Friday, January 28, 2011

It's Not the Dang Teachers...

Obama's mention of education in the state of the union has been generating discussion.  Now Glenn Loury hops aboard the teacher bashing bandwagon:

"The lack of respect - to the extent that it's there - to my mind has a lot to do with the lack of..."

Me: Come on, Glenn, say it, say "...NCLB's laser-like focus on the achievement gap and the New Reform movement's subsequent placement of blame for it at the foot of teachers in general, not on long-standing social problems and lack of resources for sufficient intervention into poor schools.

"... lack of outstanding and impressive performance by the range of people going into the profession, which has a lot to do with the rewards that are available... but certainly not because we, as Americans have just chosen out of pique to allocate less esteem to teaching as a profession."

Oh, Glenn. Does he really think that if the achievement gap were closed, that we would even be having this discussion? Yet, what about all the teachers you never hear about, who make roughly the same money, go to similar colleges, have unions, etc. yet who teach at more affluent schools, and therefor appear to be doing an amazing job? Is there some special secret that they have? Oh, that's right, they have different students.

The public is angry at teachers because NCLB shoved the moral issue of low performance at poor schools in everyone's faces, and then offered a promise to fix it by focusing almost solely on teacher performance. Now all teachers are labeled as bad because of the really hard job teachers at poor schools have. Yet no one is willing to take personal responsibility for the problem, because it is so much easier - and common sense - to expect teachers to "do their job".

Yet the job is something most people haven't a clue about. The chattering class largely went to fairly nice schools, in nice neighborhoods, and don't understand how hard it is to teach at a poor school. They then see these almost Potemkin charters set up with stunning results, not realizing that a lot of very special things went on behind the scenes to create that, and that they aren't a model that is scalable. Or they watch movies about supposedly masterful teachers who can turn classrooms around by pure force of will, and they expect everyone to be able to do that. Not realizing of course that A) these people usually don't have lives and B) you can find a handful of Michael Jordans or John Rambos in any field, but to structure policy around everyone being like them is not just stupid, but unfair to the poor students who "didn't get superman".

Can I make the military analogy again? What if Glenn said that crap about the Iraq or Afghanistan war? That we didn't need better support, we just needed more outstanding soldiers. He wouldn't hear the end of it. Or how about police units in bad parts of town. Who is expecting them to make the streets safe, then collecting data on them and threatening to publish it online? No - we realize they have a job to do, face enormous odds, and bust their asses off for God and country.

I mean, as Hank Hill might say, "Well that just tears it!"

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