I made a wicked big mistake today.
I was driving around, doing various and sundry errands, and I had the radio on. I like to listen to XM radio, and have a special affinity for POTUS, the station that covers national politics in a very non-partisan and highly intelligent way.
Today, to my great sorrow, they were covering a convention of conservatives on the topic of public K-12 education, and a few of the candidates were there to answer questions.
Holy heart attack. This how I felt by the time I got to the end of the third Republican candidate:
It was NOT a pretty sight (obviously).
I was literally shaking by the time I parked the car. I wanted to reach right out and strangle someone.
Since they were on the radio, though, I couldn’t actually get to them. Instead, I had to force myself to breathe deep and repeat my mantra, “Teachers are fighting the good fight.”
But now that I am all calmed down, and the raging fire of the sun has set, and I’ve had a good dinner a glass or two of wine, I have decided to use my vast mastery of the English language to shed a bit of light on just what it was that I found so egregious about the crap that was spewed at that conference.
First of all, dear Republican Candidates, you really cannot value education and despise educators at the same time. Truly. If you denigrate and disparage those who give their lives to educating the young then you cannot add a side note to tell us how much you appreciate teachers.
Second of all, when you say things like, “Teachers want our children to succeed, its the unions who don’t!”, you sound like a complete imbecile. Who the hell do you think the union IS, if not the teachers? Who do you think the union representatives are, if not teachers?
When you make claims about unions only representing the needs of the teachers, and not those of the children, you ignore the very real fact that without the unions behind them, teachers could not feel secure enough to stand up for the rights and needs of the students. Without collective bargaining, do you really think that teachers would be able to advocate for increased services for kids? Do you honestly think that they could request smaller class sizes, or updated materials or more technology? Of course not. In a world without collective bargaining, in your dream world of no unions, teachers would be forced to comply with every administrative mandate that came down the school hallway, whether from the school office, the district, the state or Washington DC. Teachers would be completely without any recourse when told to do more with less, to reach ever greater numbers of children with ever greater needs, and to make do with outdated and limited resources.
Dear Republican Candidates, you do not support public education. You do not support children. You know how I can tell? I can tell because you claim that you want “an excellent teacher in front of every class”, but you describe teachers as selfish and self serving. You claim that they refuse to be “accountable”. You say that they refuse to adapt, refuse to be “innovative”, refuse to change the “status quo”. You would deny those “excellent” young scholars the protection of a contract, making them essentially employees at will. You expect the very best of our young people to choose teaching? What on earth do you think you offer that would make teaching the professional choice of smart young men and women?
I know that there will always be teachers. I know that there will always be young people who want to step into the classroom, to shape the lives of children. I know this because I have been a teacher for many, many years. I’ve seen the fads come and go, I’ve seen countless politicians pontificating about “fixing our schools”. And I’ve seen an endless stream of idealistic, devoted, intelligent, caring young people coming up through the ranks of the education work force.
The thing is, Dear Republican EdReform Wannabees, these young people are coming into teaching in spite of you, not because of you.
As far as I can tell, you have nothing to offer our schools, our parents, our children. You would do your best to further demoralize our already embattled teachers. You would take away their safety net, take away their job security, take away their right to due process. In fact, you seem to be doing your level best to make sure that there are no “excellent teachers” left to serve our schools.
I left teaching this year, so I am not here to defend my own lazy habits. I’m not here to protest on my own behalf. But I know a LOT of teachers, dear Candidates, a lot. Whether or not some of you brag about “fighting” them, whether or not one of you wants to “punch them in the face”, they are all out there right now, planning for a good school year. They are organizing, cleaning, setting up, writing lesson plans, taking classes, learning about your children, collaborating with colleagues, making their schedules.
They deserve a lot better than what you are offering, Dear Republican Candidates.
And so do our kids.