Teachers, Not Parents, Are the Problem
Let's Get Real About Our Profession
As a teacher who served in a public school for twelve years, and in response to the rhetoric coming from America’s most deceptively political and manipulative profession- teachers- I’m going to level with the American people: we teachers are not the altruistic saints we would have you believe and are driven by both ideology and a desire to protect and advance our professional interests. I know this because I was a rank and file union dues-paying teacher who faithfully adhered to the dogma of public education. Like so many teachers, I abused my civic post to foray into politics in a way that advanced my professional interests over what I knew was best for the community and their children; most notably as a participant in a lengthy strike.
Why confess to these sins? Because they were unremarkable in public education, and that itself is remarkable. Who I was is an indictment of our profession and until now criticism of teachers from frustrated parents has been deflected by claiming a nobility we are not entitled to. As parents and taxpayers across the country wake up to the truth about our profession and the system we serve and protect, they have been cast as villainous lunatics trying to tear down saintly civil servants that want only to serve their children. While teachers can cast parents as ignorant of their professional reality and what transpires inside schools, they cannot do the same of me, so here are my rebuttals to their most common cries and allegations.
“Parents are treating teachers as adversaries!”
Only because many teachers put themselves in adversarial positions by using their civic post, influence, and voice to advocate for school board candidates and district policies that benefit them at the cost of students and communities; a conflict of interest that makes one inherently adversarial to the community.
“We’re the experts, so leave education up to us!”
Perhaps most aggravating to parents is the intellectual paternalism on display when teachers pretend to know what is best for their children. I am intelligent and educated, but I will never understand a child better than their parent; to claim so is dangerously arrogant. Teaching has become highly formalized and overly credentialed, but at its heart, education is still of the parents' domain. The first and last teachers you have in your life are your parents, and while we teachers do our best as professionalized substitutes, we never match the instruction received at home. Teachers forget that parents hire them to fill a role for their children, and the ultimate sovereignty over what one's child learns and how they learn rests with parents, not those they employ.
“Our students fail because you haven’t made education a priority!”
Teachers frequently blame parents for not making education a priority for their children while also claiming to be the foremost authorities over what and how their children learn; they cannot have it both ways. If teachers claim to be the educational expert in charge of all education-related decisions of one's child, they must own the academic failures of that child in equal measure.
“Fund our educational advancement!”
Despite what teachers have long argued, there is scant evidence that increasing teacher credentials beyond a bachelor’s degree improves student outcomes. Teachers do not want you to know that our compensation systems reward teachers a salary increase for obtaining a Master's Degree. The formation of educator Master's Degree mills allows teachers to speed through Master's Programs online to increase their salaries on the taxpayer’s dime without providing any measurable increase in value.
“Stop making education political!”
The worst of the manipulative politics of education is when teachers pretend to be non-partisan and apolitical while positioning themselves as acting in the best interest of " all kids". When we pretend that our politics are about students- not our interests- we use children as political pawns to advance our profession and the system that financially nurses us. We are anything but non-partisan or apolitical, one can best understand our entire profession as a political bloc.
“Our curriculums are being banned!”
Parents aren’t seeking to ban truth when they ask for curricular oversight. They want to restore a measure of control in response to our abuse of curricular freedom. Teachers should recognize that they are the stewards of what children consume, and as you would not allow your child to consume certain media types at home, neither should you permit that same at school with others children. As "loco in parentis," during school hours, we are responsible for ensuring children are not consuming sexually explicit media. Parents trusted us, and we abused that trust by bringing books graphically depicting sex into our classrooms to advance a particular ideology. I do not seek to ban books but to return power to parents over when their children are ready for sexually explicit reading material.
“There’s no indoctrination in education!”
The most pernicious lie promulgated by teachers argues that there are no indoctrinating forces in public schools. Not only did I witness ideological capture in my school, but I once shared a common belief among teachers: that we could make the world a better place if we exploited children towards specific political orientations. A teacher who claims no such forces in education is either woefully ignorant or criminally dishonest. One cannot claim that teachers can "change lives" through the power of education while simultaneously arguing that teachers don't have the influence or power to indoctrinate.
Some will accuse me of “tearing teachers down,” but I argue that holding teachers accountable as public servants is not diminishing our profession but restoring it to its rightful place as civil service with limited power. There is no political-labor force as powerful as teachers; we constitute an ideologically-entrenched organized labor bloc and the stereotype of a downtrodden and powerless profession is how we shield ourselves from criticism when we engage in public discourse. Do not fall for it.