Saturday, April 05, 2008

a frustrated republican school teacher...

Now let me start this by saying that I have been a “card carrying” Republican ever since I could vote (this is not to be confused with being a “Conservative” which if you listen to talk radio is somehow different than being a Republican). But one area that really bothers me is that the only stand that Republicans tend to take on public education is “school choice”. It is kind of a one-note song that my party is quick to point out examples of failures in public schools with radical social agendas and that the only answer to these problems is allowing those students who are “stuck” in those schools to chose another school to go to.

I will be the first one to admit that there are some serious issues facing public education but I do not buy into a “give up and run away” mentality but rather trying to stay and fix what is broken. If you listen to these Conservative “talking heads” you would think that every public school is run by Communist sympathizers and that ever teach has been educated by the ultra-Liberal Berkley crowd. But here is the problem, when you are dealing with such an incredible number of schools and teachers, of course you will run into a lot of wacko people.

I just did a Google search on what kind of numbers we are talking about and I found a whole slew of statistics at The Center for Educational Reform (true, this is probably not the most unbiased group but numbers are numbers). According to this data, there are 94,112 public K-12 schools with 2,997,748 public school teachers in the United States.

Sure there are a lot of horror stories out there but that is only because we are dealing with such huge numbers to begin with. Who knows what the real number is but even if only 1% of the teachers were pretty whacked out and had a radical social agenda, well that would mean we are talking about 29,977 people. And without a doubt, if all you did was shared 29,977 scary teacher stories in wow they are trying to indoctrinate their students to their social beliefs, then yeah, you would think the system has gone to hell in a hand basket and should be scrapped.

But that does not take into account the 99% of the public school teachers who are doing the job that we pay them for!!!

I challenge you to look at any group of 3 million people and NOT come up with thousands of them that should be checked for a warped sense of reality. But that does not mean that you paint with a brush the size of Texas and say that all of them should be kicked out of the club. I wholeheartedly believe that those 29,977 should get booted right away (and it kills me that the unions, which I am apart of, has made it so hard to do) but they are such a small minority of public teachers.

Of course there are tons of problems with the school system but it is totally naive to think that charter and private schools are these little islands of Nirvana where every student gets the best education and then goes on to lead these extraordinary lives. I have had many students come to my classroom FROM private/charter schools because the parents hated what they got for their money – and I teach in a pretty nice neighborhood where they can afford to go to these fancy schools.

There is no doubt in my mind whatsoever that there are some public schools out there that are a disaster and I have no problem with helping to fund those kids to go to a school of their choice that will give them a good education while the public one is being retooled. But simply letting some students go some place else and not do anything about changing the failing school is a true crime. And even though unfortunately some of these schools do exist, let us not forget that this is not the case with the vast majority of our public schools.

Hey, teaching is hard work. There are some really awesome teachers and there are some really horrible ones. But overall, my money lies with the public school system. Yes it is WAY too hard to fire those bad teachers but when you are looking at the sheer numbers of what we do, you have to say that the system is far from broken!


Dennis Fermoyle said...

TT, about the only difference between you and me is that I have tended to vote Democratic. But as you know, their view on education tends to be that everyone is a victim, and the best way to solve our problems is to throw more money at them and create more nifty programs. Ugh!

I used to think that there weren't many teachers who had views like ours, but I'm starting to think that there are more than I'd realized.

Anonymous said...

Public education is about children getting an education, not about supporting hard working public school teachers. Whatever choice I make for my children as regards education, there are teachers involved, educating going on, etc. The old fashioned public schools have had quite a monopoly until recently. But that doesn't mean there is no other way to educate America's children. If public education can't keep up with the public's demands for greater choice and flexibility, do public schools deserve to continue to be held in high regard by citizens, students, or teachers?

Anonymous said...

I feel divided about this, to be honest, because I am both a teacher and a homeschooler -- and the problem with that one percent (which I'd actually put a little higher, but still well within the single digits) is that 29,00+/- teachers teach from 30-180 kids a year per teacher times however many years the average teacher teaches, so even if the number is that small, the impact is disproportionately large.

I, like your other poster above, believe that the current educational system, as it now stands, is in such radical need of revision that I can't wait for my child to be adequately educated, because I'm fairly sure it won't really happen in our district during her "lifetime" as a student. We, like many others, are voting with our feet and are homeschooling.

A provocative post. Thanks!


the teacher said...

Adso, thanks for the post but I do have a follow up to throw back at you. From and education standpoint (not all the other beuracratic B.S. we have to deal with as teachers) why do you think public education is in such "radical need of revision"?

Again, I will give you that there are some bad teachers out there but you even agree that those are few and are between. So beyond the occational rotten apple, what is wrong with public education?

[I am honestly asking this question because I would like to know what brought you to this conclusion]

Anonymous said...

Our personal experience in a fairly high scoring school district in the Bay Area is that we hit about 50% of teachers who just did not know their craft. Our kids aren't the easiest to teach, but with proper instructional methods and attention, they could learn. Only about half of their teachers had a clue.

the teacher said...

annon....but what are you basing your opinion on that only 50% knew their craft?

It is so easy for somebody to say "oh he is a good/bad" teacher but on what criteria are you basing that on?

Adso of Melk said...

Hi! Okay, I'll bite...

You asked why I think school is in such radical need of revision. I've basically given some loooong answers to this question on my blog, actually, so if you'd like to check them out at length, please feel free (

My short answers are these:

1. The standards for admission to education departments is very low and attracts students from the lowest quartile (to be taught by former students -- now professors -- from that same lowest quartile).

2. Not enough teachers have a strong content background, but major instead in "education." This is sort of like majoring in "cooking" without having much understanding of food.

3. With the pressure of NCLB, gifted students are increasingly being left behind or given silly/irrelevant accomodations so that (I suspect) can raise class test scores.

4. There is little encouragement for teachers to be genuine masters of their content area; instead, professional development asks very little of one intellectually and little is given back.

5. Children are expected to be in age-grade lockstep and are treated as such. This is like expecting everyone of a certain age to fit a certain shoe size.

Those are the really brief answers, but hey, if you're feeling in a reading mood, please feel free to check out my rants on Lorem Ipsum. ;-)

Adso of Melk said...

Oops -- Meant to say that the standards of admission ARE very low. Sorry!


Ida Byrd-Hill said...

If 29000 teachers are wacked as you state that means they destroyed 4,350,000 students per year. Over a 20 year period that is 87,000,000 children and we wonder why America is screwed up.

the teacher said...


But I totally challenge your premise, ONE bad teacher does not "destroy" a kid. I do not care how bad of a teacher they are (assuming of course they are not doing anything inappropriate or illegal) the chances that there is any lasting damage done to a child is astronomically small. Even if you have a couple of bad ones, kids adjust.

I would have to say that exposure to "bad" parents causes a whole lot more damage than any teacher could.

Anonymous said...

TT, I agree with you on your post. I am also a frustrated Republican teacher - for many reasons. Both parties really bother me in ways. Rather than going into that, I have a question for anyone reading. Has there ever been a poll to find out how many people feel their school district is NOT properly teaching the kids? My guess is most people are confident in their school districts, but think other districts are not doing the job.