Sunday, February 20, 2011

Simply Ridiculous

I don't know about all of you, but I am really getting tired about the relentless attacks on teachers as states grapple with their budgets.  Are they kidding me? Really, educators and other state workers are to blame for out of control costs and spending?  As long as I can remember anyone that went into the field of education was ridiculed for the main reason that the profession makes no money.  Now all of a sudden we are all filthy rich, greedy, and the sole reason for the economic turmoil in this country.  The irony here is that it was the lack of oversight by these same government officials spearheading this agenda that got us into this financial mess.  Where is the accountability on their part?
Education is what makes all other professions possible.  As I have mentioned in other posts I firmly believe that teaching is the most noble profession.  Other countries recognize this and treat their teachers with respect and compensation competitive with many other professions that we see as important.  This summary of Thomas Friedman's views by Victoria Jean Terre sums it up nicely, "Friedman compares our country’s way of recruiting teachers to those countries who draw on the cream of the college student population, cultivating their academic talents and their commitment to working with children. And, I might add, compensating them well for their work and also providing social recognition of the important job they’re doing for their communities and their country."  If this isn't enough try out this recent CNN article written by Diane Ravitch entitled Why America's Teachers Are Enraged.

It is time to remind all of these state legislators and governors of how important teachers are and the countless hours that are spent to help children, including theirs', succeed.  The questions is, would they listen? Consider adding reasons why teachers should be valued, the important work they do, and examples from other countries that value the profession in the comments section.


  1. Eric - Things will never change until people look seriously on education as the solution to ALL of our problems. As long as education and educators are looked upon as part of the problem then I don't see a change happening.

    I also get concerned when educators spend time fighting amongst ourselves. We are not as strong as we should be or as strong as we can be when we waste so much energy clinging to old practices that need to change and protecting the small minority of our colleagues who should not have the privilege of working with students every day.

    I agree that we need a place to share concrete positive stories where things are happening that are positive for kids to take away the sting from the media campaigns that generalize and assume that all educators are the same. Hopefully, we can keep making enough noise and drawing positive attention to our schools.

  2. Timely post, Eric. The frustration we all feel is greater than I've ever experienced in my 31 years in public education. The unfortunate fact of the matter is that corporate reformers with their social and economic agendas have enormous political power. Fortunately though, they are often their own worst enemies. The rhetoric and attacks will continue. As they do, my focus will be to continue promoting the merits of public education and doing what is right for students.

  3. It is a debate that seems void of honestly mapping out what we value and aligning the budget to those beliefs. Instead, because everyone approaches it from the "what will happen to me" lens, the true issue never gets put on the table in an honest manner. With this reality, it will continue to be focused on "us vs them" and "you people" and "why don't you like us" arguments.

    Patrick commented on us educators fighting amongst ourselves - right on the money. There is a real budget problem in every state and in the federal government. Our behaviors and decisions have resulted in a real financial crisis. It just might be up to us educators to change the tone of this debate and focus it on the real, core issues instead of the finger pointing behaviors taking place. Yes it seems that is unfair - but isn't that what educators have always done?? Haven't we always stepped up and led the charge to be a civil democracy?

  4. Eric,
    I agree with all that you have written. I do believe that, at this point, change is about more than finding success stories and spreading the good word about what teachers do. We must figure out a way to be heard collectively as educators.

    Senators, congressmen/women are so far removed from public school reality that just reminding them of the good stuff is not enough. They have no frame of reference for the amount of work/dedication that teachers & administrators put in every day/week/year. Sure, our elected officials have fond memories of school & of their teachers; however, they don't know the behind the scenes work that was done to ensure learning. Ask your current students; they cannot define the amount of work that you or their teachers do to make sure learning is happening. Our current students are our future legislators, can we begin to change their frame of reference @ the work we do?

    If we begin to give our students a voice and enlist their help, I think the legislature would begin to listen. How can we use student voice to enact educational change within our legislatures?

  5. Even though I do not live in the U.S.A., I have been reading on the situation in Wisconsin. I agree with your post.

    I hope, one day, that people will look upon education as the building block of everyone's future. As Patrick indicates, we need to work together and embrace new practices that are credible. Some old stereotypes many need to be broken (like all those holidays), which means new educational models need to be seriously investigated and practiced.

    Thx. for your post

  6. As a teacher (a middle school teacher, at that), I am weary. It seems as though I am to blame for everything--parents blame me because their children are adolescents, my administrators blame me because test scores aren't high enough, my colleagues blame me for not addressing THEIR needs--I am plumb tuckered out. Stick a fork in me; I'm done.

  7. As a teacher, I stand against the WI protesters. While I agree that politicians are to blame, blame also goes to citizens (including teachers) for not being an active part of their government. We are a gov't of the people and we have not done our job in holding our gov't officials accountable. Teachers, along with many others, always want money for this program or money for that program, own part of the blame for the state of our finances. Money doesn't solve problems. In fact, the U.S. is among the leading countries in the amount of money we spend per student. Money is not nor will it ever be the solution to our problems. The problem is REAL accountability for teachers AND administrators. I'm sorry to say, there are "bad" teachers. I'm sick of that argument as well. I work with bad teachers everyday and it is infuriating that their unions protect them. Another quandary I have is why teachers, who are supposed to be educated, don't understand that money does not grow on trees. Where do they propose that the state "take away" from some other entity so the teachers can get "their" money? Or, should we just do what our fed. gov't is doing and just print the money? Teachers need to wake up and realize the world does not revolve around them. They work in PUBLIC education. If the public does not have money (because of politicians and the citizens' lack of holding them accountable), we suffer the consequences. And, as a public teacher, I am okay with that. But, then again, I am active in holding my officials accountable.

  8. Erik, WHAT ABOUT STUDENTS? We hear about teachers, unions, tenure, evaluations, test scores...etc. When we focus on the students' learning and experience in education we are doing things right. I am tired of listening to "reformers" who have either never been in a room with children as a teacher, or it has been so long since they have associated with kids that they have lost track of what is important.

  9. The teabagger troll above defending the union busting bill is obviously not really a teacher. Real teachers know that destroying the remaining meager wages of teachers will NOT create more "good teachers". Cutting teacher pay, removing benefits, destroying meager pensions WILL NOT "improve our schools".
    Only a moron, or a paid troll would propose that argument.
    Let's try another argument: The State says, in effect, "Our State is out of money, we need to destroy the teacher's union (and every other union) to cut costs!".
    This is the SAME STATE that JUST PASSED A BILL to cut 117 MILLION DOLLARS in revenue out of the budget. FOR BUSINESSES.

    Here's a reminder, btw: Wall Street still owes the US Treasury 2 TRILLION DOLLARS of OUR TAX MONEY..which, if repaid, WOULD FULLY FUND THE BUDGET SHORTFALLS OF ALL 50 STATES IN THE COUNTRY.
    Where is the suggestion that we cut the pay of Wall Street employees, which are the highest paid group of people in the USA? Where is the "fiscal conservancy" of continuing to use OUR TAX MONEY to prop up 5 banks that paid 54 BILLION DOLLARS IN BONUSES ALREADY THIS YEAR?

    It is obvious that our system of government is not working, as clearly the people in charge have been bought off by big money to propose rules and laws which consistently crush the working person, while directly rewarding the people who produce nothing, but who manipulate the price of food, cotton, steel, and gasoline for a living.

    The bankers are winning by making the rules with the pawns they put into office.

    If you cannot see that, you are blind. If you don't care, even for your children's sake, go ask their best teachers what they think, and whether cutting their salary further will make them a better teacher.

    The teabaggers are reprehensible examples of humanity at its worst..or they are too stupid to know who it is that is sending them to do their bidding.

  10. Eric: The people who gave the teacher's unions the first rate benefits were school district superintendents and their boards of education, not state legislatures. When money was available they gave some of the best health care deals and pensions going. Now it is an obvious place to cut back as large local and state tax increases aren't possible. Perhaps they are going too far in Wisconsin by trying to cut back on collective bargaining rights but the teachers aren't doing themselves any favors by calling in "sick" when they are not sick. I hope this sorts itself out soon.

  11. THANK YOU for posting this. I agree with you wholeheartedly.

  12. Eric,

    Great post. Socially, teachers are certainly undervalued. As a country, our focus needs to return to an appreciation of education.

    As a former teacher, my services were highly undervalued. My colleagues and myself were constantly attacked by parents and unsupported by our administration, despite consistently putting in 80 hour work weeks to insure the best learning experience for my students.

    I left the profession two years ago to start my own tutoring company and could not be happier. The parents of students who request tutoring know the importance of education and are very appreciative of the service that we provide to their children.

    Americans need to realize that the answer to our problems is not in fighting wars with foreign nations over oil, or expanding our prison system, but by improving education and creativity. The reason why America became a superpower was the creativity and ingenuity of American citizens and we have diverged from that thinking immensely. Educators need to be able to instill a desire and a love for learning, not memorizing facts. Let teachers ignite students' innate desire for knowledge and watch them exceed our greatest expectations.

  13. Teachers are crucial, no question. They work very, very hard, no question about that. But folks also see a profession, for all it's talk about children coming first, continue to protect jobs. Non-teachers see their own benefits being cut, while union employees complain about co-pays. Non teachers, who believe me, also work very very hard, do not have the vacations that teachers do. And finally, non-teachers never see teachers admit any of this and rarely do non-teachers hear teachers say that they are ever part of an admittingly large problem.

  14. Thanks for the post. Everyone who has commented has some great points, no doubt. The frustration is that the ones who are very vocal about what is going on don't necessarily see the whole picture. My hat is off to teachers, and police officers, etc., who go to work everyday and give 100%, in spite of public anger. As always, it is the quiet majority who will keep things rolling and continue to provide the best services that they can.