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“If you don’t like it, just leave.”
We have heard this sentiment a lot in the last decade or so for reasons ranging from politics to jobs to natural disasters. Recently this has been the online response to some teachers concerned about legislative moves being made in their “Red” states. Teachers in “Blue” states talk up the benefits of teaching in their specific district, or even the perks offered statewide. They tempt their out-of-state colleagues with stories of higher pay, better benefits, and more intellectual freedom.
While all of that sounds lovely, the attempt to lure teachers away from the states where they currently live and work ignores one essential fact: we don’t want to move.
We aren’t leaving our homes
Sometimes we get to pick where we live. Sometimes we don’t. Because I spent the first 18 years of my teaching career in private Christian schools, our family moved for my job four times as I was offered opportunities in other locations. However, one of our moves was the result of my husband being transferred to a new city. My teaching job search was entirely dependent on finding a position where we were told to live. Five years later, I was given the opportunity to take a position in southeast Texas, and we jumped at the opportunity for warm winters.
We loved Texas, but Texas doesn’t always love Midwestern outsiders. When our family made the decision to move back to Indiana from Texas, our familiarity with the state and the people made the change desirable. My husband could continue to work from home while I looked for a job that got us closer to family and friends. We moved back to the place that felt the most like “home,” and while I question some of the politics of those who live near us, geographically we are right where we want to be. It is also a place and culture I know, and I believed that I could make a much bigger difference in Indiana than I ever could have in Texas.
The vast majority of us live where we have found “home,” even though we may be surrounded by people we don’t agree with. That is part of being human. We shouldn’t have to leave family, friends, and places we love to find places where we can more comfortably do our jobs. We want to thrive where we are planted, not tear ourselves out by the roots in hopes of finding more politically agreeable soil.
No, I’m Not Moving to Teach in a Blue State Click To Tweet
Red/Blue is not static and can change more easily than we think
I’ve always been bothered by this concept of Red States/Blue States. It creates a false binary that ignores large portions of a state’s population. During the six years we lived in Texas, Beto O’Rourke lost to Ted Cruz by just 2.6% of the vote, Donald Trump won the majority of the votes by a slim margin, getting only 52.6% of the votes cast.His share dropped down to 52.1% in his race against Joe Biden. While the rest of the nation considers Texas more red than blue, the truth is, it is significantly more purple than even the state I’ve returned to, Indiana. California, for all of its liberal posturing, has significant politically conservative pockets, as do New York and Nevada.
Last month the nation was shocked when Kansas voters turned out for a midterm election primary to vote against changing the state’s constitution to make it easier for the state legislature to outlaw abortion. I saw it as a very real example of just how deceptive our binary thought process has become. When we see our political opponents as a monolith, we underestimate our neighbor’s actual desires and the positive possibilities for change. We also ignore the realities of a society where many move across state lines because of jobs, spouses, and old-fashioned wanderlust.
Insisting that the state that we live in be a perfect political utopia for our personal beliefs is not only impossible; it causes more harm than good. It prioritizes the ideal over the practical and shoves citizens into opposing corners. We must not allow the desire for perfection to be the enemy of good.
Every student in the United States deserves better
Students in every state of every political and religious persuasion deserve a quality education, and I believe in fighting for their right to have it. We are teachers, after all, and we believe in the power of education. To say that good teachers should just leave states that appear to devalue education leaves millions of children without knowledgeable educators who can help them become their best selves.
As someone who has moved across state lines a few times, I understand just how important consistency across the country is for our students. Our students have less freedom to leave their state and seek better educational opportunities than we do to look for jobs in different states. When they are forced to cross state lines because of their family situations, they and their parents should be assured that they will not be behind because of the educational disparities from state to state.
We are only as strong as our weakest state
Despite current political trends, we are not just a collection of states. We are citizens of both states and a country, and our country depends on 50 healthy states to keep us strong. We are too interconnected to believe otherwise. The economic uncertainties in another state can impact our own communities when people leave to find something better, causing unexpected strains on our own state economies. The voting decisions of other states can have very real consequences for all Americans, as we have seen repeatedly in the last decade. We need students in neighboring states to be getting similar educational opportunities because they are going to grow up to be the citizens of tomorrow.
We are also a mobile society with constantly changing communities. We don’t always get a choice in where we move to, and we need to be assured that our students will not find themselves behind or way ahead of their peers. Industries need to be assured that they will be able to find knowledgeable workers in every state where they want to do business. And teachers who move with their spouses need to be assured that they will be able to find quality jobs in education where they are valued and treated as the professionals that they are.
“Just move” is an inadvertently flippant and thoughtless response to educators who really just want to improve their work environment and the education that their students and children receive. We believe that the fight for something better is worth staying for. We know our communities. We know and better understand the concerns that drive local extremism than people who live several states away. We love and care for our neighbors and friends and family with whom we disagree and we desperately desire a common ground so all of our children can be better educated. We’re not ready to give up, but those of us in “red” states could use the support of our “blue” state peers to make sure that this happens.
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