It’s time once again to play America’s favorite game of Kick the Teacher in the Face.
The only profession more maligned than my own, is that of the public-school educator. As local and national politicians hoist their vapid rhetoric like tawdry Christmas decorations, teachers are running for cover.
Chicago teachers are under fire right now for abandoning their classrooms to make a point that most of the country refuses to hear: We cannot get there from here. While I agree with Chicago teacher union critics that walking off the job sure as hell isn’t going to make it any easier, I hear what those teachers are saying, and they’re right.
We could fire every single teacher in the country and rehire only those that we all, somehow, agree are only the best of the best. And you know what? I’ll bet you Mitt Romney’s $10,000 that the needle on standardized test scores would hardly move.
You see, the reason why so many Americans gleefully throw bigger and bigger stones at teachers buried up to their assessments in class sizes, is because we are much more to blame for this country’s dismal public education conundrum.
That’s not to say that teacher unions haven’t worked hard for their own undoing. There really are teachers standing in front of classrooms here in Aurora and all over the country who need to move on. And there are plenty of union contracts that make getting rid of these teachers nothing but trouble.
But to blame a relative handful of burnt out or boring teachers for the fact that less than half of the kids right here in Aurora are where they need to be in their education, is beyond naive. Blaming “bad” teachers for our public school morass is as stupid as a blaming your car when it runs out of gas.
How many of you really, and I mean really, take much time to work with your kids on what they’re doing in school? How many of you spend time every night at dinner talking about anything other than what’s on TV, what your asinine boss did today, the Broncos or how awful Cindy Crawford looks without makeup?
You know what I’m talking about. Way too many Americans expect our kids to take care of that school thing by themselves. We expect schools, and especially teachers, to do the job without us having to be bothered with it at home. If our kids don’t give a crap about learning, then it’s the teachers’ fault for not inspiring them to learn.
And so out in Chicago — and right here in Douglas County where that school board’s neo-cons nuked the local teacher union last week — the public is angry that teachers don’t want their jobs and pay tied to kids whose families value education someplace close to re-painting the basement. It would be like a restaurant waiter being able to keep his job based on how well patrons ate their veggies.
I agree that teacher unions have created contracts so convoluted and inflexible that’s it’s almost impossible for school administrations to try new ways to do the job that so many parents won’t. But teachers, through association, need to weigh in on educational policy, because they are the experts. They are the ones who watch your kids text all through lit class. They are the ones who have to find coats for kids who don’t have one in the winter. They are the ones who have to spend hours and hours drilling kids how to take state standardized tests, instead of spending time teaching them what they need to know. We treat public schools and educators like ranchers, but we expect them to work like psych ward therapists.
Last week, Michelle Johnson of Detroit filed suit against her school district because her child made it the 12th grade without being able to read. It’s tragic. But never once did this woman say why it was that something she felt so strongly about that she would sue, never rose to the level of her intervening in herself — until now. Other than our physical health, is there anything more important than being able to read? No. There is not.
So rather than kick around teachers for not doing our job as parents, kick yourself for not doing more to really make a difference.
Reach editor Dave Perry at 303-750-7555 or [email protected]