Saturday, March 19, 2011

The Most Aggressive Defense of Teachers You'll Ever Hear

Recently, a good friend of mine posted a video you may have seen, Taylor Mali's "What Do You Make?". In the video, Mali describes being sneeringly asked by a full-of-himself guest at a dinner party what he "makes" as a teacher. If you have not seen Mali's response, you owe it to yourself to view the video, "The Most Aggressive Defense of Teachers You'll Ever See":
As a retired teacher and union rep, I felt that I had to get in my two bits worth. Here's what I had to say:
Yes, I have seen this. I have had dinner party moments such as this! During the current, anti-teacher hysteria that is going around, I have received hateful messages about teachers, our unions, our pensions, and our pay. I have had to "un-friend" Facebook friends, and block complete strangers.
It is true that American students don't look so good compared with other industrialized countries when you look at quantitative data such as math and science scores. But it is also true that in this country, we try to teach all children a curriculum which prepares them for college or university. Most modern democracies test students as early as fourth grade to determine what type of high school they will attend: vocational, trade, or preparatory. We are comparing the scores of 100% of our students with the top 15-25% of students in comparable countries. We do this without apologies or excuses. This is not a fact that one comes across in 15 second sound bites or Fox News commentaries.
You may remember a certain dinner party we were both at a few years ago where friends of friends were aggressively promoting an anti-teacher agenda as dinner table talk. I told the folks at that time, that we do a pretty good job of teaching the kids the people send us. But the nuance was lost on them; they had made up their minds that teachers are a bunch of yellow-fanged socialists with an agenda to promote godless secular humanism among the population at best, or that, at worst, we were entirely incompetent.
Our state voted for our current Governor. They elected each of the right-wingers to the legislature, and there was no secret that their agenda included stripping the public schools of funds. I am tired of making aggressive defenses of my chosen profession. Yes, I write letters. Yes, I attend rallies at the Capitol. And I am greatly saddened that many of my hardworking, competent colleagues will be laid off from their chosen professions this fall in order to satisify an extremist political agenda. But I blame the people of Texas, and the voters in general, for their complacency in allowing this to happen.
They are going to get what they voted for. And, as a result, this country will never again be competitive in the international economy.

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