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Posted at 5:00 AM ET, 02/14/2011

Why teacher bashing is dangerous

By Valerie Strauss

This is an edited version of a commentary by Stan Karp, a teacher of English and journalism in Paterson, N.J., for 30 years. He is now the director of the Secondary Reform Project for New Jersey’s Education Law Center and an editor of Rethinking Schools magazine. The full version of the commentary, which Karp delivered last December before about 250 people at a Portland high school, can be found here, at the website called and the audio can be heard here.

By Stan Karp
Far too many people are bashing teachers and public schools. The attacks are coming from different places for different reasons, and we need to pay attention to the differences.

The parent who’s angry at the public school system because it’s not successfully educating his/her children is not the same as the billionaire with no education experience, who couldn’t survive in a classroom for two days, but who has made privatizing education policy a hobby, and who has the resources to do so because the country’s financial and tax systems serve the rich.

The educators who start a community-based charter school to create a collaborative school culture are not the same as the hedge fund managers who invest in charter schools to turn a profit, or who want to privatize our most important civic institution.

The well-meaning college grad who joins a Teach For America program is not the same as the corporate managers who want to use market reforms to create a less expensive, less secure and less experienced teaching force.

And the hard-pressed taxpayer who directs frustration at teachers struggling to hang on to their health insurance or pensions—which far too few people have at all—is not coming from the same place as those responsible for the obscene economic inequality that is squeezing both.

I’ve spent a large part of my adult life criticizing the flawed policies of public education as a teacher, an education activist and a policy advocate. But now I find myself spending a lot of time defending the very idea of public education against those who say, it should be blown up.

The increasingly polarized education policy debate is not just about whether teachers feel the sting of public criticism or whether school budgets suffer another round of cuts. It’s not even about the hot-button issues getting all the attention like merit pay or charter schools.

What’s at stake is more basic: Whether the right to a free public education for all children will survive as a fundamental democratic promise in our society, and whether the schools and districts needed to provide it are going to survive as public institutions.

Will they be collectively owned and democratically managed, however imperfectly, by all of us as citizens, or will they be privatized and commercialized by corporate interests that increasingly dominate our society?

The larger goal, to borrow a phrase from the Democrats for Education Reform (DFER), a political lobby financed by hedge fund millionaires that is a chief architect of the current campaign, is to “burst the dam” that has historically protected public education and its $600 billion annual expenditures from unchecked commercial exploitation and privatization.

What is new and alarming are the large strides those promoting business models and market reforms have made in attaching their agenda to the urgent need of poor communities who have, in too many cases, been badly served by the current system.

The narrative of public education as a systematic failure has been fed in recent years by shifting federal policy. It’s moved away from its historic role as a promoter of access and equity through support for things such as school integration, extra funding for high-poverty schools and services for students with special needs, and embraced a much less equitable set of mandates around testing, closing schools, firing school staff and distributing federal funds through “competitive grants” to “winners” at the expense of “losers.”

First with No Child Left Behind, and then with Race to the Top, Democrats have been playing tag team with Republicans building on the test and punish approach. Just how much this bipartisan consensus has solidified came home when I picked up my local paper one morning and saw Gov. Chris Christie, the most anti-public education governor New Jersey has ever had, quoted as saying “This is an incredibly special moment in American history, where you have Republicans in New Jersey agreeing with a Democratic president on how to get reform.”

Unless we change direction, the combined impact of these proposals will do for public schooling what market reform has done for housing, health care and the economy: produce fabulous profits for a few and unequal access and outcomes for the many.

The corporate/foundation crowd has successfully captured the media label as “education reformers.” If you support charters, merit pay, and control of school policy by corporate managers you’re a reformer. If you support increased school funding, collective bargaining and control of school policy by educators, you’re a defender of the status quo.

This is particularly true when it comes to the way the issue of poverty is being framed.

Of course poverty is no excuse for bad teaching, poor curriculum, massive dropout rates or year after year of lousy school outcomes. We need accountability systems that put pressure on schools to respond effectively to the communities they serve. And in my experience, parents are the key to creating that pressure and teachers are the key to implementing the changes needed to address it. Finding ways to promote a collaborative tension and partnership between these groups is a key to school improvement.

But the reformers’ notion that schools alone can make up for the inequality and poverty that exists all around them has become part of the “No Excuses” drumbeat used to impose reforms that have no record of success as school improvement strategies.
Instead they’re political strategies designed to bring market reform to public education.

Today we hear absurd claims about how super-teachers can eliminate achievement gaps with scripted curricula handed down from above, and how the real problem is not the country’s shameful 23% child poverty rate or underfunded schools. Instead it’s bad teachers.

Now it’s true that effective teachers and good schools can make an enormous difference in the life chances of children. And it’s also true that struggling teachers who don’t improve after they’ve been given support need to find other work.

But when it comes to student achievement—and especially the narrow, culturally-slanted, pseudo-achievement captured by standardized test scores—there is no evidence that the test score gaps you hear about constantly can be traced to bad teaching. And there is overwhelming evidence that they closely reflect the inequalities of race, class, and opportunity that follow students to school.

Teachers count a lot. But reality counts too. Reformers who discount the impact of poverty are actually the ones making excuses for their failure to make poverty reduction, and adequate and equitable school funding, a central part of school improvement efforts.

The federal government has put more effort into tying individual teacher compensation to test scores and pressing states to eliminate caps on charter schools than encouraging them to distribute more fairly the $600 billion they spend annually on K-12 education.

At the same time they want to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to create more tests based on the new common core standards and use those tests to implement merit pay plans.

Spending more money on standardized tests is like passing out thermometers in a malaria epidemic. People need better health care, more hospitals, and better-trained doctors, they don’t need more thermometers.

These test-based evaluation systems have the potential to seriously damage the teaching profession. Their basic assumptions are at odds with the way real schools actually work, and bending school practices to accommodate them could negatively affect everything from the way students are assigned to classes, to the willingness of teachers to serve high needs populations to the collaborative professional culture that good schools depend on for success. They’ll also require another massive increase in standardized testing.

The last issue I want to mention is charters. Today there are about 5,000 charter schools that enroll about 4% of all students. Few justify the hype they receive in "Waiting for Superman,” and those that do, like the schools featured in the film, are highly selective, privately subsidized schools that have very limited relevance for the public system. It’s like looking for models of public housing by studying luxury condo developments.

In the past 10 years, the character of the charter school movement has gone from community-based, educator-initiated local efforts to spur alternative approaches for a small number of students, to nationally funded efforts by foundations, investors and educational management companies to create a parallel, more privatized system.

This does not deny the reform impulse that is a real part of the charter movement. Many times during my 30 years of teaching at a large dysfunctional high school, I wanted to start my own school. And many of the issues that public school advocates like myself criticize in charters, like creaming, and unequal resources exist within the public system too.

But public schools have federal, state and district obligations that can be brought to bear. There are school boards, public budgets, public policies and public officials that can be held accountable in ways that privatized charters don’t allow. In post-Katrina New Orleans, where more than 60% of all students now attend unequal tiers of charter schools, there are students and parents who cannot find any schools to take them.

No one questions the desire of parents to find the best options they can for their children. But any strategy that promotes charter expansion at the expense of system-wide improvement and equity for the all schools is a plan for privatization not reform.

It took well over a hundred years to create a public school system that, for all its flaws, provides a free education for all children as a legal right. And public schools are one of the last places where an increasingly diverse and divided population still comes together for a common civic purpose in this country.

In some respects public education is our most successful democratic institution, doing more to reduce inequality, offer hope, and provide opportunity than the country’s financial, economic, political, and media institutions.

Those who believe that business models and market reforms hold the key to solving educational problems have a [reform] agenda, but:

It does not include all children and all families.

It does not include adequate, equitable and sustainable funding.

It does not include transparent public accountability.

It does not include the supports and reforms that educators need to do their jobs well.

It doesn’t address the legacy or the current realities of race and class inequality that surround our schools every day.

Where we go from here, as advocates and activists for social justice, depends in part on our ability to re-invent and articulate this missing equity agenda and to build a reform movement that can provide effective, credible alternatives to the strategies that are currently being imposed from above.

We need to reclaim not just our schools, but our political process and our public policy-making machinery, and control over our economic and social future. We don’t only need to fix our schools, we need to fix our democracy.


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By Valerie Strauss  | February 14, 2011; 5:00 AM ET
Categories:  Guest Bloggers, Teachers  | Tags:  charter schools, chris christie, gov. christie, no child left behind, race to the top, stan karp, teacher bashing, teachers  
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The "Wise Health Insurance" is quite popular in California and New York. For example it offers the low income health plan. Also offers health insurance for individual with pre-exisiting conditions.

Posted by: wendyreyees | February 14, 2011 5:14 AM | Report abuse

My dad told me about "Wise Health Insurance" or something which helped him to find a lower priced health insurance (with ALMOST similar benefits) he is recommending this to me. Any suggestion? What do you think of them?

Posted by: wendyreyees | February 14, 2011 5:16 AM | Report abuse

Bashing teachers as a reason for students low numbers on achievement tests is silly.
It is a red herring.

Would you blame physicians for the decreasing number of healthy people in your community?

Would you call for more tests to make sure of that and announce, "Yes, they are, indeed, sick and a lot of 'em!" Silly.

Then you could go on Oprah and say, "I have run another more expensive survey and we have LOTS of sick people every day! We need to get rid of 8% of the worst physicians!" And Oprah would call you a "Health Warrior!" and the audience - waiting for that free washer/dryer combination - would go nuts for you! Silly. It is a red herring, leading us away from the truth.

Let us look at the real problem. It is not the teachers. It is inequality and poverty.

The truth is we are about to spend billions of dollars MORE on high-stakes testing while we have 15.5 children living in poverty in this country, the highest percentage in over 50 years.

So, the high-stakes testing results will come out and we will go on Oprah and say, with appropriate shock on our faces and horror in our voices and say, "We have the figures! Our children are getting stupider! Fire those teachers!" And Oprah will call you an "Educational Warrior!" The audience - waiting eagerly to get their free widescreen - will go wild.

Here, Oprah: Over 20% of our children live in poverty. I wanna be your "Census Warrior"!

Free oven anyone?

Posted by: asdjones | February 14, 2011 7:19 AM | Report abuse

Let's face it, 50% of all kids will be in the lower half of their class. The eutopian idea that we can raise all grades to some astronomical number is wishful thinking.

Stop looking at grades and start looking at life. Stop counting years and start counting success based on any number of years. We need a system that allows the student to participate and learn for maybe 22 years for high school. WHO CARES?! The idea is to educate, inform, and produce knowledgeable citizens, not produce a body with something in 18.

Posted by: jbeeler | February 14, 2011 7:36 AM | Report abuse

Another terrific article, Valerie. BTW, have you been talking to Jay?

Posted by: lacy41 | February 14, 2011 8:32 AM | Report abuse

This dialog needs to be in the homes of all parents and students, all educators, all leaders of our country. After someone graduates from school, the potential for success increases substantially. Why then do we neglect this incredible opportunity afforded to our citizens? Americans face a world where education is the key discriminator for future national prosperity. Yet, we squander our resources by underpaying and under-recognizing our teachers in this noble profession. I'm reminded of the lawyer whose brother becomes a teacher. At the dinner table, the lawyer asks the leading question, "so, how much do you make now?" The teacher, not missing a beat, says I make a difference; what do you make?

Today, we spend lots of money as the author suggests, but how we spend the money is very important. When elementary classes have 25 students with one teacher, there is more child-sitting going on than learning, especially when the school supports children in a troubled neighborhood. While education money cannot solve the neighborhood problems in the first generation, there is hope for subsequent ones if we send our most talented teachers to help (instead of sending them to private schools). However, with states funding the education, the variability of resources state to state is huge. Hence, rural and inner city schools lack resources that wealthy urban schools are availed. If this is a national problem, it needs national attention.

What are the best practices in education? How do we convey them to rural and inner city schools? How do we attract the finest teachers to address this national concern? America does not lack the talent, it lacks the educational scaffolding and motivation to sacrifice today's luxurious standard of living to help revitalize one of our most precious resources - our children. It will take leadership that is willing to invest and the time is now, before the foundation of this country (the great experiment!) erodes further. An economy cannot recover without the dominant resources. The resources that make America great are it's capable, educated, hopeful people who sacrifice the now for our children's future. Isn't this how it has been prior to 1970? Our parents did it, why can't we!

Take a list of the top performing schools, look at what they do that makes them successful (short, practical study). Codify this and find a way to replicate it in all our schools. The top schools will improve to stay ahead of the others. Continue the improvement process on the national level. Do this as a coordinated effort in all schools, and in one generation, we will succeed in the world economy.

Our leaders must inspire us to reach for it though - this is more important than landing on Mars because without it, landing on Mars may only be a dream.

Posted by: Dr_Obvious | February 14, 2011 10:28 AM | Report abuse

"..We don’t only need to fix our schools, we need to fix our democracy..."

I've been waiting for someone to publicly bring up this point (The whole article is excellent).

Whatever isn't working in our schools is pretty much a distinct reflection of our society in general, and it's frightening to consider that we are watching our once
huge middle class - responsible for carrying the weight of our nation's work -
being decimated and chopped up into little pieces by wealthy and over-large egos.

Let's face it: rightly or wrongly, the U.S. public school system educated the vast majority of our middle class.

Very little holds us together as a people; We used to be able to count on English as a unifying factor, but with the pressures of immigration and the digital magic of choosing languages on phone, ATM & computer, the nature of communication itself is changing.

Do we really want to continue down the path to become the sort of democracy that exists in Latin America and other 3rd world nations? They have only marginal middle classes; in many of those places the only way to a decent education is private.

I'm not against alternative schooling; I worked in alternative schools most of my career. But I owe whatever allegiance I still have to the U.S. I grew up in to a strong middle class that was sustained by the public schooling I acquired as a child.

Posted by: PLMichaelsArtist-at-Large | February 14, 2011 10:37 AM | Report abuse

@jbeeler: I like this line of thought... I wonder what would happen if we had a rule that said that a young person would stay at home until he or she was educated sufficiently to be a productive citizen. I suspect that parents might take a more active role as they try to graduate their children into society (and out of their house) ;-)

On the other hand, lazy parents might grumble to lower the interpretation of "sufficiently educated" to be productive. This might make an interesting Gedanken experiment!

Overall, we would like to move the average performance up because outside this country, our global competitors are doing it and we are falling behind.

Posted by: Dr_Obvious | February 14, 2011 11:02 AM | Report abuse

I am a Principal, but when I taught, I had nothing but "poor" kids. My approach was to do EVERYTHING I could to help them. For some, I made a difference, for others, I did not, but I OWNED them. It felt it was my responsibility to teach them regardless of their circumstances and my Principal made it clear that I would be held accountable for them.

I spent little time worrying about the government fixing poverty.

Posted by: rickyroge | February 14, 2011 12:29 PM | Report abuse

Mr. Karp got the following perfectly right, but DCPS unionistas hardly want to agree, because it cuts the foundation out of their non-responsible, I didn't-do-it position:

"Of course poverty is no excuse for bad teaching, poor curriculum, massive dropout rates or year after year of lousy school outcomes. We need accountability systems that put pressure on schools to respond effectively to the communities they serve. And in my experience, parents are the key to creating that pressure and teachers are the key to implementing the changes needed to address it."

Posted by: axolotl | February 14, 2011 12:30 PM | Report abuse

Ms. Strauss, thank you for sharing Mr. Karp's views -- I couldn't have expressed such concerns better myself -- with the possible caveat that public education is fundamental to a thriving democracy in the hope that it provides the public with information and inquiring minds to do the right thing as citizens.

I believe the charterization efforts by the Obama administration are not only toxic to public education, but represent a disinformation campaign, a quite deliberate one, that covertly uses Democratic garb to cloak the intentions of corporate elites to break the back of public education in America, and all for fun and profit.

This must end, and hopefully you, Ms. Strauss, and advocates like Mr. Karp, and Diane Ravitch, will help by using your respective platforms to inform people on just how essential quality public education is to a greater America.

Thank you again for your continued work on this very important issue... All of you are great Americans...

Posted by: bbbbmer1 | February 14, 2011 12:30 PM | Report abuse

Accountability is important, but only when the requisite resources are provided to the teachers. Just saying do more with less is not a winning strategy. Make teaching a noble profession again. Give people like Ricky Roge who commented earlier the resources to do well. It takes both along with effective leadership to advance from where we are. We are bloated and out of shape - what shape do we want to be in and what is an effective strategy to get there?

Posted by: Dr_Obvious | February 14, 2011 12:38 PM | Report abuse

If readers have evidence of Ms. Rhee publicly using the claim that now is admitted to be be a falsehood please include that material on this website.

A reputable national newspaper is interested in this story and I would like to forward them this public evidence of the use of the falsehood.
In many ways Ms. Rhee has contributed to the teaching bashing that is so common.

Posted by: bsallamack | February 14, 2011 1:12 PM | Report abuse

Croaker Breath,

I particularly liked the passage that came after the one that you posted. You know, the one where he begins with a coordinating conjunction in order to qualify the point that he just addressed; you know, the one--apparently--that you just cherry-picked:

"But the reformers’ notion that schools alone can make up for the inequality and poverty that exists all around them has become part of the “No Excuses” drumbeat used to impose reforms that have no record of success as school improvement strategies.
Instead they’re political strategies designed to bring market reform to public education."

Posted by: DHume1 | February 14, 2011 1:46 PM | Report abuse

Scott Walker, the governor of Wisconsin, announced an assault against state workers last Friday, eliminating collective bargaining rights and threatening to fire workers who go on strike. The plan would divert 5.8 percent of workers’ pay to the state pension fund, and an additional 12.6 percent of their pay to employee health care premiums.

Walker’s proposal, which he said would quickly pass in the state legislature, drastically limits collective bargaining, removing the right of unions to negotiate pensions, retirement and benefits. It further bars union dues check-offs for government workers, meaning that workers will have to pay dues individually.

When asked by a reporter what will happen if workers resist, Walker replied that he would call out the National Guard. He said that the National Guard is “prepared ... for whatever the governor, their commander-in-chief, might call for ... I am fully prepared for whatever may happen.”

Posted by: natturner | February 14, 2011 2:41 PM | Report abuse


Since you bring up Wisconsin, there are a couple more things you should know. Last week the WEAC agreed to a bunch of "reforms" like breaking up Milwaukee Public Schools, teacher merit pay, etc.

This is being played in the press in Wisconsin as real reform and it is lamented that they didn't do this sooner because then they would have been in the running for the Race to the Top Money.

Diane Ravitch spoke in Milwaukee and will speak in Madison in March.

Scott Walker wants to do away with all collective bargaining rights for teachers.

Posted by: georgia198305 | February 14, 2011 4:04 PM | Report abuse

Thank you for the support, Mr. Karp!

Posted by: educationlover54 | February 14, 2011 5:15 PM | Report abuse

And the hard-pressed taxpayer who directs frustration at teachers struggling to hang on to their health insurance or pensions—which far too few people have at all—is not coming from the same place as those responsible for the obscene economic inequality that is squeezing both.
The reality is that the teacher bashers are simply the same as the Jew bashers, Catholic bashers, and black bashers of old. The only difference is that now the haters can no longer publicly hate these groups.

They are the Americans who are flailing out at others simply because of envy and hatred at their own lot in life.

During the financial problems with American automobile manufactures the bashers were out in full cry and spittle against those American workers that had well paying jobs and benefits. The problems of General Motors were all blamed on American workers in automobile industry. There was a total lack of recognition from these haters that Ford which did not need government funds was employing American workers that had the same pay and benefits as those at General Motors and so the problem could not be the fault of the workers.

And who are the teacher bashers.

They are not the American families with children in middle class public schools since these families decided to move into areas with high property taxes for better public schools and do not complain about the teachers of their children.

And they are not the poor parents with poverty public school since these parents voted last year in Washington D.C. to turn out the mayor that supported Ms. Rhee, and Ms. Rhee is the poster child of the teacher bashers with her past actions of repeatedly firing large numbers of teacher.

The reality is that the teacher bashers are not parents with children in public schools, but simply those with envy and hatred of their own lives.

The teacher bashers are more dangerous than the haters of old since there is not stigma attached to the political leaders or opportunists who are so willing to exploit this hatred.

At one point Harry Truman told Americans "If you want to live like a Republican, vote Democrat."

Now we have candidates of both parties who want to exploit hatred telling Americans "If you want everyone to live as miserably as you, vote for me."

Americans and political leaders should seriously consider the dangers in society of the exploitation of hatred.

Posted by: bsallamack | February 14, 2011 7:08 PM | Report abuse

I also forgot to mention another reason why the poor are not the teacher bashers.

The teacher bashers are those who believe that others unjustly have more than they have.

The poor see all others as having more than they have, so there is little point in outrage to a single group. Beside unlike the haters the poor do not feel outage since the poor want to have what other have to improve their lot.

A review of history would show that the bashers and haters are never the lower class. Usually the bashers and haters are a class that have lost advantages and believe that it is unjust that others still have these advantages. The poor do not feel like this since they never had advantages to lose.

Posted by: bsallamack | February 14, 2011 7:25 PM | Report abuse

Valerie Strauss has good columns but unfortunately these columns are really in regard to the false ideas we have in regard to improving public education.

I can not think of one new idea that I have seen in regard to actually improving public education in the United States.

There is the claim that everyone wants improvement in public education but the entire discussion appears to be regarding flawed and false ideas.

If you want change you must have new ideas instead of simply the trite idea that the problem is teachers.

This is like saying the problem in agriculture is farmers which everyone would recognize as trite, while not considering that farmers have total control of their farms, while teacher have very little control of public education.

Perhaps we have to continue debating over the false ideas for improving public education since there are no new ideas.

Posted by: bsallamack | February 14, 2011 7:37 PM | Report abuse

I like this a lot. Too bad it's now become obligatory to throw in a "bad teachers need to improve or go" as if that was somehow different from any other profession. Anybody with half a brain understands that there are some less-than-stellar teachers in the classroom; there always has been. But the "deformers" have done an excellent job of framing the debate as if THAT was the real issue, because it makes it a lot easier for them to impose their corporate-ocracy vision when teachers are the enemy. I fear we are losing this battle.

Posted by: Coachmere | February 14, 2011 9:07 PM | Report abuse


Would Bill Gates be on that list?

How about Bloomberg, Buffett, Oprah, the Walton Family, Broad, Zuckerberg, John Legend, Joel Klein, Bill Cosby?

Everyone on Wall Street? The NYT, LAT, TIME, NBC, NEWSWEEK, NEWS CORP, Matt Lauer, WAPO Editorial staff?

Teach for America? The New Teacher Project, EVERYONE at EDUWONK, anyone involved in a charter school?

Obama on the list? Duncan, Congress, all 50 Governors, Mayor Villaraigosa, Michelle Rhee, LA's MOMS UNITED, Councilwoman Cheh, anybody who worked for Mayor Fenty?

The folks at the Hoover Institution, Brookings, Aspen, CATO, Harvard's EdLabs, Center for American Progress, Rand Corp, anyone that supports using student achievement in evaluating teacher performance?

Posted by: frankb1 | February 14, 2011 10:01 PM | Report abuse

Very good, frankb1. You are mostly right, and you will get a very high score.
A few incorrect answers (in my opinion):

* most teachers, students, families, and staff at charter schools are NOT included. They are victims of this Ed Deform as well.

* I am sure that there are plenty of folks who worked under Adrian Fenty who didn't imbibe his Kool-Aid at all.

Several of the possibilities you raise, I don't know enough about to say one way or the other, but I suspect you are right.

BTW - which category do you fit in?

Posted by: TexasIke59 | February 14, 2011 10:31 PM | Report abuse

Very good, frankb1. You are mostly right, and you will get a very high score.
A few incorrect answers (in my opinion):

* most teachers, students, families, and staff at charter schools are NOT included. They are victims of this Ed Deform as well.

* I am sure that there are plenty of folks who worked under Adrian Fenty who didn't imbibe his Kool-Aid at all.

Several of the possibilities you raise, I don't know enough about to say one way or the other, but I suspect you are right.

BTW - which category do you fit in?

Posted by: TexasIke59 | February 14, 2011 10:31 PM | Report abuse

Frankie, anyone who wants to blame me for students failing the science test in Texas. It covers biology/physics/chemistry, but I teach ONLY CHEMISTRY. DO YOU UNDERSTAND WHY THE TEST SHOULDN'T BE USED TO JUDGE ME? HELLOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!

Posted by: peonteacher | February 14, 2011 11:04 PM | Report abuse

Let's take a look at what a "teacher basher" actually is:

The first set of teacher bashers are people who criticize teachers or unions using exaggerated phrases in order to persuade others to their side. This subset of the teacher basher cadre lack a clear understanding of learning and teaching. And because of their positions of authority and their ignorance, they refuse to accept the falsity of their conclusions despite any evidence to the contrary. A common argument might be this one: Unionistas only care about themselves and not about The Children. Another sample might look like this: If we finally hold teachers accountable, like magic, all our education problems will simply dissaperate. The hyperbolic narrative in both of these cases is that by reforming unions and holding teachers accountable, we will finally fix education. You can spot these people easily. They tend to live in fantasy worlds where silver bullets will kill monsters. They, in a way, also tend to follow reform movements like a despondent fat lady follows diet fads. They love their reforms.

The second subset of the "teacher bashers" are experts in false dilemmas and snake-like charms. This group tends to employ the implied argument. These guys are a little tricky, what with their slippery-skin language and sheep skin clothing, yet when their arguments are fully analyzed, you can easily spot their "you are either with us or against us" positions. Users of the "status qou" argument tend to pitch their tents in this camp, as do users of the "don't you want to help children?" argument. These bashers are sometimes shapeshifters or mask wearers, changing their positions every time another Sponge Bob episode airs on Nick. They also tend to be high profile people, which might explain their penchant for mercurial moods and masks. However, if you get them drunk, they will probably tell you that they have no idea how they could or would fix education.

The third group of bashers are the Ignorantee Self-Pleasure Seekers. This group uses all sorts of illogical and fallacious arguments to prove their positions. They may employ anything from the snowball effect to various appeals of authority or popularity. They differ from the first group in that they only seek out information that stokes their own fires. Thus, their pursuits are masturbatory in nature. It is pointless to point out their errors in reasoning or to direct them to primary sources, for they will ignore it all in a simple slipshod fashion. Although they are solitary individuals, they also like to believe that they belong to a group--whatever group that is. This might explain why they promote or thank anyone--despite their shortcomings, utter failures, or flat out lies--who follows a parallel train of thought. They'd do anything to become part of a pack. I like to think of these individuals like Beiber lovers; they live out their adolescent fantasies idolizing Rhee-like characters without ever leaving the bathroom.

Posted by: DHume1 | February 15, 2011 12:55 AM | Report abuse

You’ve covered just about every issue that has arisen in the debate about school inform -- and you’ve done so brilliantly. There are no new answers or new solutions. Schools and districts need to be released from the micro-managing of the federal government, and then they can dig down and address their own problems. FREEDOM is the answer, the freedom of local control.

Watch the Feb.11 PBS show "Need to Know" with Jon Meacham and Alison Stewart (link below). This particular show is called "Ahead of the Class," and the first segment features Brockton High School in Massachusetts. It shows what a dedicated, experienced staff can accomplish when it has the right leadership, a collaborative environment -- and the resources needed to get the job done.
Trust me, educators at many schools across the country have been problem solvers for years. Provide the resources and then turn them loose, and they'll get 'er done. Each school has different problems to solve.

That said, we can no longer allow a child’s zip code to determine the funding his district will get. We must figure out how to provide equity of opportunity, meaning equity of funding, for our children. That’s the kind of problem Congress can spend its time tackling. Leave local schools alone. Get the federal government out of the business of solutions for public education.

Posted by: theschoolprincipal | February 15, 2011 3:58 AM | Report abuse

Mr. Karp says, “It’s [public education] moved away from its historic role as a promoter of access and equity through support for things such as school integration, extra funding for high-poverty schools and services for students with special needs.” When the middle-class white students my mother taught had new science books and the lower-class African-American students my sister-in-law taught got the outdated textbooks my mother’s school had discarded (literally—my mother recognized the students’ names in the front), when one school has new desks and another has broken windows that never get repaired, when my mentally disabled classmate was promoted along with the rest of us and untrained to support himself (and he could have—he was not severely disabled) or when a very bright youngster with cerebral palsy is in the same class with a child so mentally delayed he was not toilet-trained, how did these schools promote access and equity? The social demands on the schools to integrate, provide food, and educate the disabled have been with the aim of increasing access to education.

And let’s not forget that when Katrina refugees came to other cities, many parents discovered their children were hopelessly behind their new classmates because in pre-Katrina New Orleans the schools were not the equal of others.

To Bsallamack: “The poor are not the teacher bashers” in large part because they are poorly educated themselves and honestly don’t know what their kids are missing. Several years ago the valedictorian of a Washington, DC, school discovered that she could not read well enough to do the work at the college that had given her a scholarship. Asked why she hadn’t gotten remedial help, she told the reporter she had no idea she read poorly, since she didn't know anyone who read better than she did.

Educational opportunity has never been equal. But now we are trying, no matter how misguidedly, to do something about it.

Posted by: sideswiththekids | February 15, 2011 9:54 AM | Report abuse


Would Bill Gates be on that list?

How about Bloomberg, Buffett, Oprah, the Walton Family, Broad, Zuckerberg, John Legend, Joel Klein, Bill Cosby?
Posted by: frankb1
These are not the teacher bashers but the opportunists who use the bashing of teachers for their own purposes.

Time to recognize that in reality educational policy is no longer to improve public education but rather to improve public education teachers. The concept is that all children are exactly alike and that they are passive vessels which "effective" teachers in a class room of say 30 of these vessels can simply pour in the liquid of learning.

Every American would consider it lunacy if someone claimed that every child in America could be made a good player, as measured by his age, in baseball if there were simply "effective" teachers of baseball. Americans understand that there are differences in children when it comes to baseball but are apparently unwilling to accept that there are differences in children in regard to learning.

Posted by: bsallamack | February 15, 2011 12:13 PM | Report abuse

The facts are these:

Here in the United States, we educate everyone. Comparisons of our system to those in other countries ignore that fact.

Charter schools have the ability to exclude students thay don't want, for whatever reason. The high performing charters achieve based on a longer student day and a requirement that parents force their children to do the work and go to school. comaprisons to charters ignore those facts.

Michelle Rhee misprepresented her record and under her tenure scores in many areas went down. That is also conveniently ignored.

As public employees, teachers do get pensions and health care penefits. This is in exchange for being the lowest paid college-educated professionals in the country, for being expected to work 60+ hours a week, for working weekends, for being expected to contiue their education at their own expense, for being unable to even go to the bathroom while they work.

In good times, people acknowledge that most teachers have a raw deal in terms of compensation. And we do, compared to pepole with good jobs. But good jobs are gone, so people look at us now as "The New Elite." What folks don't want to see is anyone with our benefits or contract protections, when they don'thave them, so it plays well with most Americans to bash teachers.

Posted by: gradelat | February 15, 2011 4:11 PM | Report abuse

Prof. dHume1 has shared a moist or moldy dream about bashers that is so slippery and thick with painstaking words and his revealing metaphor that it is limp and has scant meaning or use. Well done, David.

Posted by: axolotl | February 15, 2011 5:04 PM | Report abuse

Excellent analysis!

Posted by: vscribe | February 15, 2011 5:50 PM | Report abuse

Thank you. I was thinking a certain tadpole and bootlicker when I wrote it.

Posted by: DHume1 | February 15, 2011 6:42 PM | Report abuse

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