Schizophrenia of Education “Reform” Movement

Gates ProtestOver the weekend, Dean Baker wrote, An Innovative Way to Address Teacher Shortages: Higher Pay. It’s a very short and snarky post, in reference to an article in The New York Times, Teacher Shortages Spur a Nationwide Hiring Scramble (Credentials Optional). As Baker noted, it’s an interesting article. But it fails to mention the obvious market oriented approach to bringing more workers into an industry: raising wages. I wonder why that is?

There are a couple of parts to this. The first is that as a nation — especially in the political class — we are schizophrenic about teachers. On the one hand, we think that teachers are lazy and don’t care in the least about children or teaching. “Damned teachers’ unions!” On the other hand, we think that teachers only care about teaching the kids and so we don’t have to pay them well. It makes absolutely no sense. The best you can say about this is that maybe they don’t actually think that teachers only care about the kids, but just that teachers should only care about the kids. And that’s even worse.

Of course, all the teacher haters out there wouldn’t go to their jobs in grocery stores and banks and restaurants — not to mention newspapers and magazines and television stations — without being paid. They know how monetary considerations affect their personal and work lives. But applying it to teaching somehow seems wrong. I think their ideas about teaching come from watching Little House on the Prairie, where teachers were young women waiting to get married.

But this brings up a larger issue that I think about a lot. But its one that the whole education “reform” movement seems totally oblivious to. Regardless of what they will say, the single biggest issue for these “reformers” is to get rid of teachers’ worker protections. They want to make teachers at will employees so that they can be fired without cause. This is supposedly what it is going to take to have a first rate education system. Somehow, making teacher jobs more like server jobs at Denny’s is critical.

I’ll admit that doing that will certainly be a way of getting rid of bad teachers fast. But in my entire work life, I haven’t found that the bad workers are the people who get fired. In fact, it is more often the good workers. This is because people usually get fired for personal reasons — because they aren’t liked by those doing the hiring and firing. Also: people who disrupt tend to get fired. You know: the kind of people who are often the very best teachers.

But apart from that, the great push in the education “reform” movement is to make teaching a less appealing profession. I know that the supposed reformers will say this isn’t true. They will claim that good teachers will thrive in this environment. But that isn’t the way people looking at going into teaching will see it. Few will go into the profession thinking they will be the very best. Most will go into the profession thinking that can do a good job and have a decent career. But not in the brave new world of the education “reform” movement. They will instead see a job where they are forced to make students perform well on standardized tests and probably have a half dozen different jobs in their career.

So the current state of education “reform” is just as schizophrenic as our general outlook on teachers: “Teacher jobs are just too cushy and we can’t find anyone to fill them!” But as I’ve written before, the goal is not to improve education. It is to decimate public education. After that’s done, all that sweet money now going to the “reform” movement will dry up, because the billionaires giving it will have accomplished their goals.

I have an idea: how about we start thinking seriously about education and not just doing what the billionaires want?

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

2 thoughts on “Schizophrenia of Education “Reform” Movement

  1. Additionally, there’s a ton of racism involved. Voters who support “reform” tend to believe black kids are out-of-control hellions (look at those baggy pants) and their teachers sloths who sit back and tolerate insubordinate behavior while collecting government paychecks. If only those kids were subjected to discipline, they wouldn’t be failures in life. And since clearly government is always run by bleeding-heart liberals who keep throwing money at problems rather than getting tough, the solution is to let business step in and fix everything the way it never fails to do.

    The same voters tend to hold their local schools in high regard (polls show almost everyone approves of the job teachers do at their kids’ school, except religious loons who want more Bible classes.) And would fight like hell if anyone threatened to turn their school into a for-profit boot camp. But their kids, of course, are good kids and don’t need boot camp. A little rebellious, sure, but that’s part of being young!

    • Absolutely. There’s also the Marshmallow Challenge. I think I have an article coming out in a few days about how all this “blame the victim” is just about avoiding doing anything because, hey, it’s their own fault. Of course, in education “reform,” these people want to do something: destroy teachers unions. But they don’t give a damned about the kids.

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