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Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Teacher Bashing 101

The education system is a Marxist ideology that has no place in capitalistic America…

That comment appeared on a conservative education forum. 

I was invited to the site by a reader, the topic under discussion was, of course, teachers.

The comments were predictable, interspersed with the usual illiterate logical fallacies and unfocused rage, but it was that statement above which I really thought summed up the gist of the conversation. The entire thing goes like this:

The education system is a Marxist ideology that has no place in capitalistic America. It has become a financial burden on the American Tax Payer. The American Education System is a symbol of a failed ideology, an ideology that was conceived with good intentions, but with misguided application.  For example, one of the many flawed practices of the American model is forcing people to attend, who don't have an ounce of interest in learning.

I checked twice, but no, the comment wasn’t, in fact, signed Ayn Rand – but somebody was sure channeling her bitter old bourgeois ghost.

I excused myself from the conversation without commenting - not because discretion is the better part of valor, but rather because my dad taught me at a young age not to piss into the the wind.

Though probably better articulated than most, unfortunately the comment above isn’t an isolated thought.

Bashing teachers, and the US education system in general, is an increasingly popular pastime. It’s been going on for years, decades, this growing contempt and distaste for public education by a certain segment of American society.  It’s a symptom of a greater problem, the perception by that same segment of America that their country is somehow in decline.  And not only in decline, but being taken away from them. It’s a symptom of what Alvin Toffler called Future Shock.  For certain people, change is bad, something to be feared and hated.  Those fears, those hatreds, are often greatly amplified during periods of uncertainty, unrest, and especially during economic downturn.  A perception of complexity compounds the situation, and the world is an increasingly complex place (This is true no matter when you live, it was always simpler in the past, less complicated, fewer responsibilities, easier to understand through the filter of nostalgia). 

Misery loves company, and nothing brings people together like a perception of shared misery.  In times of uncertainty, when the world changes and people feel like they have lost control of their own destiny, they tend to band together to share their tales of woe – and there’s nothing worse for angry miserable people than to surround themselves with other angry miserable people.  They tend to feed on each other, inventing a shared illusion of misery that perversely makes them feel better, like they are part of something and therefore not so alone in a strange and alien world.  Ask any recovered alcoholic, the hardest obstacles to pass on the road to sobriety are your beer-buddies, those “friends” who keep enjoining you to have another drink.  It’s important to remember that the first step on that road is to accept responsibility for your own actions.

It is human nature to reject responsibility when things go bad, it’s the first rule in a car accident: Never admit fault, always blame the other guy.  This is true on the grand scale as well and history is rife with examples.  When a country is perceived to be in decline by a vocal segment of its population, whether or not it actually is, it is inevitable that someone will be blamed.  In Czarist Russia, it was Alisa Zinov’yevna Rosebaum’s (Ayn Rand’s) bourgeois relatives – which eventually led her to America and the Marxists who confiscated her father’s business directly shaped her worldview and later egoist philosophy, and continue to shape the worldviews of her many admirers including the current Chairman of the House Budget Committee, Tea Party Republican Paul Ryan.

Ryan, and those like him, perceive America to be in decline, and in fact they believe that America has been in decline since the 1960’s. 

Someone must be blamed.

Always, always, it’s the homosexuals, it’s the immoral, the irreverent, the filthy foreigners, the elites. It’s the bourgeois.  It’s the Liberals.

And no one epitomizes that more in the mind of the hardcore nationalist than teachers.

After the revolution, when the purges begin, it is the teachers who are taken to the wall first.

It is always the professors who are the first residents of the gulag and the concentration camps, even before the politicians and the despots. 

The schools always burn first. 

A teacher and novelist, Susan Straight, recently penned an Op-Ed piece in the Los Angeles Times titled Teaching, The Most Important Profession.  Straight wrote lovingly about being a teacher, about her passion for the profession and how important she thought it was.  Her words make you wish she was your kid’s teacher.  Then Straight talked about her own daughter, about how proud she was that her child had also chosen to become a teacher.  But that pride was tempered by “all the contempt and anger being hurled at teachers right now, it's alarming to be sending a daughter into the crossfire, especially when new teachers are the first to be threatened with pink slips. The growing scorn for public school teachers is at every level of education. Teachers are blamed for bad test results, for disrespectful students, for failing schools. They are thought to be lazy, draining public coffers with their monthly salaries and pension benefits.”  Susan Straight goes on to speak of Conservative contempt for teachers and education, she talks a bit about responsibility, and how America’s education system compares to others around the world. Straight’s article is well worth the read, but likely if you’re a regular here at Stonekettle Station there will be little in it to surprise you – the reason I direct your attention to it is this: Straight’s observations are proven immediately correct in the comments under the article.

Here’s a representative sample (edited for brevity and fair usage rules, not for content or intention, follow the link above to read the comments and article in full at the LA Times):

…I can tell you why teachers are getting such a bad rap. For starts[sic] they acted more like terrorist[sic] in Madison then they did educators…  As long as teachers want to keep teaching that homosexuality is OK , class warfare, and social justice and diversity they will continue to recieve[sic] my ire.

…Fire the bottom 25% of incompetent teachers and admins and [California’s] education will turn around over night. I'm sure of it. It's the low life lazy and incompetents that are ruining the entire system…

…every year at least a thousand teachers are caught in compromising situations that involve students. we need to hold teachers to the same standards as Doctors…

…Teachers [are] mainly liberal drones who taught me and people like me that the west was bad and America was the worst of the worse…

Them that can DO, them that can't TEACH... Must be nice to make your living telling others how to do their job, but never being responsible for getting a job done. Suggestion: Every third year each teacher must contract tutor, proving to the rest of us that they really know how to earn a living. ie. marketing and sales…art of compromise…produce a product… account for income and expenses, pay taxes, make enough profit to sustain your tutoring business and your personal needs, handle legalities. Then we might be confident that our children are being taught real world valuable knowledge instead of utopian communist dribble.

…but they ALREADY get three months of time off!!!  NO ONE ELSE gets that much time off!

Bad teacher's need to be fired period!

the reason a lot of [people are contemptuous of teachers] is because those same teachers have advocated for illegal immigration for their own selfish purposes…

…teachers think the only place that students can learn is because of themselves. What an absolute idiotic thought…

…they have NO respect for others who work in other professions; they do not have any respect for parents who have to juggle schedules due to your outrageous vacation time… Teacher's first year is hard - but after that they coast and use the same teaching plans year after year after year after year after year…

… in teacher's cases, you see most of them skip out of school at 2:00 p.m. and hit the local malls, enjoy a nap - while everyone else struggles to 8:00 p.m. at night to pay for your outrageous RETIREMENT, you luxury vacation time, your out of this world benefit coverage…

…If teachers did a real job for five years before they became a teacher, they would be a whole lot better than today's lot of whiny brats we have teaching our children…You think you work hard – obviously you have never held a real job in your life…

...all they care about are three things: June, July and August...plus tenure…

I learned little from my teachers - they only graded me on the knowledge I acquired from reading which my mother taught me. Most of the teachers I have met in my adult life would readily admit that the reason they went into teaching is to have the summers off…

Teacher's are NOT more noble than the general workplace. See, this is the "I am special" attitude….In the end, teaching is really just a job. A well paid one at that with amazing benefits...

ALL WEALTH and ALL JOBS ultimately come from the private sector. The private sector are those individuals with drive, intelligent, creativity, flexibility, risk taking that keeps our country a float. We rely on them for everything. Public workers just take...don't create…

There are several hundred more comments, there are few positive ones – mostly from teachers, desultorily trying to defend themselves – but the majority are like those above.  If you’ve got a minute, you should take the time to read them all. See, the folks who wrote those comment vote for the politicians who are currently dismantling public education in Ohio, Wisconsin, Indiana, Michigan, California, and likely soon in your state.  If you want to know who is going to shape your country’s future, read the comments, then do a Google News search for “Teachers” and “Education Reform” and read those articles and the associated comments.  Then log into a few conservative Tea Party forums and read the comments under the education threads there. 

I made a list of common themes:

  • Teachers have no right to representation.  Collective representation equals Marxism, communism, socialism, fascism, totalitarianism, and so on. Everybody has the right to choose, but only if they choose not to be represented. Public sector employees work for the taxpayer, only private sector workers have the right to representation. Each teacher should have to negotiate with the public for their salaries. 
  • Teachers make too much money.  Good teachers aren’t in it for the money, Good teachers are teachers because they are noble, selfless,  principled, moral, decent, upright, gallant, polite, self-sacrificing, magnanimous, virtuous, just, and dedicated.  If you expect to make a living wage as a teacher, you are ipso facto a bad teacher QED.
  • Teachers only work nine months out of the year.  Most teachers became teachers because they get summers off. They use that time off to vacation in the Bahamas.
  • Teachers can’t be fired ever. No matter what. No matter how bad they are. Period. End of story.
  • Teachers only have to work six hours a day.  Teachers spend their afternoons napping or hanging out at the mall. 
  • Teachers are arrogant. Teachers think education makes you a better person.  Teachers think education is important. Because teachers have lots of education, they have the gall to think of themselves as better educated in education than people who aren’t educated in education – like parents. I.e. Teachers think they are special.   Remember folks, American exceptionalism doesn’t apply to teachers, that’s only for people who don’t go to college.
  • Teachers do not create a product. Teachers do not work at “real” jobs.  Teachers do not create wealth or add value.  Teachers should have to work at real jobs before being teachers.  Periodically they should stop teaching and get a real job.
  • Most teachers are incompetent.  Most teachers are bad teachers. That’s a fact, you can look it up.
  • Most teachers will be caught having sex with students. That’s another fact, it’s totally true and you can look that up too.
  • All Teachers are liberals who hate America.  Teachers hate Jesus and they want to make our kids into gay Muslim atheist communist illegal aliens who hate America, i.e. Liberals.
  • It’s all Obama’s fault.

The sheer hatred and utter contempt for teachers, for public education itself, is appalling.

Logical fallacies, faulty reasoning, and a mob mentality are symptomatic of this worldview. This is the mindset that burned witches at the stake. This is the mindset that carried out the Holy Inquisition.  This the mindset that created the Gulag and the concentration camp.  This is the mindset that destroyed civilization and brought on the dark ages.

This is the worldview that seeks to affix blame and avoid responsibility.

You want to know why America’s education system is in a shambles? You want to know who is a responsible? You want to know why a lot of teachers aren’t motivated? Why they get sick and tired of coming to work? Why fewer and fewer are choosing to stay in the classroom? Why selfless dedication and nobility just aren’t cutting it any more?

It’s because when you try to teach Language Arts, a dozen angry parents demand that you be fired because the reading assignment mentioned Islam.

It’s because when you try to teach geography, a dozen angry parents demand that you be fired because you mentioned AIDS in Africa.

It’s because when you try to teach Social Studies, a dozen angry parents demand that you be fired because the subject matter included a gay man.

It’s because when you try to teach Economics, a dozen angry parents demand that you be fired because you described systems other than just capitalism.

It’s because when you try to teach Home Economics, a dozen angry parents demand that you be fired because you mentioned birth control.

It’s because when you try to teach History, a dozen angry parents demand that you be fired because you didn’t describe only those things that directly support the concept of American Exceptionalism.

It’s because when you try to teach Biology, a hundred angry parents demand that you be fired for not allowing their children to write “Jesus Did It” on the evolution test.

It’s because when you try to teach Earth Science, a hundred angry parents demand that you be fired because you forgot to mention that global climate change is a lie because God made a deal with Noah after the Great Deluge.

It’s because when you try to teach Physics, a hundred angry parents demand that you be fired for teaching how radioactive decay can be used to date things that are older than 6000 years.

It’s because when you try to teach music or art, when you try to expand the library, when you want to update the computer lab, a hundred angry parents demand that you be fired for taking money away from things that matter in the real world, i.e. football.

It’s because people have been led to believe that paying public school teachers a living wage is bad because they are paid from taxes, where as paying private school teachers a living wage is good because they are paid from private funds and you’re only trying to attract the best of the best. 

It’s because people have deluded themselves into believing that Charter Schools are some kind of panacea, a magical fantasyland where every teacher is Ayn Rand, the lunch ladies practice Laissez-faire economics in the cafeteria, creationism rules the halls, and abstinence-only birth control is the watch word at the homecoming game. (Question, since Charter School teachers are in fact not public employees, is it ok for them to organize? Hello? Is this thing on?)

It’s because a vocal minority of angry people, egged on by grandstanding pundits and small-minded politicians, denigrate and disdain education itself at every turn.

It’s because this same vocal minority glorifies stupidity and revels in ignorance and condemns education as elitism.

 

It is because they are afraid.

Afraid that their children will become more than themselves.

100 comments:

  1. You've seen this, right?
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0xuFnP5N2uA

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  2. Yep. But thanks for linking to it here, other might enjoy it too.

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  3. "It’s because this same vocal minority glorifies stupidity and revels in ignorance and condemns education as elitism."

    I agree--and they denigrate the perceived elite. I can't help but think that the folks who write all the negative words about teachers and education:
    •didn't value the education, much less the one they had
    •didn't get a very good one
    •had family or were in a culture that did not value education
    •were taught somewhere to hear and obey, take someone else's word for Truth (instead of learning *facts*), but never to *think*, because that way lies doubt and lack of absolute faith in their religious belief

    Sad. They're so easy to snooker and to take advantage of, that way.

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  4. Loved this article! Stumbled on it. I'm currently wrapping up one of my last semesters before my Student Teaching/Practicum and times couldn't be harder. Always told I could be anything I wanted when I was growing up, I wanted to teach. Now everywhere I turn people are degrading what I've looked forward to since 5th grade. Makes you feel like a piece of shit

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  5. Thanks for reminding me to shoot an email to my kids' teachers and thank them for all they do. I try to remember often...

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  6. It is because they are afraid.

    Afraid that their children will become more than themselves.


    Bingo. The ultimate truth of the most narcissistic generation ever to rule this country. The tenor of today's times is not a mistake. It's because the Boomers are now elevated (by dint of age) into complete control of pretty much all aspects of our politics, economy, culture and society. There are no more "Greatest Generation" parents or "Silent Generation" siblings left to moderate the impact the Boomers are having. And for certain, this selfish, me-centered generation will never willingly share the stage with X-ers or Millenials. Use and abuse them, yes; but share? Never. For it has been and always will be about one thing -- it's all about them.

    RP

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  7. I have to say that pissing into the wind is a daily activity on Twitter.

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  8. Everyone one of those negative commenters should have to teach ONE concept to a class of 30 children over a week then verify their success with a comprehensive quiz. Heck why not attempt to teach a round of safety training to a group of bored, know everything adult employees. I thought of becoming a teacher but realized, after being a Chem lab 101 TA, there isn't enough unpaid time off (i.e. summer) to compensate for energy used to be a teacher. Never mind the idiot parents.

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  9. One more thing to remember. Blaming teachers for bad student performance is like blaming cops for high crime rates. Doesn't make much sense, does it?

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  10. Back in the mid 80's I made a good friend of a former jr/sr high school music teacher who *enlisted*. The stories he told made me understand why he figured enlisting was a better idea than remaining a teacher. 25 years later, I think he'd make the same choice...

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  11. Both of my parents were public school teachers, now retired. My sister is a public school teacher, only two years on the job.

    Throughout my childhood I saw how much work they put into their job, the grading into the night, the calls to parents, the dedication to their students. Yes, they get the summers "off", but our family vacations were scheduled around summer school (which they also taught), and when we did go on trips, it was to places where they could take lessons back to the classroom.

    It is not a job you "take off". When you're a teacher, you're thinking about the classroom 365 days a year. My parents did it for a long time, they worked hard and earned their comfortable-but-not-extravagant pension. The same pension, incidentally, that it looks like my sister will never see.

    This recent conservative jihad against public school teachers is disturbing and personal. I can somewhat tolerate the ruling elite's attacks on the social safety net knowing it can't last, but to attack on teachers is to attack hope itself.

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  12. Speaking as one of those Wisconsin teachers currently bearing the brunt of Teabagger ire, thank you for this. I'd say thank you for pointing out the obvious, but the sad fact is that it isn't obvious to a lot of people who refuse to look in the mirror and see the nonsense they spout for what it is.

    In the last two months I have been called lazy, overprivileged, parasitical (although not in that exact, multisyllabic word), a threat to decency and common sense, and a traitor to "real Americans." Strangely, for someone so described, I have no free time, no arrest record, and far more familiarity with the Founding Fathers than those who criticize me.

    I also make about 1/5 of what our illustrious governor makes. You would think being a minion of Satan would pay better.

    Hey, wait a minute...

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  13. Thank you, Jim. You knocked this one out of the park.

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  14. "Someone must be blamed.

    Always, always, it’s the homosexuals, it’s the immoral, the irreverent, the filthy foreigners, the elites. It’s the bourgeois. It’s the Liberals."

    Jews aren't on the list anymore? Wow, now that's progress. My grandparents (and some of my uncles) would have blamed them for sure. I guess some things are getting better.

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  15. Good God. So glad this malign twattage hasn't reached the UK yet.

    My favorite is the individual who suggests teachers take every third year off and go out 'to work' to prove that they are competent. Yes. We should earn the right to be poorly paid and receive constant abuse from parents & students. We should stop being so dang uppity to suggest we should just get paid for doing the job we were employed to do by the state...

    Good luck, America.

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  16. Jews aren't on the list anymore?

    Jews are always on the the list, Tim. That sort of goes without saying.

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  17. also, I will use "malign twattage in a conversation today. Yes I will.

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  18. This is the second of your posts I have been 'guided to' in recent weeks. Excellent! You are now 'bookmarked'.

    Having tried very hard to argue with a few intransigent ideologues over the education issue I have come to the troubling conclusion that those in power are somehow going to have to take this out of public debate. As an example, one moron responded to a Tweet that said "Thank a teacher today" with "Thank them for what? Higher property taxes, lower test scores?". The level of ignorance is astonishing.

    In my opinion , Education should become as untouchable as Defense appears to be.

    By the way. I am not a teacher, but with a child soon to be born, I am a very concerned parent who would GLADLY pay higher property taxes if it meant I could rely upon having a decent public education for that child.

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  19. A well educated and informed public is a requirement in order to sustain a democratic republic. When I see attacks on teachers, I see an attack on our form of government. It appears to me that the number of people lacking either the will or education who just accept for fact the drivel being tossed around on popular “news” commentary stations is growing daily. So the main group in their way, the group that teaches the value of critical thought is public enemy #1. I can only hope that their nefarious plot fails.

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  20. Some people are blind to the huge spectrum of possibilities between American Exceptionalism and Blame America First. I assume it's because there are no political points to be scored there.

    I used to marvel that people could be so content to be ignorant, until I noticed that some of them valued their ignorance, cherished it, and defended it against all threats real and perceived. That was about the same time I started to lose hope.

    It's getting harder every time to vote with a straight face. I find that a good rule of thumb is to determine which candidate is working in the interest of ignorance and vote for the other one. Telling them apart is one of the few things that's becoming easier with time.

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  21. I find that a good rule of thumb is to determine which candidate is working in the interest of ignorance and vote for the other one. Telling them apart is one of the few things that's becoming easier with time.

    Mark, that's it. Thank you for putting into words what I have been struggling to articulate, even to myself, for so long.

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  22. As Tom Lehrer says "Everybody hates the Jews".

    I know that I do not have a gift for teaching. I don't have the patience and temper-control to be a good teacher. I respect and am grateful for my daughter's elementary school teachers who can control (for the most part) classrooms of 25 kids (no aides) and "force" the three R's on the kids.

    As for the blame game. We are taught NOT to apologize to patients if (when) something goes wrong, as the apology may be taken as an admission of fault or guilt. Even though an apology may actually defuse a potentially litigious situation. Sad, ain't it?

    kingses = Jim's immediate subordinates when he finally becomes the Ultimate Emperor of the Universe

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  23. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  24. "Misery loves company, and nothing brings people together like a perception of shared misery. In times of uncertainty, when the world changes and people feel like they have lost control of their own destiny, they tend to band together to share their tales of woe – and there’s nothing worse for angry miserable people than to surround themselves with other angry miserable people. They tend to feed on each other, inventing a shared illusion of misery that perversely makes them feel better, like they are part of something and therefore not so alone in a strange and alien world."

    Ka-bam! The Teabagger "movement" in a nutshell!

    "I learned little from my teachers"

    (that, is a painfully, dangerously, amply evident boast)

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  25. (RE: Twitter) I find myself gaining more useful knowledge and ultra-current info from Twitter now, than I get from my list of RSS feeds. Two different formats, to be sure. When I get tired of 140 character posts and links to external content, I go back to the RSS list. It all depends on who you've chosen to "follow" on Twitter. I will trial many people, but often "unfollow" when the content proves worthless. You have to tune your "twitter feeds," and it's a perpetual process.

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  26. My Hot Daughter is currently at University, majoring in English - so she can teach Middle School.

    While I'm desperately proud of her for her decision and commitment to service, I fear for her, as well. Because in our family, education and service are valued, and in the community she has chosen to serve - they're not.

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  27. "Malign twattage" is my new favourite phrase. There, I even spelled favorite the British way in tribute of my respect for the phrase, "malign twattage."

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  28. A big part of the problem in the US is we've hit that point of literacy that we've forgotten how important these things are.

    But women are risking their lives and the lives of their daughters in some places in the world simply because they want the girls to read and write.

    We take for granted what an education means to a society - remember, 150 years ago slaves were killed if they could read. Because an education means being exposed to other ideas. And that's the most dangerous thing ever.

    These same ignorant people who want to fire all teachers are able to read the Internet and post comments because someone taught them to read and write. That they know anything about how their government works would be because a teacher somewhere taught them.

    That they can understand the "math" about how much teachers make is because someone taught them how to manage numbers.

    None of this happens automatically - someone has to teach us humans how.

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  29. I taught for 10 years, and quit last year because I was mighty tired of being overworked and insulted. I just heard that one of my co-workers who was in her first year of "official" teaching got laid off today - 24 years old, just moved into her new apartment, up to her ears in student loans she accumulated so she could do this job that schools of education LOVE to call "a calling," and now she's done. My heart breaks for these young people with dreams of teaching that are now being kicked around and cut loose while millionaires and corporations continue to get a free ride. I just wish I knew how to help and how to stop the denigration of such good, hardworking people. Thanks for your post.

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  30. I, too, would like to express my fan-girl love for the phrase "malign twattage."

    MALIGN TWATTAGE.

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  31. I had the personal displeasure of watching a young woman who had always wanted to teach, quit after five years. In college she had more energy and love for teaching than anyone I had ever met. She finally got her own class of little inquisitors, at that five year mark she had aged 20 years and needed mental health assistance. It
    was like watching someone die. None of this was from the stress of teaching, she still loved the attempt to get her kids to think critically. So many of them though had been brainwashed by their simpleton parents that it became a daily struggle. This still did not deter her, what did was the parents. You have to pass my dumbass son or he won't get his scholarship to play (insert sport of choice here) and his life will be ruined. No responsibility put on the student to actually work and pass the class. Just blame the teacher. Very sad state of affairs.

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    Replies
    1. Thank you for your excellent comment. It is So TRUE! If administrators would support teachers and teachers were respected by parents, then students would feel empowered by the excitement of a young teacher who puts her heart and soul into every lesson. It is so sad that parents have taken control over administrators, and the administrators can not stand up to these parents, who are often bullies!
      Wouldn't it be fun to watch those complaining parents take her class for a day (they would only last a day) and get a taste of what reality is in the classroom EVERYDAY! Maybe that would shut them up!

      Delete
  32. "It is because they are afraid.

    Afraid that their children will become more than themselves."

    In_deed.

    Thank you

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  33. I'm one of the "new readers" you alluded to earlier, and this is my first comment, so let me get a few things out of the way:
    1. Thank you for your service.
    2. Thank you for your *continued* service with this blog - I really appreciate your frank, direct way of writing.
    3. Nothing gets me madder than the recent attacks on schools/teachers. I was the first of my family to graduate college, my wife has a Master's in Speech Pathology and works in the schools, and we are both products of the public school system & state university. We are VERY active in our 11-year-old's education and he is excelling despite district cut-backs, etc. And yeah, he plays video games, watches cartoons, etc, but he also reads, watches science shows and sometimes answers Jeopardy questions before I do :)

    Anyway, I wanted to express my appreciation for what you do here, and while I can't promise to regularly comment, I will be a regular reader.

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  34. I'm smack in the middle of promoting a levy for the kids' schools. In Ohio, not much of a surprise there. The budget was cut officially by 15%, and that doesn't count what isn't being replaced that federal stimulus money for education covered for 2 years. Basically, the states that received this were allowed to borrow from the education budget and the stimulus dollars covered the removed funds. That money was not supposed to be cut once the stimulus funds were used, it was supposed to have been replaced.

    Everywhere I turn, I hear such vitriol being spewed. No one gets it right. 'Teachers are the only profession with a paid 3 month vacation.' This is false (In Ohio anyways.) Teachers get paid for the time they're working. They can opt to set up a payment system that gives them smaller checks, but then it's made up over the summer, so they don't have to worry about budgeting for 3 months of no income.

    'Teachers don't have to pay into their benefits/retirement like the rest of us.' Again false. In Ohio, depending on their bargained contract with their district, teachers pay a percentage of their benefits package out of their pay check. The percentage depends on thei contract with their school district.

    People then call them 'union thugs' without even stopping to think that without unions, the recent anniversary of the Triangle Fire would be just one of many, many horrible workplace accidents. They don't seem to want to know that unions protect all workers, not just union members.

    I've heard it all, and I'm not even a teacher, just a concerned parent who believes that after working in a budget for 15 years without asking for new taxpayer money, this district deserves to have this emergency levy pass. I've heard teachers called communist, socialist, Nazis, lazy, bloodsuckers of the taxpayer, sex offenders...yet these same people who will be going to vote NO, aren't even affected by the levy, because it's a property tax, and most of them don't OWN property!

    I used to love living here, but now I'm ashamed at how Ohio is treating the very people that deserve support. And they do deserve it. Parents will fight disciplinary actions. They are the first to deny responsibility for bad behavior, and the first to say the teacher is 'picking on' their kids. Most parents don't care to be involved in the school, they won't help with homework, even to sign a reading log.

    I make sure to stand up for the people who teach my kids. I have nothing but respect for someone who will put aside the negativity being thrown at tehm daily in order to expand the minds of everyone else's children.

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  35. The last thing we need is to vilify another group of people, in this case the Baby Boomers. I'm a baby boomer and I'm totally appalled by the type of comments against teachers mentioned here. I also know people who are 30-ish who are teacher hating, calling taxes legalized robbery, etc. Let's not pit one generation against another; there are good people and jerks nicely distributed in all categories.

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  36. One error in Joanna's post, which I agree with. Unfortunately it is one heard again and again and again and used to deny aid to the illegal.

    Everybody pays property taxes, owning property has nothing to do with it. Unless you are sleeping under a bridge.

    You either pay them directly to the receiver of taxes (or similar title) as I do or you pay them through your landlord as my tenant in my previous house did.

    State and local sales taxes are also paid. And the feds are even less sympathetic to not paying taxes and FICA (etc.) than they are to your being illegal.

    I saw property taxes go up 50% one year because of gross stupidity on the part of the school board, but other than that really hurt, I'm generally for the budget in my district and my kid is 35.

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  37. Well said sir, well said. I am so tired of teachers being vilified! I for one know that there is no way I could do their job as I observed while chaperoning some of my children's field trips.

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  38. Ah, but rent does not typically go up with a small increase in property taxes, especially when there is a rental contract. So renters won't typically see an increase based on the average school levy. Now, in your example of a 50% increase, I would say that everyone, renters included, had an increase somehow.

    So yes, you're right they do pay it, they just don't see that they are. I will be more careful with that in the future :)

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  39. One of the major sticking points in attracting and keeping teachers has been salaries. Unfortunately, many of the fiercest critics of teachers would be happy to return to the days where a sack of potatoes and a plucked chicken was enough. However, once public education became a matter of the commonweal, teacher pay became a major subject for debate. Today, anyone believing that assessment of teachers can be rendered easily is naive at best and delusional at worst. Attempts to come up with comprehensive evaluation plans for teacher pay are fraught with confusion and demagoguery. And God forbid that teachers should have a union to speak on their behalf.

    If you think the problem is simple, consider this. In fairness to the teacher being evaluated, each student should be assessed initially for his/her knowledge base for every subject taught. Starting in elementary school, entry standards should be established for every subject at each grade level, followed by step by step goals for promotion to the next level. As new subjects are introduced, initial assessments of each student’s knowledge must be determined for the new subject at introduction. But when the range of subjects includes a mix of reading, writing, math, science, social studies, history, computers, art or music, the problem’s intractability becomes staggering. And, when squishy elements like emotional maturity, positive or negative home environment, community support, parent and peer pressure need to be assessed, a Pandora’s box of infinite complexity is opened. However, only after all these elements are controlled or assessed can the merit evaluation of teachers begin. So far, no one has been able to do that and I doubt if it will ever happen in my lifetime.

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  40. prijon, exactly. It is not possible to create a fair and actually usable teacher evaluation system outside of very broad parameters - which is what most schools have now. The problem (and it's not really a problem) is that the effectiveness of teaching is not quantifiable, it's qualitative. No matter what you do, an assement of effectiveness based on subjective qualitative criteria is a biased and unfair system right from the very start. Period.

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  41. I'm one of the "new readers" you alluded to earlier, and this is my first comment, so let me get a few things out of the way:
    1. Thank you for your service.
    2. Thanks you for your *continued* service with this blog - I really appreciate your frank, direct way of writing.
    3. Nothing gets me madder than the recent attacks on schools/teachers. I was the first of my family to graduate college, my wife has a Master's in Speech Pathology and works in the schools, and we are both products of the public school system & state university. We are VERY active in our 11-year-old's education and he is excelling despite district cut-backs, etc. And yeah, he plays video games, watches cartoons, etc, but he also reads, watches science shows and sometimes answers Jeopardy questions before I do :)

    Anyway, I wanted to express my appreciation for what you do here, and while I can't promise to regularly comment, I will be a regular reader.

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  42. I have no children, but I've been paying taxes all my life, some of which go to support public schools. And I'm fine with that.

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  43. I am the happy product of a middle-class family who valued education because my parents genuinely wanted MORE for me than they had. They knew that quality teachers and good schools would provide that for me. With their love and support, I became a teacher. I remember that my mom once, early in my college career, made the "three months off every summer" statement to me, and I was floored. She didn't realize at the time how hard it is for teachers to survive on a teacher's salary. I've never met a teacher who had summers "off." They all have part-time jobs to pay the bills. Now, almost ten years later, she completely gets it and couldn't be more proud of me and supportive of my chosen career.

    I taught in small rural public schools for three years before I left and ultimately found a job in the private sector. While I am 100% supportive of public schools and the plight of public school teachers, you couldn't pay me enough to go back to that, especially now. The current environment is so toxic and hateful; it must be miserable to know that on a nightly basis there is some news story about how worthless and overpaid you are. I couldn't do it. I am certainly a sister-in-arms (and I intended the war metaphor), but the added pressure seems just too great. I admire you all for sticking with the public sector and keeping on with the great work that you do. But it seems to me it's only a matter of time before more leave the public sector and then what? America already has a problem paying for the education system it has. I have a feeling that they won't want to pay more for private.

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  44. Nick from the O.C.April 13, 2011 at 4:10 PM

    A great way to thwart upward social mobility is to eliminate the opportunity to get a good education.

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  45. Thought you would like to compare your article with this one: http://www.truth-out.org/why-united-states-destroying-its-education-system/1302418800

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  46. Anonymous, I've seen it. It's a good article, bleak as hell though and I'm not sure things are quite that bad.

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  47. WOW! You really are a master of nailing a subject to the wall, in simple terms easily understood.

    Even from the likes of me.

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  48. Jim has many gifts. Not all of them can be discussed in public, though.

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  49. I just sort of sat here with my mouth ajar reading this...nothing I haven't heard before in terms of "malign twattage" (oh, that phrase is gonna go viral from this!!!) but something about seeing it all together in one place was just sickening. I have never ever known a teacher to ever hit the malls and or take a nap, or really get that 3 month vacation. They stay after school setting up for next days classes, they have far more homework than the students that they drag home every night to deal with until the wee hours, they spend their summers struggling to take credit courses to update their degree and license to teach, and come back to school weeks before the students do to prepare yet again. There is a singer song writer I know who wrote a song called "Teacher, Teacher" and the words are perfect here...I am sharing.
    "Teacher, Teacher" by Leslie Fish

    Teacher, teacher, do what you can
    To teach your children all the knowledge of man,
    Teach them how to think and how to survive
    A world that eats the soul and body alive.
    Teacher, teacher, you know what they face,
    A sea of bigotry for age, sex, or race,
    Or any other cause that's useful this year.
    Try to warn the children while they're still safe in here.

    Teacher, teacher, the Law waits outside,
    To turn your children into tools for his pride.
    He's always scratchin' for a way to come in.
    Here comes a pressure group, he's tryin' again.
    Teacher, teacher, you know you're alone.
    You're boss won't save your skin; he's saving his own.
    Nor will the parents help; they'll only condemn.
    They want their children taught to be just like them.

    Here comes the beaurocrat with fifty more rules
    To tie your hands and take more bread from the schools.
    Here comes the preacher tryin' hard to get in.
    He wants all children taught his pet brand of sin.
    Here comes the government with plenty to say.
    It wants your children taught to serve and obey.
    Here comes the school board, and that's worst of all,
    They want the teachers taught to cave in and fall.

    Teacher, teacher, you know what you'll find.
    They want their thumbprints stamped on everyone's mind.
    The kids suspect it and resent it like hell,
    And all too often they'll suspect you as well.
    Teacher, teacher, tell me how can you teach
    When all the grownups only want you to preach?
    How can you teach the kids to think for themselves
    With all the censors stealing books off of shelves?

    Teacher guarding the dwindling flame,
    How many of your kids have beaten the game?
    The wind is rising and the night's falling fast.
    Will you run, save yourself, or fight to the last

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  50. Ok, sorry about that, the darn thing posted my comment three times in a row, why I have no idea. I think I have the duplicates deleted! My apologies! However this gives me another moment to add one more thing - anybody who thinks teachers are getting rich or are at least paid a decent wage are not living in the same universe as the rest of us. The lack of decent wages for teachers is disgraceful!

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  51. Second year high school math teacher. I haven't seen those issues occur here at our school. I agree that they would be a problem, and almost certainly are in some instances.

    Thing is, I've got a curriculum to go by. If the parents have a problem with that curriculum, there's really no need to bring it up with me. Wasn't my call.

    Actual major issues that I do often see:

    -More than half of parents do not care at all.

    -The curriculum I am forced to teach is in many ways asinine. I have little wiggle room here.

    -Without any student investment into the process of education, there is absolutely no leverage for dealing with discipline problems at any level. Nothing to gain and nothing to lose.

    -Both quick-fix and decent instructional reforms are handed down from above and abandoned faster than they can be implemented and evaluated.

    -The very premise of NCLB. I have too many sixteen year olds that can not add single-digit integers.

    -The students are expected to fail. All of our schools shifted to the Block Schedule, so I get 3/4 the time my own teachers had to teach me the same topics. This allows more classes, giving failing students more opportunities to repeat the course and get the credits to graduate.

    There are also other institutional issues that I honestly don't feel like I understand at this point. It's a complex set of interactions to analyze. A lot of the real issues I see have to do with policy making coming from uninformed or uninterested individuals.

    I like the idea of taking every third year to go out and do something else. The only down side to that is that I'm sure I wouldn't get half my peers back!

    As for evaluating teacher performance, I agree it is more of a qualitative thing. The task of creating any kind of system to even semi-accurately gauge teacher performance without it being gamed to meaninglessness is be beyond me.

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  52. Thanks for another interesting post.

    “It’s because this same vocal minority glorifies stupidity and revels in ignorance…”

    In other words, it’s the parents who are to some degree responsible for the decline, whether perceived or real, in the effectiveness of the public school system, not the teachers.

    You want teachers to be more effective? Here are a few tips that may help to accomplish that goal:

    Try showing some interest in your children’s studies.

    Try teaching your children to have some respect for those in authority over them (their TEACHERS, for example).

    Try to instill in your children an appreciation for education.

    Here’s what it comes down to: you bred ‘em, you raise ‘em. Please don’t expect myself and the rest of Society to tolerate the self-centered little bastards you created for the rest of time because you were too busy doing God knows what rather than tending to your ultimate responsibility – teaching your offspring to be responsible, respectful, contributing members of Society.

    Oh, and quit blaming others for your own shortcomings…so much for not pissing into the wind.

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  53. WOW! Another amazingly written article! I have friends who are teachers and I fear for them. Funny how people think that grown men playing kids games (football, basketball, baseball etc.)are worth the Millions they are paid but those who teach our children are worthless. I know that the sports players are not paid by taxes but where they play is! We used tax money to build two stadiums (one even without a team o play in it). Why could we not do that to build better, state of the art schools? Or hire better teachers? OH, wait, teachers are scum so we should spend our money on the great role models like Michael Vick! Ignorance is becoming the law of the land...I am ashamed of my country!

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  54. A great way to thwart upward social mobility is to eliminate the opportunity to get a good education.

    That's exactly what the corporate oligarchy that rules this country wants -- ignorant peasants who can be whipped up to a frenzy for anything the corporate oligarchy is against, even if it's against the peasants' interests.

    More than ever, George Orwell was right -- just about 25 years off.

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  55. Thank you, thank you, thank you...Love, A Teacher.

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  56. Anyone who wants to bash teachers should do a stint as a substitute for one week. If they aren't chastened and humiliated and begging for the regular teacher's return, then they might have a right to complain.

    I did substitute teaching after college to make ends meet until I could find a job more suitable to my interests. One week of substituting for a high psychology class made me very glad I had not chosen teaching as a career path.

    Perhaps my experience was jaded by the fact that the teacher left no lessons and I had to wing it. Taking from my own public school experience of substitutes, I decided best head to the library and get a film -- something on Freud would fit the bill. By third period it was all over the school that the psychology sub was showing a sex film.

    I was a petite, young woman who looked more like a student than a teacher (in fact I often got asked for my hall pass if I had a free period and was out of the classroom). Needless to say, I was quite glad when I received a job offer from a non-profit.

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  57. Dude, I love you. Wanna get married and raise liberal elitist babies? Im just coming off an all night thesis bender and this post completely made my day You are so awesome.

    ps- I hope you've been following the "objectivism ruined my childhood" discussion on the daily dish. Its been.... interesting.

    pps- wanna know what Im writing about? Witches. Some things: “During the period between 1560 and 1650 the informal organizations which had dealt with the old and poor (Church relief, the manorial organization, and neighborly and kinship ties) were strained. This was the period of witchcraft accusations” (Alan MacFarlane, Witchcraft in Tudor and Stuart England p 205)

    Accusations of witchcraft are, in effect, an attempt to rationalize refusals of charity by shifting the onus of transgression onto the victim, a “clever way of reversing the guilt, of transferring it from the person who had failed in his charitable obligation under the old standard to the person who had made him fail” (MacFarlane 196).

    So witchcraft arose as a result of a shredded social safety net. Once there was no institutional framework to deal with the poor, and once the affluent were forced to reject the poor face to face, they had to come up with some way to justify such blatant abuses of the needy. Which they did by accusing them of witchcraft, which made it retroactively ok to mistreat them, because nobody wants to give handouts to a witch. Do I see a parallel in America today? OF COURSE NOT whatareyoutalkingaboutcrazyperson.

    Yeah, thesis, boom.

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  58. And as a corollary

    Yeah, EDUCATION, Boom.

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  59. great post Jim. i hope it is OK that i share it with my friends and family and a blog or two.
    i love teachers and librarians. i began reading at a very early age and am never far from a book. i usually read a book a day and sometimes i read two at a time. my one sorrow is that i never became a librarian.

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  60. As a (if I find a job) future teacher, this was a great read. It gets very depressing to hear the vogue of teacher bashing. I'm not sure where my path will take me, but it will certainly not be easy. Student Teaching is challenging enough.

    The teachers I know tend to arrive early and stay late, and work always goes home with you. The very poor teachers tend to actually get fired. It takes channels because otherwise very good teachers could get fired dependent on the administrator - though I am preaching to the choir on that one.

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  61. There's a collective villain not mentioned anywhere - elected school boards!

    For one, there's the effort on the right to elect members who share contempt for teachers and the school system. Plenty of news coverage out of PA (remember the school board that tried to drop teaching evolution and put "intelligent design" in its place?), Oklahoma, other states.

    And even if your school board doesn't include those bozos, you'll get empire-builders, "Peter Principle" bureaucrats, and parents who believe that what's good for their son/daughter MUST be good for every other child.

    Crusaders who run for school board get elected occasionally. When their reforms don't magically produce immediate results, they don't get reelected and the board slouches back to its previous indolent practices.

    There is such a huge disconnect between teachers in the classroom and the institutional structure over them ...

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  62. A powerful and accurate critique of what is currently happening in education. It really seems to have started with a publication called "A Nation At Risk" (1983). It's the initial "educators are failing America" document and it's really got some very skewed 'facts' in it.

    I can tell you that in my own building (yes, I am one of those crazy, evolution-believing, chemistry-teaching, physics-supporting science teachers) the morale is sinking slowly into the mire that the public is creating for us with their incessant teacher-bashing. I did have "a real job" until I was in my 30's and then went back to school (part-time at first, later on full time, driving 100 miles round trip daily to attend university while raising two small children) to become a teacher. My children grew up watching this process and both have expressed to me how appalled they are by the lack of public understanding about what I (and all teachers) actually do for a living.

    Still, I wouldn't trade it. I can't imagine not teaching. Most teachers I know feel the same way - we are called to it the way a moth is called to an open flame. It's getting harder though - and it was hard enough as it was. School board members run on platforms of "we'll reduce your taxes by cutting some jobs/pink slipping some of those lazy teachers." And you are right, they will protect their beloved sports at all costs - even if it means that some children are packed into classrooms of 35 or 40 students. I don't know of another job that pays what we make in which you are responsible for supervising large groups of people under the age of 18. At the high school level, it is typically about 135-150 kids per day. Imagine trying to not only supervise groups of 30 every hour or so, but also to give them good, relevant feedback on their work and support them socially and emotionally when they are hungry, angry, sick, tired, or abused.

    Sorry Jim, I'm ranting a bit. It's just close to my heart, this topic.

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  63. There are two immutable facts. Public education is and has been controlled by liberal academics for the past 40 years.

    Public education is for the most part a dismal failure.

    Doesn't matter what your lame opinion is - the facts state otherwise and there is no denying it. Test scores have fallen for the last 40 years in conjunction.

    Period.

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  64. Wayne, I won't argue that your education is certainly lacking since you obviously can't follow basic and clearly stated directions. Read the commenting rules, especially the part about NOT BEING A DICK. This is a forum for adults, you can disagree without being insulting about it. Do it again and I'll delete your comments out of hand.


    As to your statement: American advancement in science, technology, engineering, medicine, the arts, and every other field of endeavor - including traditionally conservative fields such as military science - soundly refutes your claim to a dismal failure of public education. The American public education system is one of the best in the world though I doubt that anything will convince you of it.

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  65. Jim,

    You appear like a typical lib that can't handle the truth. But since you won't believe me, perhaps you can "swallow" the NY Times saying as much?

    http://www.nytimes.com/2007/12/05/education/05scores.html

    Face it. In a country with the wealth of the United States, and a population of 308MM you're going to get many a smart kid and achiever. Congratulations. But the facts are that public schools cumulatively are a dismal failure - much of it due to bad parenting skills; much of it due to public education does not attract worthy teachers. Thomas Sowell has printed some excellent source material documenting as much if you're really interested in truth and not spewing leftist propaganda.

    No need to ban me - you're not a serious opponent, and I doubt incapable of debate reading your history and record - no doubt a student of public education.

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  66. Wayne, which part of stop acting like a dick did you not get? There is no need whatsoever to be insulting. Honestly, what the hell is the matter with you?

    You are making assumptions without an factual basis, that's a bad habit. For example, you called me by the insult "lib." I'm neither a conservative nor a liberal. I'm a career military officer, something typically the purview of conservatives. I'm a decorated combat veteran, also something usually placed on the conservative side of things. I have a couple of advanced degrees, neither of which is in liberal arts - just in case you're wondering, and my education consists of both public and private systems, including a strongly conservative military education. Again, you're making assumptions about me that you really shouldn't.

    As to debating skills, Wayne, it's not a contest, it's not an arena where you get some kind of prize for being a bigger jerk. I write a blog, I expressed my opinion, you're welcome to agree or disagree, but so far all you've done is act like a five year old throwing a tantrum.

    Now, either act like an adult or go find somewhere else on the internet to be.

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  67. Jim,

    You say you aren't a 'progressive', yet everything I've read on your blog so far would be just a tilt right of KKKos.

    What are your advanced degrees in, because so far I've read nothing of scientific substance?

    We appreciate your 'decorated' military service, but Bradley Manning served honorably for a time. Simply wearing the uniform is not deserving of accolade simply for wearing the uniform.

    That's a misconception of men spurned leaving the military, who suddenly turned leftward because they feel cheated and disrespected - a malady I'm afraid it appears you've contracted.

    And it really would be more fitting if you would follow your own rules. They do teach that in the military - lead by example.

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  68. By the way Jim. I provided a link from the very liberal New York Times that disputes your claim. I received neither acknowledgment nor response to my proof; just a scolding typical of progressives when their narrative doesn't fit the facts.

    I hope you did note that when you make false accusation of me throwing a temper tantrum, because it would appear that don't practice what you preach.

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  69. And there it is, right on schedule.

    If I don't agree with the far right, I must be a Bradley Manning type traitor. Got it. This is what people like Wayne consider debate, personal attacks and insults. Anybody who doesn't agree with him is an enemy of America.

    Wayne I've been more than patient with you. You're done now. Don't comment here again, on this post or any other.

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  70. Jim,

    This is what you get for building your blog so close the the underside of a bridge.

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  71. "It is because they are afraid.

    Afraid that their children will become more than themselves."


    But wasn't there a time when a parent wanted his child to become more than himself? When parents worked two (or more) jobs so their children would have a chance to go to college and "better themselves"? Have we completely abandoned that concept?

    We appreciate your 'decorated' military service, but Bradley Manning served honorably for a time.

    Does Wayne speak in the royal "we" or does he speak for a collective (and doesn't that make him a communist then)? I thought it was a nice touch how he put the "decorated" in quotation marks so he could cast aspersions on your service.

    Simply wearing the uniform is not deserving of accolade simply for wearing the uniform.

    I'm confused, wasn't it just a short time ago (I guess back when the "right" kind of man was president) that anyone in a uniform was a hero? Or does that only apply to servicemembers who believe in the proper collective opinion?

    These tea baggers make me mighty confused.

    "nonlip" -- describes Wayne's futile attempt to throw down.

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  72. No need for confusion, Bill. It's simple really, it's the NeoConservative mindset best summed up by George W. Bush, "You're either with us or you're against us." In the minds of people like Wayne and the Tea Party, you're either with them or you're an enemy, period.

    They see the world in binary terms, us and them. There is nothing else. You can see it in the words Wayne used. Libs. Progressives. But what he really meant is heretic.

    People like Wayne used to burn people they didn't agree with at the stake, and they'd do it now except for all these liberal laws.

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  73. @ Wayne P.

    I followed your link, page isn't there.

    I would point out that Manning has not been found guilty of anything.

    Trashing a vet tells me everything I need to know.

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  74. Not to feed the troll, but I did find the page Wayne linked to, and it's a 2007 article about American students falling behind students in other countries in science and math. There are several points one might suggest regarding this:

    1) Decline in performance relative to other countries can only be described as "failure" if the sole metric for success is performance in excess of other countries. I.e. the relative scores tell you nothing about the actual competence of the students in those areas.

    Let me attempt an analogy: if I made $100 last year and $150 this year, and Jim made $150 last year and $200 this year, whether or not I'm failing depends on whether it's more important that I make more money than Jim or whether it's more important that I had a 50% improvement while Jim only had a 33% improvement over the same time period.

    The Times article, of course, fails to provide any such information. Did American schools improve or decline compared to American schools in the past? Did foreign schools? It is possible that American school improved while foreign schools declined, and yet foreign schools still out-tested us. Or not. All we really know is that one set of numbers is lower than another set of numbers.

    2) We also don't know if we're comparing apples to apples as far as school systems and methodologies are concerned. American kids are educated in a motley assortment of school districts funded largely through property taxes--a method that inevitably means some school districts in economically distressed districts lack resources available in healthier districts. How are children educated and schools funded in Hong Kong? In Canada? And are the American scores the result of comparing the best American districts with the best Finnish districts or do the American scores represent the average between top-performing districts and poorly-performing districts, and what do the Finnish scores represent? Who knows?

    3) And what about competencies in other subjects? One fears from personal experience that American students don't learn their own country's history, but, nonetheless, the Times article is about math and science. Which are important. But they're not the only items on the menu.

    (CONT.)

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  75. (CONT.)

    4) And speaking of math and science: intelligent liberals (and even some conservatives) fret that Americans are doing worse in those areas compared to earlier eras and foreign contemporaries because of the socially conservative climate that's emerged since the mid-1970s or early 1980s. Specifically, public school science curricula nationwide are besieged by creationists and similar know-nothings who have insisted on demolishing elements of the scientific curricula that challenge their prejudices. While biology is the foremost casualty (and the Times piece is silent about which scientific subjects were tested), Young-Earth Creationism is also inconsistent with geology, physics and astronomy. Social conservatism also tends to challenge peripheral related subjects, such as health and sex education, and has a strong tendency to suppress the sort of skeptical inquisitorial spirit that drives creativity in science and math (when you're told that your elders are always right and you should just do as you're told, it certainly discourages one from trying to figure out how and why things work).

    In short, Wayne, you did try to support your argument with a link... to a typically uninformative Chicken Little-ish bit of tripe from four years ago. As is typical for these sorts of pieces, wherever they appear, there is the suggestion that we all take alarm at something, with little information as to why a rational person ought to be alarmed or by what. Nor do we have any suggestion of solutions--assuming there's a problem, there's no way to tell if a solution to it is school vouchers, nationalizing the school districts, or loading all the Christian fundamentalists onto a rocket and launching it into the sun. Assuming the relative deficit in performance is the problem, is the problem too many teachers, too few teachers, poor certification, a lack of decent textbooks, a failure to give every student a OLPC netbook, industrial runoff in the drinking water, sugary cereals, too much TV, not enough TV, what, what, what? All we know from the article is that we should probably be bothered about the whole thing.

    (CONT.)

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  76. (CONT.)

    Two more points, I think, going back to your "two facts" comment:

    1) I was under the impression that public education was controlled by local school boards voted into power by local electorates, and the control of various state boards of education. If the control was vested in liberal academics, I would imagine they'd fund themselves better and wouldn't have to fight over what the textbooks have to say about evolution or the causes of the American Civil War.

    I say this, by the way, as a liberal who has harbored academic proclivities in my time. If you're right, Wayne, gods, my team really sucks. We are doing it so wrong, I'm a little ashamed for it.

    2) Your statement that public education is mostly a dismal failure can really only be regarded as an opinion, not a fact, depending entirely on the metrics you're using. I might or might not agree with your opinion depending on what those metrics are, you know. And I might agree or disagree with the meaningfulness of your metrics--e.g. I might agree that test scores have dropped while questioning whether test scores are the best measure of success.

    A quick illustration on that last point to wrap this up: one way to raise test scores would be to kick all underachieving students out of the school. If your sole goal is raising test scores, congratulations, you've won. If, however, your goal is maximizing the number of children offered some sort of education, however minimal, you've just failed. Furthermore, it's at least possible that those goals--maximum reach and maximum test results--are actually incompatible, since teaching every student regardless of actual capability may inevitably lower the possible maximum average using the same test; after all, it's possible that any student is only educable up to a point, and that for some students (for whatever reason) that point is a bit lower than one would wish for. In which case, is the average test result more important than having that underperforming child exposed to at least some basic level of education? (My own answer, as you might guess, is no: I would prefer having every child given a chance to learn something to simply maximizing end-of-grade scores.)

    Hope that was enlightening.

    (And my apologies, Jim, for the triple-header--I'm too lazy to edit myself today.)

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  77. You better apologize, Eric. What the hell? You didn't even work in a Bradley Manning reference for crying out loud.

    Snark aside, very very well said.

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  78. Applause

    whenest - superlative of when

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  79. While I agree with all the points you made in "Teacher Bashing 101', I'd like to add one more to the list.
    As you clearly explained, teacher performance is one of the major issues identified as a failure of our education system. As a retired (elementary) teacher, I support ongoing teacher education and evaluation, but heartily agree that most teachers' performance is not a primary cause of 'failure'.
    Instead, I'd like to add poverty to the list of systemic problems/failures. I retired from a rural/suburban district and our scores were good- as are those of most of the schools in our country. (I won't get into the narrow-sightedness of measuring our schools solely by test scores - score one for the testing corporations).
    Actually, it's our poor inner-city schools that are the failures of our system. If we want to be honest, (and few politicians do) poverty and its effect on families, needs to be highlighted in any discussion of these failures. Obviously, it's cheaper and more politically expedient to demonize teachers than to address poverty and its consequences in our schools and society.
    Most teachers are there for the rewards of the profession. Instead of throwing money into charter schools, merit salaries, etc., I'm pretty sure that rerouting those funds into real answers to the societal and economic poverty suffered by inner city families would be just fine with educators. And,if those discussions were ever to occur, it would be wise to include teachers. Just sayin.....

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  80. Great post! My husband sent it to me this afternoon; he's heard his share of my complaints on this subject, since I'm a teacher. I've admittedly not read through the comments (I'm going back to grading 5th grade reading assignments after I post this), so I won't comment in too much more depth, for fear of being a parrot unintentionally. However, I did write up a quick post with a link over at my education blog. I hope you don't mind, and if you object, please let me know.
    Thank you again - every little bit of respect helps make the job worth it.

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  81. I don't mind, Stevie. Link away.

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  82. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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  83. Wayne has a problem understanding simple directions, as in "don't comment here again."

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  84. Sorry, I feel that was my fault, since I responded to him.

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  85. You didn't miss anything, it was just the usual threats and insults.

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  86. I agree 100%! Too bad you are preaching to the choir. I know lots of people I would like to force to read this entire post. Keep up the good work. Fred in Cary, NC.

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  87. A little late in my return to your writing and really should be working on the layers on my desk but public education and teaching are near and dear to me.

    Ramblings of an educator: My own K-12 education was dismal at best so I opted for my GED at age 17 after years of truancy and failing. My family life lacked the important support necessary for a young student to develop academically and emotionally though I developed strong survival skills and lots of street smarts.

    Returned to school in my 20's to become a teacher b/c I wanted to change the system that seemingly failed me. Naive? you betcha.

    Graduate program in education was wonderful - cutting edge, thoughtful, socially conscious, and so very ideological.

    Student teaching and then my first job: not so much.
    Welcome to a system that is so far gone that I truly don't think it can fix itself without blowing up and building anew.
    A system that loses 30% of its learners to dropping out each year (a stat that has not changed since the 50s and is far higher for African-Americans, Latinos, and American Indians).

    A system that loses 3 out of 5 teachers in their first 5 years of teaching.

    A system that until recently offered little to no support to teachers. Here's your curriculum, here's your room, these are your students. See you in the lunch room.

    A system that many young learners enter filled with the joy and wonder of their worlds and 12 years later sit in my college classroom, dulled and numb. Most common major at my community college: undecided. Why? B/c they have no interests. Their words, not mine.

    A system that covertly roots out those who do not conform to the mass-controlling and mind-numbing expectations of the system: learners, teachers, and administrators who challenge the status quo are shunned, disciplined, belittled, and eventually forsaken.

    A system that has become a playground for politics (historically this is also the case) and a research lab for theories about testing, evaluating, class size, international competition, pedagogical strategies, technology. A system that has many experts with the ultimate solution. A system that seldom asks the learners how it could improve.

    A system that is forced to embrace social services for those learners whose families and lifestyles can't provide the most basic and necessary things for survival.

    A system that offers the best illustration of a community's wealth structure and its respective class segregation. A system that allows strong and experienced teachers to move to wealthier schools and new and less-experienced to start at the most challenging schools in the system.

    A system that truly is dumbed down and designed to create workers not necessarily thinkers. Evidence surrounds us - former learners who now take the form of Trolls, right/left wing extremists, religious fanatics, etc. Witness the dumbing down effects of The System in our popular culture, our news media, our politics, and our social systems.

    Teachers are an easy target for a system that is failing because they are visible, on the front lines. But teachers are victims of the same system.

    One of the best books on the whys and hows of the American education system is The Underground History of American Education by John Taylor Gatto.

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  88. I retired in 2009 after teaching high school social studies in GA. Your post is right on the money! GA doesn't allow public employees to bargain collectively, but the majority of the comments on sites here blame the teachers' unions for the decline in student test scores. Every Tom, Dick, and Harriet believes that they have the right to tell teachers how to do their jobs, but none of them have spent any time in a classroom setting for any period of time. Researching anything having to do with teaching or teachers is asking these types of people to do too much since they get their talking points from lying rw politicians and TV personalities on Fox Snooze.

    I wish I had been rolling in dough all of the years I spent in the classroom. I taught school 15 years before I earned $15,000/yr., and this was with a Masters Degree. I remained in the classroom for 33 years, not because of the money, but because I had an interest in making sure that my students received the best instruction I could offer in U.S. History, world history, civics, and geography. What was always discouraging for me was the fact that few parents were ever as interested, or involved, in their own kid's education as they should have been. As the years progressed, more and more duties that parents should have been responsible for were added to the list of "teacher duties and responsibilities" and were added to the evaluation instruments.

    The attitude toward teachers shown by the posters as responses to the teacher's op-ed are some of the things that are wrong with public education. Many parents don't take responsibility for their child/ren's education. It is the teacher who gets blamed if the kid has to play in a basketball game the night before a major test and doesn't pass the test. It's the teacher's fault if the student falls asleep in class and fails a pop quiz. It's the teacher's fault if the student fails to turn in a project. It's the teacher's fault if the parents don't access their child's grade on the computer and only finds out at the end of the semester that their child is failing. It's the teacher's fault if the student never turns in his/her homework. I could go on and on. There is a whole lot of pressure on teachers to make students successful academically, but there's little pressure on the students or their parents. If these teacher bashers think it's so easy to replace teachers, they need to think again. Many college students today are not entering the field of education, and who can blame them when teachers have become Public Enemy #1?

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  89. Guess you deleted my contribution? If so, that speaks volumes.

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  90. A little late in my return to your writing and really should be working on the layers on my desk but public education and teaching are near and dear to me.

    Ramblings of an educator: My own K-12 education was dismal at best so I opted for my GED at age 17 after years of truancy and failing. My family life lacked the important support necessary for a young student to develop academically and emotionally though I developed strong survival skills and lots of street smarts.

    Returned to school in my 20's to become a teacher b/c I wanted to change the system that seemingly failed me. Naive? you betcha.

    Graduate program in education was wonderful - cutting edge, thoughtful, socially conscious, and so very ideological.

    Student teaching and then my first job: not so much.
    Welcome to a system that is so far gone that I truly don't think it can fix itself without blowing up and building anew.
    A system that loses 30% of its learners to dropping out each year (a stat that has not changed since the 50s and is far higher for African-Americans, Latinos, and American Indians).

    A system that loses 3 out of 5 teachers in their first 5 years of teaching.

    A system that until recently offered little to no support to teachers. Here's your curriculum, here's your room, these are your students. See you in the lunch room.

    A system that many young learners enter filled with the joy and wonder of their worlds and 12 years later sit in my college classroom, dulled and numb. Most common major at my community college: undecided. Why? B/c they have no interests. Their words, not mine.

    A system that covertly roots out those who do not conform to the mass-controlling and mind-numbing expectations of the system: learners, teachers, and administrators who challenge the status quo are shunned, disciplined, belittled, and eventually forsaken.

    A system that has become a playground for politics (historically this is also the case) and a research lab for theories about testing, evaluating, class size, international competition, pedagogical strategies, technology. A system that has many experts with the ultimate solution. A system that seldom asks the learners how it could improve.

    A system that is forced to embrace social services for those learners whose families and lifestyles can't provide the most basic and necessary things for survival.

    A system that offers the best illustration of a community's wealth structure and its respective class segregation. A system that allows strong and experienced teachers to move to wealthier schools and new and less-experienced to start at the most challenging schools in the system.

    A system that truly is dumbed down and designed to create workers not necessarily thinkers. Evidence surrounds us - former learners who now take the form of Trolls, right/left wing extremists, religious fanatics, etc. Witness the dumbing down effects of The System in our popular culture, our news media, our politics, and our social systems.

    Teachers are an easy target for a system that is failing because they are visible, on the front lines. But teachers are victims of the same system.

    One of the best books on the whys and hows of the American education system is The Underground History of American Education by John Taylor Gatto.

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  91. Sue, as I noted in the follow on post, my comment spam filter is cranked up to maximum due to large amount of trollage I'm getting. Your comment simply ended up in the spam queue.

    What does that speak volumes about?

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  92. Jim, as a Navy veteran (CTI), I salute your courage, honesty, and sanity. This was a fine read. Why do you suppose so many veterans--especially from the enlisted ranks--become so conservative? Alfred Vagts in _A History of Militarism_ suggested that it was their secret desire to be like their officer overlords, but that's always been an unsatisfying theory. Kind regards, Larry V. (OKC, OK)

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  93. poMotexan, a CTI?

    Great, now I have to wash the germs off the blog. Thanks a lot ;)

    FWIW, I was a couple different flavors of CT myself, before I made Warrant.

    I don't buy the "we wanna be like officers" bit either. If anything, more officers lean to centrist/progressive than the enlisted ranks. Frankly, I think it's much more complicated than that and stems from a variety of issues - chief among them being education levels.

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  94. Is it not odd that it didn't occur to Wayne that the countries whose students test better than American students don't do so because their education systems are run by semi-literate religious conservatives? As a citizen of one of them, I can pretty confidently confirm that it's because they're well-organized, and their teachers are highly valued liberal academics. I mean, America is welcome to try a system run the other way; a good current example Wayne might look into is Iran.

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  95. A society that doesn't honor its teachers or support education is a society that doesn't care for its children or value the future.--A Baby-Boomer who cares.

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  96. Statists tend to make an argument like this all the time. Someone is against government education, therefore they are against all education.

    Some people have said they would gladly pay higher property taxes to fund schools. Why not cut out the middle man and donate? Hell, you could do the unthinkable and donate to a private school. Your willingness to donate money shows that government schools aren't needed. If people are willing to donate why is the government needed to force you to pay for the schools?

    I went to both a private school and a public school. The private school got around 5000-6000$ a year per child. The public school got between 9000-11000$ per year per child. I will let you take a guess as to which one was better.

    For those of you that haven't guessed yet, it was the private school. I slept my way though the public high school, coming out of their advanced program with a 3.99.

    Being against state schools doesn't make you against schools.

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  97. Thank you. I am a teacher. It is my second career, but I have been at it for many years. My classes are almost all full of students that are described as below average or 'high risk' for an amazing array of reasons. I get more respect than average from students, and do well among my peers, and have better than average results for my student population on those state/federal tests. But my group starts so low that we never gain quite enough to look wonderful compared to the schools where students enter at a higher level. In so-called 'real jobs', in production, the business has some control over the state of the materials that they accept to use for their product, and what product is to be made. Teachers don't have that. The legislative description/mandate of what our product should be changes with each election, or each new committee. We take whomever shows up for our classes, treat them with respect. We work to help them develop the educational foundation needed to hold a job that will pay a living wage, and to read and write well enough to make intelligent decisions in a country that is designed to be a participatory democracy. We work to help them have options for a good life. It is very, very difficult to continue daily to work at a very demanding job in the face of contempt, blame, massive public distrust, and what seems like a deliberate underestimation of the hours we work. I checked off the 'I cried' box, because I did. I love my work, I do well at it, and I am so tired of being vilified for it. It wasn't always like this. I have always worked diligently, but the conditions have deteriorated and public support is gone. We are being bullied by the general public, by our legislators, by those we serve. Teaching is not for the faint-hearted. I would welcome having retired CWO's in our schools. But they would all be fired for attempting discipline that isn't allowed. Anyway, again, thank you.

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