Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Living Conservative in a Liberal World (Part 1): Who I Am

NOTE: I typed this a while ago. I started this document on my iPad to test out the Pages word processor, and now I am finally posting it. I will add more sections I had typed on the iPad over the next few days and continue this beyond what I have already typed.

I am a conservative. There, I said it. Of course, that is only the first part of this conversation. I am a conservative, but to many of my liberal colleagues and friends, the question is: "why?"

I am a conservative because I know what it is to be poor. My parents divorced when I was a baby. I was raised for the first twelve years of my life in a public housing project called Berryland, on the ninth side of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. My mom was on welfare ... we were on welfare. Mom didn't drive, so we took the bus everywhere. Mom would shop at the grocery store and pay the bill with food stamps. As soon as I was in school, the welfare office required my mom to find work. We eventually left the projects and moved on to apartments, duplexes, but never a house. After all, a house is not a home, as the song says.

I was the last of five children, but I was the first to go to college. But, I get ahead of myself. I finished high school, and afterwards did a tour in the Navy. While in the Navy, I learned about duty, honor and service, three ideas that would come to shape my psyche.

I had gone to church and youth group during my teen years, and thought that the way that the church and youth leaders reached out to others was cool, and after My enlistment, I decided to go to a bible college to become one of those people, someone who reached out to others and helped them.

Sadly, events transpired at the church and bible college where I was studying that went against my personal code of honor that I had developed during my military service. This caused a crisis of faith as I wondered how the leaders of an institution that was supposed to be serving God could act in a way that seemed to me to be detrimental to their fellow man and disrespectful of the civil authority. These events led me to leave the bible college.

I spent several years wandering through life, wondering what my purpose was. A change in employment brought me into contact with several teachers. After a while, I finally understood. I was meant to teach. I reentered college, and this time set my mind on getting my education degree and teaching license. Five years later, I entered my first classroom.

I am a conservative. This is strange to many people, because I choose to teach in a public school. It was not a choice I made lightly. I had married, and become stepdad to two wonderful girls. I wanted to provide for them the best way in could, so public schools with their good pay and excellent benefits were a perfect fit. Plus, there was something more.

I understand the entrenched liberalism of the public education system. I understand that politically I am outnumbered by a margin of about nine to one. I know that I could have a less stressful life teaching "good" children who are not from broken and dysfunctional homes if I were to teach in a private or religious school. I know I would find more people whose ideologies are closer to my own, which might help to enhance my social life now that I am divorced. Sure I understand all of that. But I understand something even more important. These students who are in public schools need me. They need someone who is willing to stand for the principles of duty, honor and service, because the liberal public school teaches who understand these things are few and far between.

I am a conservative. I am a teacher. I am more important than anyone realizes.

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