"The whole people must take upon themselves the education of the whole people and be willing to bear the expenses of it. There should not be a district of one mile square, without a school in it, not founded by a charitable individual, but maintained at the public expense of the people themselves." -- John Adams

"No money shall be drawn from the treasury, for the benefit of any religious or theological institution." -- Indiana Constitution Article 1, Section 6.

"If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilisation, it expects what never was and never will be...nor can they be safe with them without information. Where the press is free and every man able to read, all is safe." – Thomas Jefferson

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Teachers work with what we give them...

Andrew Heller wrote this last week...a great message in defense of teachers. As usual, though, the comments are where the 'action is.' I'm continually amazed at how it is so easy to blame "the system," "whining teachers," "total failure," and "public sector unions." I'm dismayed at the number of people who buy into the corporate reform line that 1) American schools are awful (read this) and 2) it's all the fault of teachers and their unions (read this and this).

In the meantime, read on and feel good about this entry.
We can't blame teachers for what ails us

We’ve badgered them, pink-slipped them, scolded them, shrunk their pay, cut their benefits and angrily blamed them for all of American society’s ills, with the possible exceptions of foot odor and reality TV.

Don’t you think it’s high time we got off the backs of teachers?

I’ve never in my life seen a class of workers demonized the way teachers have been the past 10 years. And the irony is that we’ve done it while saying, “But we love teachers! Teachers are important! Yay, teachers!”

If I were a teacher, my response would be, “Yeah, well, you’ve got a funny way of showing it.” 
I don’t know when our national obsession with “bad” teachers as the cause of bad schools and aimless kids began. But it doesn’t jibe with my experience. Yours, too, I’ll bet.

I have three kids at all stages of their public school careers. With one possible exception, I’ve had no problem with how their teachers have done their job. Many, in fact, were good to outstanding.

Before you make the obvious criticism, yes, my kids are lucky. We live in a nice, comfortable suburb with good schools.

But ask any teacher anywhere — in districts great and small, rich and poor, urban or rural — if they’ve felt singled out as a profession, and I’ll bet the answer is yes.

That’s not self-pity. You can’t open a paper the past 10 years without seeing a story about how test scores are down, kids are dumber and America is falling behind the rest of the world.

And it’s all teachers’ fault.

They’re not trained well. They’re not dedicated. They don’t work long enough or hard enough. (Gosh, they only work nine months a year! And for full pay — can you imagine!)

You seldom read a word about bad school administrators, inept school board leadership or lack of financial support by the community or the state.

Nor do you ever hear a word about the true source of America’s educational woes: Parents. Or the lack thereof.

There’s an old saying, “Garbage in, garbage out,” and while that’s a crude way of describing what’s happening to American education, it’s still largely true nonetheless.

Teachers work with what we give them. “Miracle” districts notwithstanding, we send them hungry, tired, sick, ill-behaved children who weren’t read to when they were young, nor taught to value hard work and discipline, and then we say, “Hey, why didn’t you fix all that?”

Then, if that weren’t enough, we pile on by dragging them and their work into the middle of what are essentially political, not educational, fights involving charter schools, unions and tenure.

Could you blame teachers for feeling unappreciated? Likewise, could you blame the best and brightest college students for saying, “Become a teacher? Um, I don’t think so.”

Yes, there are bad teachers. But I’ll bet they’re in relatively equal proportion to the number of bad employees in other professions.

Blame the decline of the nuclear family for our supposed educational decline. Blame the end of shame. Blame whomever and whatever you want. But it’s high time we stopped blaming teachers for not turning sows’ ears into silk purses.

Let me be the lone radical voice on this issue: I think most teachers are doing just fine, and as a class of employees they deserve a word of thanks and a national apology rather than further demonization.
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