Network News

X My Profile
View More Activity

Posted at 12:30 PM ET, 03/ 7/2011

Jon Stewart on hypocrisy behind assault on teachers

By Valerie Strauss

Jon Stewart, hosting education historian Diane Ravitch, outdid himself on "The Daily Show" with a scathing and hysterically funny (and sad) new attack on the hypocrisy underlying the assault on public school teachers.

Stewart was ruthless on Thursday as he poked serious fun at the hypocritical attacks on “the greed” of public school teachers by critics on Fox News who insist on sacrifices from the public sector but not the private sector. He showed film clips (see below) in which Republican commentators first moaned that folks in the financial sector earning $250,000 a year are practically poor but teachers earning $50,000 a year, with benefits, are overpaid.

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Crisis in the Dairyland - For Richer and Poorer - Teachers and Wall Street
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical Humor & Satire BlogThe Daily Show on Facebook
Stewart welcomed Ravitch on the show for the first time since 2003. Back then, Ravitch was a supporter of No Child Left Behind, but as she saw its effects -- the narrowing of curriculum, the obsession with standardized tests -- she changed her position and wrote the best-selling “Death and Life of the Great American School System.

Ravitch talked (see video below) in plain terms about why current school reform policies make no sense.

As a reminder of Stewart’s influence, it is worth noting that Ravitch’s book shot up from 758 (which is still pretty terrific for an education policy book published last spring) to within the top 50 selling books on this morning (#35 by the afternoon). The book chronicles her change in position and why the country’s school reform agenda will harm schools rather than help them.

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Diane Ravitch
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical Humor & Satire BlogThe Daily Show on Facebook

And here’s another video of Stewart talking about the gravy train being over for teachers, noting in his riotous running commentaries “Crisis in the Dairyland” that Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker not only is seeking to strip teachers and other public sector workers of most of their collective bargaining rights but also wants to cut $800 million from the public school budget over the next years.

Walker wants everybody to sacrifice, Stewart noted, adding:

“We are all in this together. All of us have to sacrifice. Teachers. Teachers’ assistants. Student teachers. Retired teachers. [pause] School janitors. Everybody has to sacrifice.”

Take the time to watch these. This is the best show Stewart has had, from start to finish, in a long time. And the most important.

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Crisis in the Dairyland - For Richer and Poorer
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical Humor & Satire BlogThe Daily Show on Facebook
Follow my blog every day by bookmarking And for admissions advice, college news and links to campus papers, please check out our Higher Education page at it!

By Valerie Strauss  | March 7, 2011; 12:30 PM ET
Categories:  Diane Ravitch  | Tags:  diane ravitch, gov. scott walker, jon stewart, school reform, teachers unions, the daily show, wisconsin budget, wisconsin protests, wisconsin teachers  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Teachers tell: One thing I wish I'd known
Next: A Florida teacher tells Obama he disappointed her


Thank you Valerie.
Thank you Jon Stewart.
Thank you Diane Ravitch.

Thank you all for telling the truth.

Posted by: georgia198305 | March 4, 2011 12:49 PM | Report abuse

Couldn't agree more with Georgia198395.

Thank you for posting and thank you to Jon Stewart for showing the hypocrisy for what it is: Shameful.

Posted by: Teacherguy | March 4, 2011 1:02 PM | Report abuse

I saw the show last night and thought it was hilarious. Thank goodness more and more journalists and celebrities are once again supporting teachers. We've all had a good lesson on how a severe recession can turn the public against vulnerable citizens, in this case, mostly female schoolteachers!

Diane Ravitch was excellent also. One thing she said really hit home: She was talking to an administrator who supervises 300 principals. She asked him how many "bad" teachers he had and he replied, "I have one." This rings true for me because during my career, almost all the incompetents were weeded out in the first two or three years. Teaching is the most selective and self-selective of all the professions with 50% leaving before the fifth year.

Thank you, Jon, Valerie, Diane and all those who support and defend some of the most dedicated people in the nation: our teachers!

Posted by: Linda/RetiredTeacher | March 4, 2011 1:31 PM | Report abuse

It's a shame this task falls to Jon Stewart. To wit:

It seems to be against the law to mention public education on MSNBC. Last fall, the parent (NBC News) aimed a week-long wilding at teachers, the so-called "Education Nation" programs. These special programs were built around the need to lavish praise on Waiting for Superman.

None of the fiery progressives on MSNBC pushed back. But then, they never mention education issues--not Maddow, not Olbermann (now gone), none of the others. The topic doesn't exist. The name "Michelle Rhee" has never been memntioned on Maddow's show. It was never mentioned on Olbermann's.

(This Wednesday, Ed Schultz suddenly remembered that his mother was a teacher. This was connected to the union war in Wisconsin. First time I have ever seen him mention education or schools.)

What does it take to make these pseudos speak up on behalf of low-income kids? On behalf of teachers? Why does Stewart know more about this (and care more about this) than these "progressives" do?

I would suggest that progressives start pressuring Maddow and the others to broaden their perspective a bit--if their corporate owners will allow it. It's clear that they will never deal will public school issues if they are left on their own.

Translation: They don't care. Why must this fall to Stewart?

Posted by: bobsomerby | March 4, 2011 2:26 PM | Report abuse

Yes, and even the rich will have to sacrifice too. By paying less in taxes. It's hard, but they're willing to do it. If it will help break the unions.

Posted by: steveh46 | March 4, 2011 3:19 PM | Report abuse

Perhaps Gov. Walker has actually succeeded in tipping the pendulum in the other direction. If the Republicans continue down this path and President Obama replaces Arne Duncan with Diane Ravitch, he will have my vote!

Posted by: teachermom3 | March 4, 2011 3:35 PM | Report abuse

Thank you Jon Stewart, Diane Ravitch & Valerie!

Indeed, the Emperor has no clothes......

Posted by: PLMichaelsArtist-at-Large | March 4, 2011 4:04 PM | Report abuse

In my post above I meant to say that Diane Ravitch talked to an administrator who supervised 300 TEACHERS. Sorry.

Posted by: Linda/RetiredTeacher | March 4, 2011 5:04 PM | Report abuse

The Daily Show staff deserves a raise. That woman from Fox Business is, in my gentle opinion, a complete fuel. I believe it is best for both her and America that we forget her name.

Posted by: fusillijerry | March 4, 2011 5:31 PM | Report abuse

Jon's mother was a teacher, and he has first-hand knowledge that the job isn't what the critics and deformers are trying to spin.

And yes I agree Diane should be Secty of Education. Obama also lost my respect and I am planning to change my voting registration to Independent. I think if most teachers did that, the Dems would know we are serious about the Education Agenda.

Posted by: Schoolgal | March 4, 2011 6:16 PM | Report abuse

Thank you John Stewart. Thank you Diane Ravitch. Too many teachers are busy teaching, planning, grading and meeting with parents, students, and outside providers to refute what is being said about our profession. Any time anyone thinks my job, or any teacher's job, is a cake walk, please feel free to shadow one of us for a week. We are east to find--just look for the person walking lopsided because of the bulging bag (of papers to grade) hanging from one shoulder.

Posted by: mauireader | March 4, 2011 7:14 PM | Report abuse

That was fun. Now back to the real world of education policy.


"The burdens of poverty are real, and overcoming those burdens takes hard work and resources. But poverty is not destiny. Hundreds of schools in high-poverty communities are closing achievement gaps. America can no longer afford a collective shrug when disadvantaged students are trapped in inferior schools and cheated of a quality education for years on end."

Read more:

Posted by: frankb1 | March 4, 2011 7:59 PM | Report abuse

Obama to Central High students: “What you are doing here is sending a message’’

It was former Gov. Jeb Bush who suggested the president come to Central High.

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said that Bush had boasted about Central "because it tells an incredible story of the impact successful turnaround strategies and models can have on persistently low-performing schools."

For 10 years in a row, Central had received D and F grades from the state, making it the worst performing public school in Florida. It was considered dangerous and unkempt.

On the verge of having to close the school, Carvalho instead opted to institute some changes. He brought in the state’s principal of the year, Douglas Rodriguez, who instituted an environment of respect and discipline at the school. More than half the teachers were removed and replaced."

Read more:

Posted by: frankb1 | March 4, 2011 8:12 PM | Report abuse

In Miami, Obama praises Jeb Bush:

"Obama said Bush “is someone who championed reform when he was in office, someone who is now championing reform as a private citizen.” And he called for a bipartisan effort to end to the “status quo” in education, using the example that he and Bush set in their appearance together.

“I believe the status quo is unacceptable, it’s time to change,” Obama said. “It is time for us to work together, just like Jeb and I are doing—coming from different parties, but we came together not as Democrats and Republicans but as Americans."

Posted by: frankb1 | March 4, 2011 8:34 PM | Report abuse


I also really enjoyed this episode of the Daily Show but the story about the Principal supervising 300 teachers with only one bad teacher stuck out to me for a different reason. I work at a large MCPS high school and would estimate that at least 10% of the teachers at my school are "bad". The fact that 50% of teachers leave the profession within the first 5 years doesn't mean the ones that stay are good. In fact some of those 50% that leave the job are good teachers that are discouraged by the job for a variety of reasons. Some of the teachers that stay realize they can get by doing minimal work and teaching minimal content as long as they give the students A' and B's. As long as the parents aren't complaining they stay off the radar. Teaching is actually a great profession for lazy people with no pride looking for a solid paycheck with benefits. Jon pointed this out during the show; In every profession there are people who are good at their job and people who are bad at their job, teaching is no different.

Despite that comment, I thought the episode was great.

Posted by: NoMoreWeast | March 4, 2011 9:20 PM | Report abuse



Posted by: fregameeate | March 4, 2011 9:42 PM | Report abuse

I am not impressed by quotes from Duncan, Obama or J Bush.

Posted by: mcnyc | March 4, 2011 10:02 PM | Report abuse


Yes, I agree that one "bad" teacher in a group of 300 was probably an exaggeration. A good friend of mine is a retired superintendent and he puts the number at around 5%. Others have said "between 5 and 10%." At my last school there was one teacher out of 40 who was "weak," but even she was very hard working. I suppose it's possible for an elementary school teacher to be "lazy" but to me, just caring for twenty six-year-olds is a big job, even for those who don't teach the kids that much. Of course, that doesn't make it right.

I didn't mean to imply that all the teachers who leave during the first five years are "bad" teachers; many are often among the best,as you stated. But in that group are people whose contracts were not renewed and other people who decided on their own that they were not willing or able to do the job. For whatever reason, teaching is a profession that loses many people.

Posted by: Linda/RetiredTeacher | March 4, 2011 10:02 PM | Report abuse


Does everyone "know" not to use all capital letters when writing a comment?

Posted by: williamhorkan | March 4, 2011 10:13 PM | Report abuse

I was recently at dinner with three other couples, all friends who have kids in the same fairly small urban high school as ours. All four families' kids had had the same science teacher, one who is famously enigmatic, unresponsive to parents, and challenging. Three of the families' kids thought she was awful -- a travesty who needed to leave teaching. The fourth says she was the best teacher he has ever had.

Posted by: CarolineSF | March 4, 2011 11:20 PM | Report abuse


fregameeate needs the large type so it is easier for him to read. You know, like those big 1st grade books.

Posted by: DHume1 | March 4, 2011 11:44 PM | Report abuse

What's next? Randi Weingarten on South Park? Valerie Strauss on Futurama?

Diane Ravitch talking about poverty on Comedy Central. Oh the irony.

Posted by: frankb1 | March 5, 2011 1:04 AM | Report abuse

Meanwhile, important new from Los Angeles:

"Last spring, the American Civil Liberties Union and other civil rights groups sued the school district on behalf of parents, saying that their children’s right to an education, guaranteed in the State Constitution, would be violated by the layoffs. Like most districts in the country, Los Angeles has long had an agreement with the union that layoffs are based primarily on seniority, so that the most recently hired teachers are the first to go. That left schools like Gompers, already saddled with high teacher turnover, the most vulnerable.

Lawyers for the parents argued that the layoffs would disproportionately affect poor, black and Latino students, who are more likely to attend schools that are difficult to staff and have a high proportion of inexperienced teachers.

If the ruling is upheld for the seemingly inevitable layoffs this summer, Los Angeles, the second-largest district in the country, will be among the first to dismiss teachers using criteria other than seniority.

“It’s simply crazy to say that we have to do this based on when people were hired,” Mr. Villaraigosa said in an interview. He has spent considerable effort attacking the union’s policies in recent months and said that the lawsuit was just one of many steps he hopes will overhaul the way hiring and firing is done in the city’s schools.

“This is really just the tip of the iceberg,” he said. “But we have to start somewhere. We haven’t had any other kind of real change, and this clearly opens the door to more."

Posted by: frankb1 | March 5, 2011 1:23 AM | Report abuse

Rhee nee frankb1 has been steadfast avoiding whether or not Miss Rhee lied on her resume.
Instead, frankb1 is coming up with stuff to avoid it.
At the recent Richard Whitmire meltdown at Politics and Prose, frankb1 supposedly said that he was "spooked" by Dunbar High School.

Posted by: phillipmarlowe | March 5, 2011 1:48 AM | Report abuse

frankb1--Perhaps the school district should offer bonuses to those who agree to teach in the poor schools to entice more experienced staff to teach there. If there are ineffective teachers in the school system, then their administrators should have done their jobs and documented the poor performance. I noted that many of the teachers in NY that Bloomberg lists have problems with their certification. In many districts--even those with strong teachers' unions--those people would be laid off as certification is one of the criteria considered when making layoffs. Union bashers tend to paint everyone with the same brush but union contracts vary widely.

Posted by: musiclady | March 5, 2011 11:42 AM | Report abuse

musiclady: "If there are ineffective teachers in the school system, then their administrators "should have done their jobs" and documented the poor performance."

In Places like NYC & LA the "job" of getting rid of ineffective is nearly impossible:

"These fifteen teachers, along with about six hundred others, in six larger Rubber Rooms in the city’s five boroughs, have been accused of misconduct, such as hitting or molesting a student, or, in some cases, of incompetence, in a system that rarely calls anyone incompetent.

The teachers have been in the Rubber Room for an average of about three years, doing the same thing every day—which is pretty much nothing at all. Watched over by two private security guards and two city Department of Education supervisors, they punch a time clock for the same hours that they would have kept at school—typically, eight-fifteen to three-fifteen. Like all teachers, they have the summer off.

The city’s contract with their union, the United Federation of Teachers, requires that charges against them be heard by an arbitrator, and until the charges are resolved—the process is often endless—they will continue to draw their salaries and accrue pensions and other benefits."

Read more

Posted by: frankb1 | March 5, 2011 2:56 PM | Report abuse

The NYC Rubber Room exists because the DOE can't get its act together on the due process. Some teachers are there because their principals don't like them.

NYC has similar challenges staffing the poorest schools. Working in these schools is a tough, thankless job. Some teachers beat it for better working conditions as soon as they have enough seniority to do so. Neither mayor has a reliable yardstick to measure teachers' worth although there is a method being worked on right now in NYC. It will not be in place until Sept. The problem is testing these methods when everyone is under budget pressure which makes it tempting to cut the ones whose salaries are the highest absent a reliable yardstick.

Posted by: mcnyc | March 5, 2011 3:41 PM | Report abuse

@frankb1: To provide some balance to your discussion, may I offer a few thoughts from a teacher in a right to work state.

We have a very limited tenure policy. It is incredibly easy to fire a teacher if the administrator is willing to follow-through with the documentation. I have personally witnessed four non-tenured teachers in my school lose their job because the principal needed to hire a new football coach, his wife, and a couple of assistants. I've also witnessed tenured teachers who were quietly forced out of their positions for reasons that had nothing to do with their job performance.

Basically, a teacher in a right to work state has very limited rights and no one to turn to for help. We do have two teacher organizations but their influence is purposely limited by our legislators. The links below are examples of what can happen to teachers in a right to work state:

Posted by: teachermom3 | March 5, 2011 3:52 PM | Report abuse

Villaraigosa is in error when he talks about "union policy." The working conditions come about via a collective bargaining agreement. The union does not set policy.

Posted by: mcnyc | March 5, 2011 4:10 PM | Report abuse

Villaraigosa is a thoughtful progressive and a civil rights champion. As the NYT article indicates, education reform is a defining civil rights issue of our time.

From LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa:

"When we fought to change the seniority-based layoff system that was disproportionately hurting our neediest students, the teachers union fought back.

When we fought to empower parents to turn around failing schools and bring in outside school operators with proven records of success, the teachers union fought back.

And now, while we try to measure teacher effectiveness in order to reward the best teachers and replace the tiny portion who aren't helping our kids learn, the teachers union fights back.

It's not easy for me to say this. I started out as an organizer for UTLA (United Teachers Los Angeles), and I don't have an anti-union bone in my body. The teachers unions aren't the biggest or the only problem facing our schools, but for many years now, they have been the most consistent, most powerful defenders of the unacceptable status quo."

Posted by: frankb1 | March 5, 2011 5:09 PM | Report abuse

I am unimpressed by labels like "progressive" because I think overuse and undefined use of the term has rendered it meaningless. Villagairosa is now sitting on the employer side of the table so naturally he will be frustrated if he wants to make a unilateral move and cannot because of a collective bargaining contract. For all his good intentions, I think he is having the same struggle we have all over, it is difficult to work in the neediest schools. The fact that they are heavily affected by layoffs reflects the fact that as soon as many teachers gain enough seniority to go somewhere where they can feel more successful, they usually do. We need to really figure out how to make the job in those desparate schools more attractive. Demonizing teachers and the union and complaining about seniority rules in contracts will not further that cause.

Posted by: mcnyc | March 5, 2011 6:02 PM | Report abuse

Thank you so much for this post!

Posted by: Cardman | March 5, 2011 9:41 PM | Report abuse

I love what she said about blaming poverty before the teacher. I teach both honors and remedial classes. In my honors, I have a student whose mother will give her extra topics to study if she has less than 2 hours of homework a night. The students complete required reading, research, and writing. They are engaged in classroom lessons and activities. Almost all have computers, printers, and internet at home. Many are disappointed with a B. Of COURSE students like this will make gains and show progress on annual tests! If teacher pay is based on improving test scores, every teacher will want these advanced classes.
On the other hand, in my remedial classes I have very unmotivated students, some of whose report cards are straight Fs. Most do no homework. In class it takes a great deal of energy to motivate them to focus on the task and get anything done. One student has an abusive alchoholic single parent at home who is in and out of jail. I have had to check with him before he left to make sure he wouldn't be home alone. Not surprising, this student has issues with authority. It has taken months to win him over and help him realize I'm on his side. I don't know if he'll ever see the potential in him I see. His situaton's just one example of the types of issues that distract these students. They have high absence rates and miss instruction due to home issues and suspensions from school. Of course these students may not always make significant growth on test scores from one year to the next. How can teachers who work with these kids be punished because of test scores?
One other point: I wonder what the tax rate is in Finland? Only 3% poverty? How do they do it? What has happened to our country where the rich have convinced people to let them pay their lowest tax rate since the 40's and that will somehow be good for the country? Are there any corporations left with loyalty to the American worker and the middle class? Are any of them satisfied with making a good living, providing a good product, and creating good jobs? Or must they all make the largest possible profit and become mega-wealthy at the worker's expense? Why do we turn our backs on the growing discrepancy between outrageously rich and extremely poor? It's like the boiling frog: a slow unnoticeable march to becoming 3rd world.

Posted by: canem | March 6, 2011 11:52 AM | Report abuse


Of course you have described things as they are and I'll bet everyone knows it. To really do something about the situation would require many more resources for our least-privileged children and therein lies the problem.

Scapegoating teachers is so much cheaper, and easier too.

Posted by: Linda/RetiredTeacher | March 6, 2011 2:15 PM | Report abuse

I am so grateful to Jon Stewart for this!

Posted by: jlp19 | March 6, 2011 3:12 PM | Report abuse

I personally believe that students in high poverty areas are being exposed to more physical and sexual violence than in middle/upper class areas. This is something the supposed "reformers" are pretending doesn't exist and doesn't affect student performance.

Posted by: jlp19 | March 6, 2011 3:24 PM | Report abuse

Diane Ravitch talking about poverty on Comedy Central. Oh the irony.

Posted by: frankb1 | March 5, 2011 1:04 AM |

Spam away, wingnut. People here see right through your propaganda.

Posted by: ifthethunderdontgetya | March 6, 2011 8:53 PM | Report abuse

mcnyc states:

"The fact that they are heavily affected by layoffs reflects the fact that as soon as many teachers gain enough seniority to go somewhere where they can feel more successful, they usually do. We need to really figure out how to make the job in those desparate schools more attractive. Demonizing teachers and the union and complaining about seniority rules in contracts will not further that cause."

Very, very perceptive. You are absolutely correct. New teachers without any connections start off in tough schools. When they get really good they leave. Often. This is not because the teacher union is too strong.

By the way:
Ed Schultz has been praising teachers up and down on his radio show all week!!! I heard him and cried! Sorry for all the emotion, but I have just been absorbing this teacher demonizing for the last 10 years.

Posted by: georgia198305 | March 7, 2011 2:59 AM | Report abuse

Thank you Jon Stewart!

Posted by: resc | March 7, 2011 4:49 PM | Report abuse


Jon Stewart isn't even funny anymore. How pathetic that so called "intellectuals" and the lamestream media have to rely on a comedian to take their side on this issue.

Whatsa matter? Michael Moore isn't funny enough for you?

Posted by: lisamc31 | March 8, 2011 2:48 PM | Report abuse

Post a Comment

We encourage users to analyze, comment on and even challenge's articles, blogs, reviews and multimedia features.

User reviews and comments that include profanity or personal attacks or other inappropriate comments or material will be removed from the site. Additionally, entries that are unsigned or contain "signatures" by someone other than the actual author will be removed. Finally, we will take steps to block users who violate any of our posting standards, terms of use or privacy policies or any other policies governing this site. Please review the full rules governing commentaries and discussions.

characters remaining

RSS Feed
Subscribe to The Post

© 2011 The Washington Post Company