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.