Thursday, January 20, 2022

The Other Pandemic Unmasking

At first glance, I suppose it seems like a reasonable set of solutions. 

Expand the pool of who can be a substitute teacher. Anyone with a college degree. Anyone who already works in the building or district. Anybody with a high school diploma. 

In Oklahoma, police officers can now step in as substitute teachers (in Moore, they've already done so). In New Mexico, the governor has called in the National Guard to fill the teacher gap. 

It is amazing how quickly some folks have pivoted from "We must insure teacher and educational quality" to "We must get students into a building with the word 'school' in its name no matter what actually happens once we're inside." It turns out that an awful lot of that big talk about educational excellence and quality was insincere posturing and as long as we can get schools open and students stuffed inside with something resembling a probably-responsible adult with a pulse, that's good enough. Oklahoma has been oh so concerned about making sure nobody was in a classroom indoctrinatin' students, but now it turns they mostly just wants someone--anyone--in that classroom so they can keep the building open.

It is the ultimate expression of "anyone can do that job," even, incredibly, dwarfing the old Teach For America line that we can teach an Ivy League grad everything they need to be an awesome teacher in just five weeks. Hell, now we can teach any adult how to be a perfectly adequate teacher in no weeks.

For what other profession would we consider this a solution. "I'm sorry, Mrs. Fleegleman, but Dr. Hergensheimer is not well enough to perform your heart surgery. But don't worry--Sgt. Blinko from the 15th Precinct will handle it." The doctors and nurses are all out sick, so we'll just have the custodians and administrative assistants run the place. The plumber is too ill to fix your clogged sink, but here's a recent high school grad with a piece of wire. The judge is laid up with illness, so we've brought in the kid who delivers the judge's newspaper. In what other profession would we settle for any warm body to step in for the job.

Look, I know that the defining feature of education during the pandemic has been that all available options stink (though with two years to work on it, we should have figured out how to make some, like remote learning, stink much less). I get that all available choices are sub-optimal. And I have respect for those who have struggled to find a path to quality education for students, even when their choices are not the ones I would make.

But at the same time, there's no escaping that when push came to shove, a whole lot of people decided that they were far more worried about making sure school buildings were open than they were about what was going on inside them. Some have revealed that in their list of priorities, teacher safety and teacher quality come in far behind teacher presence and teacher pulse. Education, shmeducation--just get that child car service running again, whatever it takes!

I just want us all to remember this when the day comes for them to start posturing again. Their mask is off, and we can see what's underneath.

1 comment:

  1. I am hoping that there will be a glimmer of "I had no idea it would be so hard" that comes out of this twilight-zone-like moment and with it (dare I say it) a renewed respect for what it is teachers do.