In the 1971 movie, Network, Peter O’Malley goes into a rant on his evening television show against the inhumanity of mankind, and declares he is not going to take it anymore. He implores people to go to their doors or windows, and let their voices be heard. In the movie, people who are tuned in to O’Malley’s show are swayed by his passion and animated agitation with the society in which they live, and are so compelled by his words that they throw open their doors and windows and shout, “I am mad as hell, and I am not going to take this anymore!”
Well, I believe it is time for teachers in the United States to take up that battle cry. Why? Because American education is not broken! I repeat – American education is not broken! It is plenty bruised from all the negative comments it is continually bombarded with by the media and politicians, and it could probably use a lot of tender loving care, but it is not broken. A major problem with education today is educators! Educators have listened to the propaganda about how bad they are for so long they have started to believe it, and they seem to have forgotten about all the good they do. Teachers have been literally beaten into submission by politicians and teacher bashers who have ridden the bandwagon bashing education to the point of permanently crippling education in this country by ripping apart the very foundation of confidence and hope that American education was built upon. It is time for it to stop! It is time for teachers to mount their own bandwagon and stand up for themselves. It is time for them to throw open the doors and windows of the schoolhouse and shout, “I am mad as hell, and I am not going to take this anymore!”
Sure, there are problems such as children failing, children dropping out of school, low graduation rates, and teachers who may not belong in the profession. However, student failure, dropouts, and poor graduation rates are as much due to poverty, a society with marginal respect for education, and poor parenting as they are to a broken educational system. As for teachers who may not belong in the profession, I agree if they do not have the capacity to do the job, if they cannot be trained to do the job, and they do not have the desire to teach children with passion and compassion, they need to be gone. However, that can be said about any profession whether it is teaching or in the business world.
Speaking of the business world, it is also about time teachers stood up and took exception to the nonsense of running schools like a business. Since when did children become a commodity? Since when did schools get to pick and choose the raw materials they work with like the business world does? Since when did schools get to keep only the cream of the crop and throw out the rest? The answer is NEVER, so what makes people with little or no educational experience think a business model will work in our schools.
Yet, we keep hearing that education needs to be run like a business. We hear that education needs to treat children as customers. We hear that education needs to follow a business model to be more efficient! Really? Whose business model should education follow – Bank of America, General Motors, Goldman Sachs, Ford, Trustmark Corp? These businesses as well as many others that I could name have enough problems running themselves much less trying to be a model for someone else to follow. Think back to 2008 when 937 businesses in the United States (including the ones I named above) were recipients of nearly 700 billion taxpayer bailout dollars, and that’s not counting the 21,000 emergency loans to banks and small businesses by the Federal government totaling in the trillions of dollars. If schools were run like these examples of business genius, the schoolhouse doors would have been chained and locked long ago with no hope of a bailout. Schools may not be perfect, but thank goodness we have professional educators running our schools who know the kid business rather than business executives who have shown through their personal greed and poor management that they cannot meet their obligations to their customers. We could not trust them with our money, and now some people want us to trust them with our children! I think not. Also, what about treating children as customers? Get real people! How many businesses have you walked in lately and could not find a business associate or employee of any kind to help you or even greet you with a smile? If schools offered students the same level of customer support as the business world, I am afraid the student failures and dropouts would double or even triple.
Yes, it is absolutely time for teachers to stand up for themselves! I challenge anyone to show me another profession where the professionals are . . . .
1. Expected to take bruised merchandise and turn it into gold;
2. Expected to accept raw materials with little or no quality control;
3. Expected to get high results from people who do not what to be there;
4. Expected to perform without flaw their core work while during the same day providing transportation, breakfast, lunch, counseling, nurturing, attendance incentives, behavior incentives, and acting as a mother or father as well as trying to find time to squeeze in hygiene and sex education; and
5. Expected to lay aside the never ending insults, disrespect, and bashing from students, parents, media, and politicians and teach with pride and loyalty to their profession and those they serve.
Teachers cannot get rid of students who do not meet the specs called for in the blueprint. They are expected to fix every student regardless of how far below the specs a student may fall. Of course, you might say that goes with the territory, and you would be right. However, because such expectations are a part of the territory, most teachers accept them without a word other than asking for an occasional well deserved but token pay raise once every seven years or so. Therein, lies the problem. Teachers are rarely heard, and when they are, their voices are more than often stamped out by the howls of the wolves that live at their doors.
Therefore, I believe it is time for teachers to start howling back. It is time they demanded that the politicians replace their opinions, personal agendas and rhetoric with facts before they legislate arbitrary education laws that do little more than cloud the waters and promote personal agendas. It is time that teachers demand that parents be held as accountable for their child’s education as the child’s teachers. It is time that teachers demand and accept nothing less than the respect they deserve. It is time that teachers demand their voices be heard when it comes to fixing those parts of education that may need fixing. It is time teachers demand they be treated as professionals, and not faceless punching bags without feelings. It is time teachers stand up with pride and say, “I am a teacher, I am a human being, and I am mad as hell, and I am not going to take this anymore!”
©January 22, 2014, Jack Linton