« Hearings & Meetings Schedule -- Tomorrow & Beyond | Main | Who's Got The Best Education Events Calendar? »

Denigrating Teachers...Or Just Disagreeing?


There's a post called The Deciders over at Teacher In A Strange Land that takes me to task for a variety of things, including belittling the experiences and advice of teachers when it comes to NCLB: "When did it get to be OK, even kind of hip, to denigrate the professional work, judgment and thinking of educators?"

True, I am not always respectful of teachers' views on NCLB, but that's not any more denigrating in my mind than it would be to say that doctors shouldn't be the sole arbitors of Medicare policies (which they shouldn't). The experiences and perspectives of practitioners and clinicians (teachers, doctors) are by their nature vivid, detailed, and limited. But saying so doesn't, in my mind at least, denigrate them.

The post to which this is a response is here.


I agree with Teacher in a Strange Land. Your comment that "the views of educators are no longer the sole arbiters of what makes a good education" implies that there once was such a time (which, in 30 years in education I've never seen) and carries with it a hint of "and it's about time." I think we're entering a period of teacher-bashing. From J. Alter's recent Newsweek column to the Aspen report to Rod Paige's new book, it's becoming more and more okay to suggest that teachers are the problem. Of course there is always plenty of language celebrating "the wonderful teachers who have changed our lives" but ways of valuing teachers seldom make it into policies. The present-day policy world is mostly about punishment and blame.

thanks for your comment, tony -- i'd agree that there's a lot of teacher bashing going on, but don't think that's what i'm doing. that's what i was trying to say -- disagreeing with teachers, or not being willing to give them special status in the education debate, doesn't mean i'm bashing them. others may be, and i'll try and be clear about what i'm saying in the future, but -- like i said -- disagreeing is not denigrating.

A better analogy--if we're going down the medical metaphors road here--might be: doctors shouldn't the sole arbiters of which gall bladder removal protocol to select for their patients. Which, of course, is a lot more nuanced--and better illustrates the point I was trying to make.

Educators belong at the decision-making table. Their professional experience and judgment inform practice, and good practice should inform policy. Lately, everyone wants to make decisions for teachers, including how to compensate them, how to train them and how to decide if they're effective. We don't tell doctors whether to use laparoscopy or traditional surgery to remove a gall bladder, but the USDOE has spent a great deal of time, effort (and ethical currency) trying to tell veteran first grade teachers how to teach reading through federal (federal!)policy.

I fully agree that educators must be accountable and responsive to identified public needs. But we must also be full partners in conversations about our daily work.

Finally, I was making general statement about decision-making in education and (as Tony notes)this trend toward positioning teachers as the problem. I read "This Week in Education" because it's usually politically even-handed and very honest. I was surprised to see your remarks. A careful reading of my statement about denigrating teachers' professional work doesn't position you as the source of that belittlement.

We must ask, What is the purpose of positioning teachers as the "problem?" Policy has the effect of deciding what the body of education will be. The question in this situation is who makes policy? I beleive you are right, "Educators belong at the decision-making table." Unfortunately, political agendas are flexing their muscles without the full understanding needed to address the real problem with American education. That problem is centered in the "PC revolution." Political correctness is eating away at family structures by tolerating every type of digression from proven family value instruction. Lack of tolerance for historically vilified lifestyles has given way to almost complete lack of principled conversation with family heads that could immediately have an impact on the body of education. I could go into details, however, suffice to say that beyond teaching strategies and techniques lies the motivation of a family to desire education for their children. Our top-heavy economy does very little to motivate families to believe that education is their "golden-ticket" from poverty. All Americans must have a seat at the table of our political discourse before we will make any headway into educational achievement that leads to a better educational life for all.

Comments are now closed for this post.


Recent Comments

  • Patrick: A very fitting farewell. So does this mean that David read more




Technorati search

» Blogs that link here