In the last twenty years, politicians (red and blue) have told the American people what schools need. Here is a list of their collective blubbering:
Schools need common standards.
Schools need teacher accountability and student testing.
Schools need to weed out the “bad” teachers.
Schools need teachers they can fire, tenure doesn’t allow for that flexibility.
Schools need teachers living in a right-to work state because teacher unions squash creativity.
Schools need data driven models to improve instruction.
Schools need local control instead of federal mandates.
Schools need “choice” — charters, vouchers, private, etc.
Schools need to be fixed because public schools are failing.
Schools need more rigor; we are not keeping up with China.
Schools need to focus on STEM, STEM, and more STEM.
Schools need more technology so that students learn 21st century skills.
Schools need students to have a plan for graduation to earn their diploma.
Are you a teacher? Have you ever been a teacher? Have you lived the “teacher life”?
No? Then shut up!
And, if you are not a teacher, but you believe that politicians know what schools need, then you can shut up too. Because after years of politicians talking their faces off, nothing has been gained. Schools are not getting what they need.
We are listening to the wrong people. Furthermore, we are allowing politicians, with whom we would not trust to babysit our children for an hour, full decision-making powers concerning our most important social institution. Teachers, on the other hand, with whom we entrust with our children on a daily basis, are not celebrated for their pragmatic ideas. Politicians, don’t say: “You know what, I am not a teacher, let’s have teachers make those decisions.” Instead, teachers are given no voice, and in many states no union membership as well.
Obviously, this is a very blunt post — very adolescent in tone. It is also very clear. If we continue to give power to these men and women who lack any expertise in education, we will continue to get more of the same.
Furthermore, because teachers are such reluctant activists, politicians have been allowed to usurp the power of educators. In piece on the BAT (Bad Ass Teachers Association) blog, Justin Williams writes a piece entitled, “Because Educators Do What They are Told,” where he explains why teachers have been so reluctant to speak up. Williams outlines that politicians (as usual) follow the money and that education has become profitable.
“The business of educating children is becoming more and more of a profit-making venture, shot through with vultures very qualified at making money and not much else. For now, education remains a sitting duck for these capitalists.”
Williams outlines the reality of the 3.1 million American teachers when he writes:
“Teachers, the largest professional workforce on the planet, follow orders better than any other workers in history. It’s why we’re the last great union, wherever we are “allowed” to unionize. We’re the most educated group of discounted, disrespected, go-with-the-flow, wherever-it-goes workers on Earth. And it’s why we’re failing our children, all over the world. Miserably.”
If like Williams writes educators continue to follow “like sheep among wolves,” then education will be consumed by the heirs of Amway, and other for-profit business people. These educational entrepreneurs will continue to lobby politicians. Politicians, in turn, will continue to speak mindlessly about education. Teachers need to tell their political representatives to shut-up about education. Teachers need to tell politicians that their jobs are in permanent jeopardy until these elected officials stop talking about educational reform and begin listening to the 3.1 million American teachers who actually know what schools need.