Savaging a Teacher Is the Latest Political Sport

I remember a time when should a teacher contact a parent about a student’s behavior, the first question from the parent to the student was “What’s wrong with you?” Today that same question is almost universally aimed at the teacher now. Politicians and education officials foster this “What’s wrong with you?” mindset, adding to the erosion of the public education system.

These gentleman are supposed to improve the state of education, but more often than not, those attempts involve savaging teachers or teachers unions. Here is but a sample of those individuals.

On December 11, 2012, Governor Bobby Jindal of Louisiana gave a speech in Washington D.C. and said “There is one entity working hard every day, spending millions of dollars every year, to make sure you never get the opportunity to get your child out of a failing school and into a different school, and that is the teachers union.”

In that same speech, he offered the following evaluation of K-12 educators and the educational system. “How can it be that America—the country with the greatest higher educational opportunities in the entire world, the country that houses the universities that help to educate the world—can be so stuck in the Stone Age when it comes to pre-K through 12 education?”

When Louisiana saw a spike in retirements of teachers, Louisiana State Superintendent of Education John White had the following to say on January 30, 2013: “the teachers who are leaving are more likely to be ineffective.” He made this statement even though the Advocate reported a story two days earlier noting that of all the teachers who retired or left the system, 16 percent would have been rated “highly effective” and only 12 percent would have been rated “ineffective” based on student test scores.

With the increased uproar over Common Core and its rushed implementation in Louisiana, state legislators called a meeting on November 7, 2013 which John White and BESE Board President Chaz Romero attended. When asked about whether teachers had received adequate training in Common Core, John White made this derogatory statement about the state’s numerous superintendents: “Some leaders have had their heads up; some leaders have had their heads in the sand.”

On November 16, 2013, US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan recently attacked white, suburban moms for opposing Common Core. His oversimplified and insulting evaluation of their legitimate concerns was “white suburban moms who—all of a sudden—their child isn’t as brilliant as they thought they were, and their school isn’t quite as good as they thought they were.”

No one, however, quite matches the vitriol of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. He recently won re-election as a Republican in a strongly-Democratic state, and his comments on schools have been particularly scathing. “I would be happy to take as many dollars as possible away from failure factories that send children on a no-stop route to prison and to failed dreams, if we could take that money and put it in a place where those families have hope.” He made this statement on October 7, 2013 while running for re-election.

No respectable human being wants to doom any child to a hopeless future by attending a school labeled as failing, but those failure labels often don’t reflect that most of those schools are in poverty-stricken areas where family life can be dreadful. And the way to improve a failing school—sorry, failure factory—is not to rob it of even more funds so that it slips even further on its path to recovery.

Governor Christie is also misrepresenting the state of New Jersey, which has less than ten percent of its schools labeled as failures (200 out of 2,200 or so schools.) New Jersey also ranks #3 in the nation on the NAEP scale, so it must be doing something right. To labels all schools as failure factories is disrespectful and disgusting.

A public school teacher Melissa Tomlinson attended a Christie rally on November 4, 2013 with a poster denouncing Christie’s characterization of schools as failure factories. Christie recalled in an interview that Tomlinson asked, “Why do you call schools ‘failure factories’?” and Christie’s blunt answer was “Because they are.”

Not some of them are. They all are. A state ranked #3 is apparently a state of failure factories.

With leaders like these, is there any wonder why educators have little faith in the system and wish to leave while they can still can?


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