I’m sick with the media, Oprah, L.A. Times, Education Nation, Michelle Rhee, and politicians who have found a scapegoat to blame problems on and do nothing about education in the US. Scapegoating is a political trick from history. You may remember when Hitler blamed the Jews for the woes of the economy. He convinced a whole country to commit atrocious acts and get rid of the scapegoats. What happened in the end? The country suffered from being war torn. Problems still existed and the country was left to pay the consequences of never dealing with the issues to begin with.
In the same way, our society is letting our politicians, celebrities, and media folk brainwash us into believing that the reason students are doing poorly in schools is because the system is plagued with bad teachers. We have voted for politicians whose Ivy League degrees have only helped them come up with “scapegoats” versus real solutions. When the politicians and media get rid of all these “supposed bad teachers” they will still be left with the students who can’t read at grade level, the wide achievement gap, the millions who continue to drop out of high schools, gang members, a high teen pregnancy rate, and more. These problems won’t go away because we blame some group. These problems haven’t gone away in decades of letting politicians be in charge of education policy.
Yet, we buy into these lies. I was sadly disappointed that when teachers received a nationwide audience with Education Nation, many yelled like zealots, “Fire the bad teachers.” And how do we decide what makes a bad teacher?
According to the LA Times they have a fail safe system that rates teachers based on test scores! If you don’t make the grade then the journalists who never worked with a room full of 8th graders who read at a 1st grade level will just out the “bad teacher” for not getting their students to pass the standardized tests! Obviously, drilling students till they hate the learning process is a value we want in teachers rather than the teacher who is the one fresh breath of positivity a child who has a drug addicted parent at home receives. The child didn’t learn to read because the child was too busy caring for their younger siblings and taking care of their strung out parent. Perhaps the child doesn’t have passing a standardized test as a high priority no matter how much a passionate teacher tries to reach out.
Why describe this extreme? This is the achievement gap! The majority of children who don’t pass the standardized tests are minorities, in low-income districts, high school drop-outs, illegal immigrants, in alternative schools, or in areas with high crime rates. These are the children we are trying to reach and their teachers must be the most passionate individuals to walk into schools that look like prisons, have no air condition, etc. in order to reach out to these children. Show me the politicians who do this daily or even send their children to these schools. Show me the journalist who does this daily for nearly no pay. These individuals don’t and they don’t have the burden of educating our future leaders. Instead, they support and force upon us education policy that chain us like elephants. They need someone to blame and we are the easiest target because the majority of us don’t speak up. When they say teach to the test, we teach to the test. When they say we have the blame, we begin to point fingers and agree on public television.
Our politicians and media have hung teachers out to dry. Instead of fixing the enormous problems with education policy that chains teachers to teaching to standardized tests, they rather persuade the public that bad teachers are the cause of our society’s woes.
Michelle Rhee rather fire all the teachers who deal with DC’s troubled youth. DC has one of the highest crime rates in the country and I’d be very surprised to see Michelle Rhee work with violent youth as much as the teachers she’s willing to fire. Wouldn’t it make sense for her to appeal to all stakeholders to work with troubled youth instead of firing the ones who have made a difference in their lives? Isn’t part of a politician’s job to promote and find money for programs that help our youth? Why not come out in the front of newspapers doing this instead of coming up with a scapegoat society can blame? Why do we hire idiot politicians like this to waste our time? Anyone can place blame, but don’t we want leaders in charge who implement real solutions.
I think that we shouldn’t spend our energy focusing on bad teachers or ways to rid the system of teachers. We aren’t a highly paid profession and really we don’t train teachers to be innovators or use 21st century tools. We can’t blame teachers when the majority of pre-service programs still teach them that they should lecture or teach their students to pass standardized tests. This won’t lead to transformation of the system just sidetrack people into placing blame and forgetting we need to focus on implementing solutions. Instead, I think policy needs to improve and move away from teaching to the test. Pre-service programs need to help teachers effectively implement technology based lessons. Colleges need to stray away from large lecture formats where professors talk for hours then test understanding by giving 4 tests throughout the year. The system has to change before we blame the teachers. Failing tests and having to take tests that last all day made me hate a subject not the teacher. Schools (not teachers because they don’t make up the rules, culture, etc of a school solely) teach children science and math by making them take pop quizzes, standardized tests, multiple choice tests, or answer questions from a textbook. Schools could instead have children investigate outside the science around them, experiment more, or work with scientists. They don’t because they are too busy preparing students to pass tests that determine their funding. That’s not a teacher’s fault, that is the systems fault, a system that doesn’t give a teacher much of a choice. It’s get your students to pass the test or else. How can we blame teachers for that?
Even if we take a business attitude, any successful business owner would know that if the majority of its workers failed to successfully do their job then obviously that is a training problem at the top and firing most of the employees and labeling them as bad won’t fix the outcome.
Let’s jump off the bandwagon, stop blaming teachers, and begin to collaborate together, collect our voices, and change the policies in our schools that make passionate teachers burn out.