Writer’s Block: Governor Christie, Pay Attention!

By Corinne Wnek

Back in 1984, Wendy’s made a commercial depicting how a competitor’s hamburger buns were getting bigger while the actual hamburger inside was shrinking. A feisty old lady looked straight into the camera and with a confrontational tone, bellowed, “Where’s the beef?” That line caught on as quickly as a lit match to gasoline. I just wish Clara Peller were still around to ask that question of our governor because she’d have him shaking in his Florsheims.

I want to like Governor Christie, but he makes it hard. Unlike many of my educational colleagues, I do support some things he is trying to do for education in this state. And, yes, I am in the NJEA, the union he despises. I recognize that some things simply need to be fixed in this state. But I am still working hard on behalf of my students despite some pension changes that will hurt me down the road.

As a school counselor, I have the complicated responsibility of helping high school students earn an academic diploma as they navigate through some of the most hormonal years of their lives. And when you throw in drugs and alcohol, gangs, family issues, financial distress, pediatric cancer, learning disabilities, eating disorders, depression and other assorted forms of mental illness that students bring with them to school everyday, well, you get the picture. It’s been a long time since school was just about reading, writing and arithmetic.

While I would be the first to say educators can’t fix everything for our student’s lives, I would also be the first to say we damn well try our hardest in schools all over this state. Take cases of bullying, for instance, and its destructive side effects on a victimized student when this goes unaddressed by the school. The result? Teachers report poor academic work, social isolation, low self-esteem and increased absences from school. The bully has a host of issues, too, or he or she wouldn’t bully someone in the first place. Now there’s fodder for a therapist or even a governor.

A big part of what educators today do is teach kids how to respond to bullying when it occurs. Maintaining a ‘safe climate’ for everyone in our schools is such a high priority that schools must now have a bullying specialist on campus. In addition, there is mandatory training on bullying for all staff since Governor Christie signed the ‘Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights’ into law in September 2011. That’s right. Our governor is dead set against bullying.

While I applaud the governor for signing this bill, I am at a loss to understand how this leader with national aspirations could not practice what he preaches. If our students and teachers have to understand the effects of bullying, should we expect any less from the top guy who signed the anti-bullying legislation into law?

Governor Christie should see any teacher in the state for some help with his bullying issues. He might even learn a thing or two about conflict resolution. Because there’s no way that angrily telling another adult to “shut up”, as he did publicly last week to Warren Buffet, could ever be construed as presidential behavior or even good manners. Every middle school kid knows that.

Maybe the right question to ask the Governor is “What’s your beef?”


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