Tuesday, November 23, 2021

Slamming Teachers

Here's something that just popped up on my Twitter feed. Honestly, I could have picked any of a few dozen others, but I went with this one because it was fresh, and yet widely loved.

I have a hard time envisioning the worldview that these kind of cracks rest upon. The assumptions here. Does she imagine that in this world, schools are entirely staffed with people who simply don't give a shit about teaching but went to school for it and took the job because it's so easy? In this world in which nobody working in education cares about education, how did anyone ever get educated? I know some of these folks like to throw around claims about huge percentages of people graduating from school while being illiterate and innumerate, but  really-- all the people you know who can read and write and figure were just some kind of fluke? They taught themselves, somehow, while their terrible lazy incompetent teachers were taking a nap?

The pandemic hammering of teachers and schools just goes on and on. Some of it is fed by people saying Truly Dumb Things, like Terry McAuliffe (himself no real friend of public education) saying that parents should have no say in their kids' education. Some of it is fed by people not saying the smart things, something along the lines of, "I hear your concern, and while 'critical race theory' isn't really the right name for what you're concerned about, let me talk with you about why we try to address issues of equity and race, how we try to do it, and how we are trying to get better at it." 

I get that parents are ragged after the pandemic-so-far, back when schools had nothing but bad choices so there would always be a vocally enraged minority. And I really get that the batch of last-minute cancellations happening is a PITA. 

But the incessant hammering on teachers teachers teachers. It's teacher's fault that schools were closed (not parents or policy makers or legitimate concerns about health during a frickin' pandemic that has, in fact, killed a really huge number of people). Teachers aren't properly embracing the One True Way to teach reading because they are all lazy and stupid and just suck. Also, if you cross our vaguely drawn line in the curricular sand, we will fire you!

Honestly, there are lots of reasons to believe that many people, even the majority of people, support educators and public schools. But for any teacher who spends any time on social media or taking in traditional media, it's impossible not to feel waves and waves of hatred directed at you.

Yes, everybody's angry these days. But it's worth remembering that the states that have forbidden teachers unions are, in fact, the bottom of the educational heap. That most of the states that have enacted some sort of teacher gag laws so that they'll "just teach reading and math" are not particularly awesome in the education department. That teachers chose to get the training, chose to enter this profession, choose to do the best they can for their students. And they can choose to do something else.

I don't know what the point of crap like the above tweet is supposed to be. Well, no--in some cases I do. Some of these folks are the same old crowd of folks who want to see public education shut down, so that the market can be opened and so that they don't have to pay taxes to educate Those Peoples' Children. Mind you, there are plenty of people out there with a sincere belief in the power of the free market and a sincere belief that education should be part of that marketeering approach. But it is possible to belief that without holding and expressing a raw hatred and contempt for people who are trying to work in and with the public system that serves the vast majority of students in this country. No, the people who keep hammering teachers are on a different level.

Maybe the hatred is the point? Maybe they're blowing off angry steam? Maybe, like many folks who have fallen too far down a Righteous Crusade tunnel, they believe that at some point the public ed teachers will crack and cry out, "Okay, you got us! It's all a giant scam!" Or maybe they just want public school teachers to break down and go away (in which case, they appear to be having some success). 

I truly don't know. But it's all tiring and tiresome. I've written before about facing the public's indifference to public education, but facing this level of hostility, from elected leaders, from education "experts," from people who have enough of a following to shape the conversation in useful ways--it's a tough lift, and a waste of energy that could be put to better use. 

The fact is, teachers and schools took up the cause of teaching reading and writing (and history and science and art and music and a whole other parts of human experience) years and years and years ago, and will continue to take up that cause years after the current mob moves on to its next target. But it would be great if a few other people decided to take up that cause with them, or at least stop throwing stones at those who are actually trying to do the work.


  1. At least Flanagan comes by her tone-deafness honestly.
    The article that put her on the map: Confessions of a Prep School College Counselor.

    1. That's kind of the part that blows my mind; she's been openly critical of private schools (calling them "indefensible") but will put out tweets like that about public schools. I guess it's consistent with her "NOBODY TOLD ME this obvious thing and I blame women for that" vibe that she often has.

  2. This teacher bashing has been happening since the 90's, and always for the same reasons: Milton Friedman ideologues who want to smash unions and privatize taxpayer dollars into their own pockets. Now they're enlisting racist troll commenters, but it's still the same agenda.