Starting with Obama’s Inauguration in 2009, it seems as if every public intellectual, public school teacher and education reformer felt that a new day in public education had arrived.. Gone would be the punitive NCLB law with its coercive mandates and demeaning labeling that goes with those measures. Although the Administration has advanced new education policy measures, NCLB is still in existence and countless critics have argued that some, namely Race to The Top (RtTT) are as bad, if not worse than the previous Administration’s policies concerning public education.
The largest numbers of hopeful people were public school teachers. Public school teachers are overwhelmingly Democratic and their Unions (both the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) and the National Education Association (NEA) contributed greatly to the Democratic Party and Obama’s Campaign. What have they received in return?
If one were to do a survey of public school teachers today, they would probably respond that the return on their investment has not yielded much, if anything positive. In fact, many would say things have gotten worse. Doing a simple Google search, over the past month the words public school and; “teachers sabotaged” (35k) “teacher bashing” (40k), “teacher failure” (3.4million) and “bad teachers” (3.8million) have shown up in the public discourse more than “Lady Gaga” (144k) and “Whitney Houston” (237k) combined. What does this mean?
At the very least, looking at the raw numbers, one can conclude that there is currently a large amount of public discussion centered on the efficacy and influence of public school teachers. What is problematic is that “good” teachers either self-identified or otherwise, are generally the ones leading the chorus of cries about teachers being mistreated, bashed, sabotaged and labeled failures. Absent from this discussion are the teachers who perform poorly, do no help students succeed, and do not serve their profession well. Where are their voices? When do we actually hear from those who are the ones all of these policy changes and accountability are supposed to flush out?
Poor performing teacher voices are silent. They are not the ones who write into the The New York Times (see: Confessions of a “Bad Teacher” - http://tinyurl.com/7bdgt9d and Hard Working Teachers, Sabotaged When Student Test Scores Slip http://tinyurl.com/7cs28ct as two recent examples). They are not the ones who March on Washington (See http://www.saveourschoolsmarch.org/). They are the ones who languish behind closed doors, out of the public eye and the public arena, and continue to contribute to the downfall of public education in this country.
While it is admirable for “good” teachers to stand up to “being bullied,” they also need to tell the truth. Not everyone in the profession is as high achieving, motivated and disciplined as those who continue to feel bashed, and those who comment so frequently in the public arena. Rather than feeling inadequate and less than, perhaps it is time for the good teachers to not just call out those who need assistance, but at the very least, admit they exist. To deny their existence is to continue to deny the reality of the profession. It also makes good public school teachers susceptible to feeling that when the public discourse speaks of inadequate and ineffective teachers, that they are talking to you. It is time to start snitching and start telling the truth.