Saturday, March 12, 2011

The failure of American teachers

For a long time, I tried to fight it.

Whenever someone had the temerity to criticize public schools and schoolteachers, I stood staunchly in the corner of those who practice my profession. I noted that in my 12 years as a teacher, I have had the privilege of serving with some of the hardest working, most skilled professionals in education.

Though I have only worked in two school systems in those dozen years, I spent the previous 22 years as a newspaper reporter and had the opportunity to observe dozens of schools, all of which were doing outstanding jobs of serving their communities.

After more than three decades, I have finally had my blinders removed and I no longer have the same glowing view of public education.

It has nothing to do with test scores, considering most of the schools are taking poorly-worded tests from companies that are making a mint off selling both tests and practice tests. After all, if the tests are any good, there would be no need for these practice tests, which have turned out to be a lucrative sideline for the test companies.

It has nothing to do with lazy, incompetent teachers who received tenure and cannot be fired. On the contrary, that is a phenomenon of some large, suburban schools whose failures are then exploited by those who wish to see public education destroyed. From what I have seen first hand over the years, many young teachers who are not cut out for teaching quickly discover that and move to other work. Others are encouraged by administrators to leave education, while others are removed before they can do more damage. Few incompetents receive tenure in Missouri and most of those are as a result of lazy, incompetent administrators not doing their jobs.

It has nothing to do with the spate of stories about teachers misusing their positions of trust to take advantage of students. Some public education critics have targeted teachers because of these few who have brought shame on all of us. The reason those instances are so well publicized is because they are still thankfully rare.

It has nothing to do with out of control unions who care about teachers more than children. It has not been my experience that union members put anyone ahead of children.

It has nothing to do with teachers working 8 to 3 everyday and getting three months off in the summer and long Christmas breaks. I don’t know many teachers who don’t take their work home with them and most arrive well before the first bell and are working long after children have gone home for the day. Summers are spent either teaching summer school or taking classes and attending seminars to keep up with the latest developments of education or to earn higher degrees. Of course, those higher degrees and the debt the teachers have run up earning them will be wasted once laws are passed, including one scheduled to be voted on next week in Missouri that will eliminate years of valuable experience and advanced degrees in favor of a system that relies on the same poorly written tests I mentioned before. Poverty, parents who don’t care, children with so many distractions that they find much more rewarding than learning- none of those things mean anything. After all, if you believe the rhetoric from our politicians, the sole problem in American public education is horrible, inept teachers.

And that brings me to the sole reason I have changed my mind about the competence of American public schoolteachers- If we were doing our job, somewhere along the line we would have taught the politicians who are systematically destroying public education, the greatest of all American experiments, something about decency, respect, and developing the mortal fortitude to resist the siren song of the special interests who are well on their way to making the U. S. into a world of haves and have-nots, where public education will serve to provide low paid feeder stock for non-union companies and taxpayer-financed private schools will continue to cater to the elite, with the middle class existing only in history books.

Public schoolteachers have failed miserably by producing the most incompetent, mean-spirited legislators in U. S. history.


Anonymous said...

I gotta disagree. I bet a bunch of this crop of legislators are products of private schools.

Anonymous said...

"Public schoolteachers have failed miserably by producing the most incompetent, mean-spirited legislators in U. S. history."

Hit the nail on the head with that one!

Anonymous said...

I absolutely love the punchline!
I also agree with Anon 9:33,who said they had gone to private schools.
Listen: using test scores to punish teachers is ridiculous. And all this hammering away at teachers is not going to solve the problems inherent in our schools. I have one idea that might help: get rid of compulsory education after 8th grade. Yes, I know this is going back instead of forward; I'm aware of all the arguments. But we need to make high school a place where people there are happy to be there. Make it competitive, and make the parents sweat it out whether their kid will qualify for school or have to drop out and get a job or go to a vo-tech. One of the reasons I don't want to teach in high school is the dangerous atmosphere that fosters incidents like Columbine, etc. And while we are taking the compulsory aspect out of it, get rid of all the silly things like Football, basketball, etc. Let each community have sports teams if they want; this is what they do in Europe. School should be a place for learning and preparation for college. And college should be free for those who qualify.

Anonymous said...

Bureaucrats are to blame for most of the ills in public education. Unrealistic expectations from a group of people who have little or no idea what goes on in the public school system is what I see wrong. Schools are handcuffed by federal laws that prevent them from doing what needs to be done. If a kid doesn't want to be at school and constantly causes trouble, they need to be removed. Quit pandering to those who don't want or need to be in the educational system. Once schools are allowed to have school again, things will shape up.

Anonymous said...

Wow. Make parents/kids compete for admittance into the public school their property taxes help pay for, but don't make public school compete for the tax levy dollars.

Monopolies are bad, aren't they?

If the goal is to produce people who depend on government for everything, have no regard for Liberty, and have no working knowledge of the Constitution, I would say the public schools are performing swimmingly.

"College should be free" = "Everything for everyone, and nothing for ourselves!"

Cry of the Parasite said...

Following Turner's logic, then of course public school teachers should be blamed for creating a bunch of cowardly seething morons who cannot be expected to be anything but vengeful for the years wasted on 'learning' -- or not -- simple tasks such as reading, writing and arithmetic.

Thousands of tax dollars spent per pupil per year on . . . a lower standard of literacy as these schools are used for social engineering purposes to turn children away from their parents, among other evils.

This system didn't and doesn't work and now that the shortcomings are beginning to be paid for in that the results are unable to maintain former levels of civilization and funding. Before any change is possible because it is desired and because there will be no other alternative, what is necessary is a total collapse of the social 'business model' akin to what happened to the newspapers. Turner is a sort of parasitic cowbird canary in the coal-mine, being kicked out just before the concern that hires him collapses.

Abolish property taxes on primary homes for the first $100,000 valuation. Allow individual school districts to set their level of funding. And, most importantly, limit formal schooling to be paid for by the remaining diminished property taxes to four years from the age of 10-14. The taxpayer shouldn't have to pay for babysitting. With the lower burden of taxation, women should be free to stay at home with their children. If these mothers then are able to have their offspring pass a high-school equivalency examination, then they get half to three-quarters of the educational allotment for the four years of schooling.

The state will get out of the business of granting licenses and monopolies. In a reduced era of prosperity, government workers will have to provide for their own pensions as well.

But none of these reforms will take place absent a complete collapse.

Turner's whine is that of a parasite who has gotten what it wanted, and then found, like most Baby Boomers, that its nostrums have killed the golden goose that laid the golden eggs. America is in a steady decline and the pace of decline is picking up, thanks to the level of sheer idiocy from the public schools. Property taxes are rising while people are losing their homes. That the People allow banksters and lawyers and politicians to rape them is caused by public schools training children to be cowards as well as fools. Things are only going to get worse, much worse. So it's only fair that politicians pick up on this discontent and take advantage of it against those who were in the forefront of our social decline. Turner's rant was the cry of the parasite unwilling to admit that not only is the Beast dead, but that Turner-kind&kind was what killed it.

Anonymous said...

"Cry" above is a bit over the top. But the facts are that there isn't any more money left in order to fix the public school system and politicians are being elected to 'solve' the problem with a lot less money.

So rather than blaming the politicians and the people who elected them, you teachers who had a lot to do with getting us into this mess should take most of the blame as well as most of the wage and benefit cuts.

Anonymous said...

My child goes to a very good school with low 900 API score. We live in a My child is in school 6.5 hours a day. He writes 1/2 page a week and may read whatever text is on his worksheets, lets say a generous 2 pages.

He is receiving a mediocre education at best because the measures are flawed, the school does not teach mastery of the skill. They are measuring the efforts of parents.