, comes to the conclusion that she really doesn’t know clouds, life and love at all.

That’s because the premise of the song is flawed; there are not two sides to every issue.  There are always at least three, and usually more.

As the last weekend of August became history a couple of years ago, it was interesting to hear the conversations happening at both ends of a picnic pavilion.  The first was from a teacher who was dealing with young children in a particular class, all of whom have special needs, and who receive an extra class period of time per week for additional assistance in their studies.  My first thought was how nice this additional accommodation was, but then heard the class had 15 students, all with Individual Education Plans, and the class period was 30 minutes in length.  Then I thought, “How can this be effective?”  The teacher can basically give each student an average of 2 minutes of time…and that’s if everyone is already in the room when the class begins, and if no one needs to be excused.

At the other end I heard folks talking about how the school needs to do something to improve “things.”  Most of these folks were older, retired, and did not have children in school, but hear about what’s been going on in the school district via the media, some by attending school board meetings.

Then there are those other issues that aren’t represented here, such as parents who know there are procedures to follow regarding the safety of the children, yet want to get out of the car line and follow the child into the school because they forgot to tell them something, and become enraged when they’re asked to go register at the office.  Then there’s the battle of the budget – public school districts get caught in the middle of following the mandates of government authorities on one side while they get fewer and fewer dollars from them, and, on the other side, local government officials promise to cut taxes because teachers and school administrators, in their opinion, get paid too much.

Then we see this:

The interesting conclusion of the article is that teachers should be paid more, but nothing is offered regarding how that such a lofty goal would be funded.  The reality is that with budget cuts, additional regulations, advanced certifications, criminal record background checks, standards-based testing, technological advancements, special needs awareness, and all the other expectations placed upon teachers today, it makes sense that teachers seem to be a disappearing breed.  Just look at all those experienced teachers that jump at the chance to take advantage of an early retirement package.

So in the spirit of “both sides,” here are two articles for consideration:

The National Education Association has a novel idea as to how to keep teachers engaged – treat them like professionals (

“The Altantic” published an article which imagines what would happen if this nation’s education system was all public or all private (  Interestingly, nothing is mentioned about additional sides, like special education, IEPs, nor the influence/impact of cultures and customs of other nations.

Perhaps education is more like the diamond that many think it is – multi-faceted, which brightly gleams when polished.  And what is a diamond?  A piece of carbon that was put under intensely incredible pressure, was cut at precisely the right angles, and then polished with abrasives to bring out its inherent beauty.