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Thursday, July 28, 2011

"Teacher" as Epithet - A Continuation of Yesterday's Blog

So how DID we come to make teachers the scapegoats for everything that is wrong in our world? How did it come to happen that on a very hot, muggy day, a man hurled the worst epithet he could think of toward a few peaceful warriors, and that epithet was, "TEACHER"?

Two questions I'm going to (in my typical rambling way) focus on:

1. Why would it be advantageous for any person or group to create an atmosphere where teacher-bashing was not only acceptable, but encouraged?

2. If there really could be an advantage in doing so, how would that person/group go about it?

When I was a child, in the 1960's and 70's, I went to a lot of different schools due to my dad's occupation as a musician (not the only reason, but the main one). By the time I was in 8th grade, I'd gone to 13 different schools.

I was taught to respect my teachers - just as my parents were - and I did. If there WAS a problem with a particular teacher, my mom stepped in and had a talk with the teacher. If that failed, she could have taken the issue to the principal, the PTA, the school board. Thankfully, the only "problems" that my mom felt she had to intervene in were pretty minor - whether or not I had to eat the cafeteria's turnip greens, for example. (Thanks, Mom, for that one! I still don't eat 'em!)

The community esteemed and respected its teachers.

Were things perfect, 40+ years ago? No. Teachers are human, subject to all of our human vagaries. We all are.

Initially, I think, the intent behind correcting issues in our educational system was honorable and good. There were a lot of Johnnies and Janies out there who were functionally illiterate. Whether or not the teachers could be blamed for this, I'm not so sure. I've been reading since I was four years old - I learned by being read to.

Having met, in my adult life, many brilliant, accomplished, successful folks who were never too much for book learnin' - well, I've come to the conclusion that our brains are just wired differently. I can never take apart and put together ANYTHING without having parts left over; fortunately, it was not a prerequisite for graduation!

I've spoken just recently with a special ed teacher in rural Wisconsin who pointed out that some kids are just never going to be great readers, spelling bee champs, able to do more than the simplest math.

We want our little Johnnies and Janies to be able to function in today's world, so we tried to figure out why they couldn't read, and fix it. It was somewhat successful, with some kids, in some areas.

Not enough. Some children were still being "left behind", we were told.

So we decided that we'd hold the teachers accountable for any child who, for whatever reason, could not read at an acceptable level. The measure would be a test.

I've always done well on tests. Again, I think that's just the way my brain is wired. That doesn't make me any better than them or make them any less capable of leading a successful, productive, tax-payin' life.

Suddenly, though, we as a society deemed that the measure of the teacher was a number over which s/he ultimately had little control. No matter how hard Teacher tries, there are some kids who are simply not going to test well. Ever.

This was the new standard - a test score. School districts lived and died by these scores.

So here we are. The teacher is responsible for the test score. If the kid doesn't test well, the teacher has failed to do his/her job.

Along comes somebody with an idea. It'll be a hard sell in a world that has loved and esteemed its teachers for generations. The fire was already there - admittedly, there were some problems in some public schools. They need only add fuel and wait.

Their fuel is money.

So... the agenda is to set up a system in which the public schools will find it very difficult to live up to a standard. Get the masses behind you - repeatedly point out the failures. It should be easy - most people care deeply about their children. Fortunately for the profiteers, most people are easily led. They're angry. As their incomes decline, as life gets harder, as the future appears increasingly bleak, they search restlessly for someone to blame - and someone to step in with a solution. Never mind that it is a complex problem - most of us are too busy trying to get by nowadays to do any real analysis of a problem, and they've already seen to it that our "free time" is filled with the ongoing drama of reality TV.

Teachers are the problem. They're overpaid for a job they're not doing. They can do their job much better. It's so obvious - the rich have been sending their kids to private schools for years, and look where they are now, in comparison to where you and your children are! Why shouldn't your kids have the same privileges?

It's a psychological trick, really. Take a problem, real or imagined, publicize it, then prettily package up a solution. Don't mention that it is a very lucrative solution, or the driving force behind it. Same thing happens all the time - watch a few commercials.

We believe that we are getting more freedom from government interference in our children's education. We like that word, "Freedom". We hate "big government" - but we're not told that the alternative seems to be "big business" and an almost total lack of accountability!

So they get some big money behind "raising public awareness". They use front groups like the Heritage Foundation, McIver Institute, Macinaw, ALEC, the Tea Party to promote their agenda. Most people "Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain" - in this case, the privatized schools eager to swoop in and set up shop, at taxpayer expense (remember those school vouchers?).

(Yes, those "Think Tanks" are basically advertising agencies, folks, and the Tea Party is in many respects a front group!)

It's a win-lose all around. Public teachers lose jobs; if they want to keep teaching, they can always take lower-paying jobs at the privatized schools. Kind of ironic that many of the same teachers we've been programmed to hate are now, or will be, working at the privatized schools... and your tax dollars will be paying them, plus paying the CEO's of these companies, the investors, the "safety nets" like Medicaid and even food stamps that workers at these schools with inadequate incomes will need in order to provide for their families' needs, the marketing efforts that are crucial to selling this whole mess to the masses, the government workers who oversee the schools and send out all of those voucher checks... the list goes on, and on, and on.

Don't forget, either, that our legislators are also involved in this scheme. The ideas must be marketed to them, as well - and ALEC is actively doing that, as well as teaching them how to market the ideas to their constituents.

What really set me off on this blog was actually another blog.

In it, Bill Totten talks about a stock market prospectus he received, which touts privatized education as a lucrative investment opportunity. The wave of legislation enacting school vouchers in ALEC-controlled states ensures that. I encourage you to read his blog entry.

I don't think that you will particularly enjoy the part where your childrens' education is described as "The Big Enchilada" of investment opportunities. I sure don't.

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