Nancy Flanagan: The War on the Teaching Profession Is No Longer Covert

In 2010, the corporate reform movement emerged as a national phenomenon. “Waiting for Superman” was the rage that fall, aided by a massive Gates-funded PR program, asserting that bad schools were caused by lazy, greedy teachers. Suddenly, the push for privately managed charter schools and attacks on teachers merged as a coherent “reform movement,” helped along by $5 billion in Race to the Top federal funding and Arne Duncan’s persistent snide comments about “bad” teachers, low standards, the promise of charter schools, and the necessity to judge teachers by the test scores of their students.

Conservative Stanford economist Eric Hanushek was at the center of the fray, pointing out in 2010 that conservatives and liberals now agreed that teachers were the biggest problem in schools. Hanushek had a featured role in “Superman,” where he reinforced the importance of choice and data as levers of change to raise test scores. In the fall of 2010, he wrote an article for the Wall Street Journal asserting that “There is No War on Teachers.” The article was sufficiently popular that Hanushek rewrote it and published it a few more times, first in the Hoover Institution publication in 2011 as “The ‘War on Teachers’ is a Myth,” and again in defense of the Vergara lawsuit in California, which sought to throw out teacher tenure (he said that the teachers’ unions would surely trot out “tired rhetoric” about “the war on teachers” to defend tenure.) No, no, he insisted there was no war on teachers, just a bipartisan effort to hold teachers accountable for student test scores.

But now, Nancy Flanagan writes on her blog at Education Week that the war against teachers and the teaching profession has gone into high gear. The mask is off. Betsy DeVos is leading the charge.

She writes:

“Several years ago, when the concept of a “war on teachers” was first entering the national conversation, I used the phrase in a blog. I got a solicitous message from a casual ed-friend, a man with more degrees (and from more prestigious universities) than I have. He politely told me that using “purple prose” weakened any carefully supported argument I could make.

“Besides, he didn’t believe there was, or ever had been, a concerted, organized effort to demean public school teachers–only disconnected bits of evidence that not everyone thought teachers were universally beneficent and professional. Nothing new. Nothing substantive. Just the same old grumbling about bossy, arrogant teachers, the bottom tier of the academic barrel.

“I was probably more worried about what people thought of my writing back then, because I haven’t used “war on teachers” language since. Until I read this: Parent Unions inviting stakeholders in multiple California districts to weigh on survey questions.

“Sample question: Over the last 10 classes you have taken. How many teachers would you characterize as idle, incompetent, rude, or lacks teaching ability?

“Another question: Unfortunately, the educational system has some bad apples who’s [sic] actions not only affect other teachers, but also the lives of students. Help us identify some of those infected [sic] in order to preserve your educational experience, as well as the experience of the next generation.

“Are there any teachers that are abusing their authority in or outside of the classroom?

“The teacher (#1) I have listed below should be fired:___________________________________

“Sample question: Over the last 10 classes you have taken. How many teachers would you characterize as idle, incompetent, rude, or lacks teaching ability?

“Another question: Unfortunately, the educational system has some bad apples who’s [sic] actions not only affect other teachers, but also the lives of students. Help us identify some of those infected [sic] in order to preserve your educational experience, as well as the experience of the next generation.

“Are there any teachers that are abusing their authority in or outside of the classroom?

“The teacher (#1) I have listed below should be fired:___________________________________

“You get to choose three teachers to be fired. And–to be fair and balanced–you get to choose three who should get a raise. The “survey,” offered to parents and students (and social media trolls, of course) goes on in a similar vein, with small editorial bits about horrible teachers and their horrible unions, urging survey-takers to name names and get those incompetent offenders out of our classrooms, so that children can be better prepared for their future.

“Is this a war on teachers? Organized by corporate-funded “parent unions?”

“Or is it just same-old griping about teachers by resentful adults, including those who were never properly instructed on the difference between “who’s” and “whose”?

“I would argue that we have genuinely reached a tipping point, one where we’re struggling to get young people to go into teaching as professional career (as opposed to two-year adventure before law school). Our state legislators are openly declaring that teaching is now a short-term technical job, not a career, and thus public school educators don’t really need a stable state pension.

“That’s not only a war on individual teachers, but a war on teaching itself.

“In the spring of 2011, the planning team for the Save Our Schools March of July 2011 struggled to clarify our aims. We knew it was important to have a set of lucid, defensible goals. We couldn’t speak to media or explain the purpose of rallying in Washington, D.C., without simple, easily understood objectives…

“It seemed to me then–and still does–that what we were fighting for, in the end, was more basic: the preservation of public education. There were people on the planning team (who had more degrees than I, and from more prestigious universities) arguing that the existence of public education was not endangered. We wanted better support for public education, certainly, and improvements in public schools, changes in policy and practice. We were fending off threats, for sure. But public education itself would survive….

“Last night, I went to my local Indivisible group meeting. I gave a two-minute report on education in my county. I said: There’s a war on teachers and we are facing the end of public education. It’s time to do something. And people applauded. What are you doing, in your county or district, to make these statements out loud?”

from sarah http://ift.tt/2sQ45wI

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s