Friday, July 20, 2012

In what other profession... by David Reber

In what other profession... by David Reber

August 27, 2010
I’m going to step out of my usual third-person writing voice for a moment. 

As a parent I received a letter last week from the Kansas State Board of Education, informing me that my children’s school district had been placed on “improvement” status for failing to meet “adequate yearly progress” under the No Child Left Behind law.
I thought it ironic that our schools were judged inadequate by people who haven’t set foot in them, so I wrote a letter to my local newspaper. Predictably, my letter elicited a deluge of comments in the paper’s online forum. Many remarks came from armchair educators and anti-teacher, anti-public school evangelists quick to discredit anything I had to say under the rationale of “he’s a teacher.” What could a teacher possibly know about education?
Countless arguments used to denigrate public school teachers begin with the phrase “in what other profession….” and conclude with practically anything the anti-teacher pundits find offensive about public education. Due process and collective bargaining [and pensions] are favorite targets, as are the erroneous but tightly held beliefs that teachers are under-worked, over-paid (earning million-dollar pensions), and not accountable for anything.
In what other profession, indeed.
In what other profession are the licensed professionals considered the LEAST knowledgeable about the job? You seldom if ever hear “that guy couldn’t possibly know a thing about law enforcement – he’s a police officer,” or “she can’t be trusted talking about fire safety – she’s a firefighter.”
In what other profession is experience viewed as a liability rather than an asset? You won’t find a contractor advertising “choose me – I’ve never done this before,” and your doctor won’t recommend a surgeon on the basis of her “having very little experience with the procedure.”
In what other profession is the desire for competitive salary viewed as proof of callous indifference towards the job? You won’t hear many say “that lawyer charges a lot of money, she obviously doesn’t care about her clients,” or “that coach earns millions – clearly he doesn’t care about the team.”
But look around. You’ll find droves of armchair educators who summarily dismiss any statement about education when it comes from a teacher. Likewise, it’s easy to find politicians, pundits, and profiteers who refer to our veteran teachers as ineffective, overpriced dead wood. Only the rookies could possibly be any good, or worth the food-stamp-eligible starting salaries we pay them.
And if teachers dare ask for a raise, this is taken by many as clear evidence that teachers don’t give a porcupine’s posterior about kids. In fact, some say if teachers really cared about their students they would insist on earning LESS money.
If that entire attitude weren’t bad enough, what other profession is legally held to PERFECTION by 2014? Are police required to eliminate all crime? Are firefighters required to eliminate all fires? Are doctors required to cure all patients? Are lawyers required to win all cases? Are coaches required to win all games? Of course, they aren’t.
For no other profession do so many outsiders refuse to accept the realities of an imperfect world. Crime happens. Fire happens. Illness happens. As for lawyers and coaches, where there’s a winner there must also be a loser. People accept all these realities, until they apply to public education.
If a poverty-stricken, drug-addled meth-cooker burn downs his house, suffers third degree burns and then goes to jail, we don’t blame the police, fire department, doctors, and defense attorneys for his predicament. But if that kid doesn’t graduate high school, it’s clearly the teacher’s fault.
And if someone – anyone - tries to tell you otherwise, don’t listen. He must be a teacher.


  1. Make sure you never fall for the rhetoric teaching is a "calling." The person saying that invariably believes teachers should be underpaid because they, after all, aren't doing it for "the money." Well, teachers sure as hell shouldn't be doing it for free. Teaching IS or should be a profession, but it is NOT a "calling."

  2. Less than 5 years ago the talk was still going that pensions and salaries must be higher to attract the best teachers. Otherwise these people will go to other areas attracted by the salaries and perks. Times have changed very quickly.

    I'll pull out my crystal ball right now. As the fog clears in the orb I notice a new teacher shortage coming and soon. In fact, I can hear the education majors dropping their major.

    The pension is really deferred compensation. It has been promised and it has been earned according to the rules set down by the state.

  3. My 2012 crystal ball was right. Many areas of the country have a teacher shortage now. My crystal ball says the void will be filled with less qualified people.

    The pension concern has been solved, but it will take another 20 years or so. The Tier II people are paying more than the benefits they will receive. So that money is being used to pay the Tier I. Another pension law suit may be coming as Tier II people do not think it is is fair.