Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Something Said Better By Someone Else: Teacher Antipathy Edition

I've been meaning to cut and paste this John Spencer analysis for about a month.  Outside of the fact that South Dakota doesn't have a political left, I think his analysis about the public attitudes toward teachers is spot on for here.
1. Teachers are over-worked. For all the vacation time we are supposed to have, many teachers work additional jobs to make ends meet.  They don't necessarily have the time to fight the political and economic systems that are at work against the profession.
2. Teachers will take as many left hooks as you can offer.  After all, schools are dens of indoctrination and the only solution is educational anarchy.
3. Teachers will also take punches from the right. After all, teachers ask students to think critically about American history, explain descent with modification, teach sex ed and encourage tolerance.
4. It's easy to confuse the system with the people who work hard to change it.  For example, on The Innovative Educator, guest writers have called teachers slave-drivers, prison guards, child-abusers and thieves.  Teachers make a great punching bag here, because the system is made of concrete and steel and who wants to punch industrialization anyway?
5. Teachers are notoriously nice and typically don't punch back.  While this panders to stereotypes, there are many within early childhood education that are kind and gentle spirits.  I've watched my son's teachers have more patience with him (and with all the students) than I do.  There's nothing wrong with being nice, but I'm beginning to see even the gentlest kindergarten teachers put on their gloves and punch back.
6. Teachers aren't part of the top one percent who control the vast majority of the wealth in our country.    If Bill Gates makes it a priority to use teachers as punching bags and promote Kahn-style Light-Bright solutions in math, the media will report it as a solution.  If Punch-a-Teacher is a carnival game, Gates can not only buy as many tickets as he wants; he can buy the entire carnival.
7. Like most punching bags, we're resilient.  Teachers tend to love their jobs and continue to serve out of social rather than economic norms.  Punch them and they come right back and serve, tirelessly and with a sense of gratitude.  There is a cost, though, in being so beat-down.  Teachers are worn-out and a collective cultural thank you would go a long way.
8.  Most people have a former teacher they would love to punch.  Therefore, it's way too easy to normalize the few bad cases by reframe social perceptions.  Unlike other heroic professions (fire fighters, for example), most people in society have experience with teachers.  As students, they saw the imperfect humanity and experienced a few really bad teachers.  By reframing the debate into anecdotal stories, people can focus on the bad teachers they have and conclude that teachers suck.
9. The union sucks.  There, I said it.  The NEA offers their endorsement like an over-eager suitor who is seeking an abusive relationship.  Instead of protecting teachers from the punches, they've paid politicians to take a shot at everything teachers hold sacred.  "Hey Arne, here's some cash.  Go ahead and support the full-scale firing of all teachers in one school.  Oh and blame us.  Complain about how hard it is to hire teachers.  We'll just give you more money."  I dropped my union membership the minute that they supported Obama.  Were they choosing the lesser of two evils?  Perhaps.  But why are we choosing evil in the first place?
10. People are hurting and they need to punch back.  It feels like the teachers didn't take as huge a hit in the bad economy.  The truth is that many lost their jobs and faced salary freezes.  But, ah, they have pensions.  Those bastards! It doesn't matter that we pay ten percent of our check into state pension.  It doesn't matter that when the economy was booming, no one complained that we weren't "bearing the economic burden" of a bull economy.  It doesn't matter that we are still one of the lowest paying professions for the level of education we earn.  None of that matters, because we have a pension.  And when boomers have lost so much of their own 401k's, a teacher is a far less threatening punching bag than a transnational bank.

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