FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Public Teachers in the Crosshairs

by DAVID MACARAY

During my twenty-odd years as a union rep in a big-time factory (a 44-acre paper mill), I had occasion to talk to over a hundred people about the things we most regretted in our lives.  It’s true.  That was our topic of discussion….regrets.  Things we hadn’t done but wish we had, things we had done but wish we hadn’t, and things we would do differently if we could go back and repeat them.  The whole gamut.

These conversations weren’t nearly as confrontational or melodramatic as they sound.  They weren’t exercises in psychodrama or brutal self-analysis so much as casual, idiosyncratic ways of passing time on swing-shift or graveyard.  They were fun.  In a highly automated, modern plant like ours you could do your job quite efficiently and still have time to swap life stories with your fellow workers.  Which is what we did.

The responses were revealing.  Nearly everyone regretted the exact same thing.  They regretted they hadn’t been better students—and not just in high school, but all the way back to elementary school.  These good people regretted that they hadn’t been more mature, that they hadn’t applied themselves more diligently, that they hadn’t paid attention in class, and that they hadn’t buckled down and done their assigned homework.  They more or less regretted their entire attitude toward education.

And while I’m not suggesting that this informal survey was in any way “conclusive,” the difference in responses between men and women was nonetheless surprising.  Virtually every man I spoke to blamed himself for his deficiency.  He readily
acknowledged that in elementary school all he did was watch TV and goof off, and that by the time he reached high school he was more interested in girls and cars and sports than school work.

But while the women also regretted that they, too, hadn’t applied themselves, their assessment differed a bit from the men’s.  Women were more willing to fault their parents (particularly their mothers) for not having dogged them enough.  They were critical of their mothers for not having sufficiently “pushed” them to be good students, and for not having “had higher [academic] expectations” for them.

It didn’t seem that any of these women (most of whom were late thirties or older) were especially bitter, or were playing the martyr card, or were using their moms as scapegoats.  What they were doing was simply looking back on their lives and candidly recalling that a lack of parental-imposed motivation and discipline had hindered them academically.

In any event, here’s the kicker.  Not one of them blamed their teachers.  More than a hundred people gave reasons for not having done well (or well enough) in school, and not one of them took the easy way out and blamed the system.  Not one person said, “I was a good student, but my teachers were too incompetent to teach me, which is why I didn’t excel in school.”  They all knew that simply wasn’t true.

And yet, if we believe what we see and hear in the media, the myriad problems with our public schools—from low test scores to a 25-percent drop-out rate—are the fault of incompetent teachers and their “powerful” teachers’ union.  No one dares blame the kids or the parents.  It’s the teachers who are the villains.

With all the lies, omissions, and exaggerations that we’re regularly exposed to, many of us have become understandably cynical.  Personally, I’ve pretty much come to regard everything with a jaundiced eye.  Ever since the needle on my Indignation Dial got stuck in the “You’ve Got To Be Shitting Me” position, very little outrages me.

But this smear campaign against teachers is freakish.  It’s a new low.  What’s worse, even though it’s being driven by reactionary right-wingers, it’s not confined exclusively to the right.  Everyone is buying into it.  Self-avowed “progressives” blame the teachers.  President Obama and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan blame them.

Which is why so many teachers are reluctantly leaving the profession.  This smear campaign is actually forcing good teachers to change careers because they no longer feel it’s worth the aggravation.  Teaching is demanding enough without being accused of incompetence.  So we’re forcing them out.  Is this a great country or what?

DAVID MACARAY, an LA playwright and author (“It’s Never Been Easy:  Essays on Modern Labor”), was a former union rep.   He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion, published by AK Press. Hopeless is also available in a Kindle edition. He can be reached at dmacaray@earthlink.net

 

 

 

 

 

 

More articles by:

David Macaray is a playwright and author. His newest book is How To Win Friends and Avoid Sacred Cows.  He can be reached at dmacaray@gmail.com

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

June 22, 2017
Jason Hirthler
Invisible Empire Beneath the Radar, Above Suspicion
Ken Levy
Sorry, But It’s Entirely the Right’s Fault
John Laforge
Fukushima’s Radiation Will Poison Food “for Decades,” Study Finds
Ann Garrison
Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour Party, and the UK’s Socialist Surge
Phillip Doe
Big Oil in the Rocky Mountain State: the Overwhelming Tawdriness of Government in Colorado
Howard Lisnoff
The Spiritual Death of Ongoing War
Stephen Cooper
Civilized, Constitution-Loving Californians Will Continue Capital Punishment Fight
Bruno Rodríguez Parrilla
Cuba Will Not Bow to Trump’s Threats
Ramzy Baroud
Israel vs. the United Nations: The Nikki Haley Doctrine
Tyler Wilch
The Political Theology of US Drone Warfare
Colin Todhunter
A Grain of Truth: RCEP and the Corporate Hijack of Indian Agriculture
Robert Koehler
When the Detainee is American…
Jeff Berg
Our No Trump Contract
Faiza Shaheen
London Fire Fuels Movement to Challenge Inequality in UK
Rob Seimetz
Sorry I Am Not Sorry: A Letter From Millennials to Baby Boomers
June 21, 2017
Jim Kavanagh
Resist This: the United States is at War With Syria
James Ridgeway
Good Agent, Bad Agent: Robert Mueller and 9-11
Diana Johnstone
The Single Party French State … as the Majority of Voters Abstain
Ted Rall
Democrats Want to Lose the 2020 Election
Kathy Kelly
“Would You Like a Drink of Water?” Please Ask a Yemeni Child
Russell Mokhiber
Sen. Joe Manchin Says “No” to Single-Payer, While Lindsay Graham Floats Single-Payer for Sick People
Ralph Nader
Closing Democracy’s Doors Until the People Open Them
Binoy Kampmark
Barclays in Hot Water: The Qatar Connection
Jesse Jackson
Trump Ratchets Up the Use of Guns, Bombs, Troops, and Insults
N.D. Jayaprakash
No More Con Games: Abolish Nuclear Weapons Now! (Part Four)
David Busch
The Kingdom of Pence–and His League of Flaming Demons–is Upon Us
Stephen Cooper
How John Steinbeck’s “In Dubious Battle” Helps Us Navigate Social Discord
Madis Senner
The Roots of America’s Identity and Our Political Divide are Buried Deep in the Land
June 20, 2017
Ajamu Baraka
The Body Count Rises in the U.S. War Against Black People
Gary Leupp
Russia’s Calm, But Firm, Response to the US Shooting Down a Syrian Fighter Jet
Maxim Nikolenko
Beating Oliver Stone: the Media’s Spin on the Putin Interviews
Michael J. Sainato
Philando Castile and the Self Righteous Cloak of White Privilege
John W. Whitehead
The Militarized Police State Opens Fire
Peter Crowley
The Groundhog Days of Terrorism
Norman Solomon
Behind the Media Surge Against Bernie Sanders
Pauline Murphy
Friedrich Engels: a Tourist In Ireland
David Swanson
The Unifying Force of War Abolition
Louisa Willcox
Senators Bernie Sanders, Cory Booker, Tom Udall Back Tribes in Grizzly Fight
John Stanton
Mass Incarceration, Prison Labor in the United States
Robert Fisk
Did Trump Denounce Qatar Over Failed Business Deals?
Medea Benjamin
America Will Regret Helping Saudi Arabia Bomb Yemen
Brian Addison
Los Angeles County Data Shows Startling Surge in Youth, Latino Homelessness
Native News Online
Betraying Indian Country: How Grizzly Delisting Exposes Trump and Zinke’s Assault on Tribal Sovereignty and Treaty Rights
Stephen Martin
A Tragic Inferno in London Reflects the Terrorism of the Global Free Market
Debadityo Sinha
Think Like a River
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail