I was having a conversation the other day with a recent graduate of my high school. This person was shocked at how bad education is, because they are in college and doing well. All the things they hear in the media was creating a huge cloud over their head because they had a great high school experience, learned a ton, challenged themselves daily, and is now excelling in college.
They asked, “How did education go so downhill in such a short amount of time.” Essentially, the graduate didn’t understand how, in the span of two short years, education went from being something people support and want to succeed, to something people are constantly attacking. This post is for that learner, as well as to consolidate some of the information I have for that person and have it for myself in an easier to locate place.
First off, the issue that is most frustrating is the constant barrage of bad, wrong and very negative information about teachers and teaching. Bill Ferriter, at The Tempered Radical summed it up very succinctly. It really isn’t easy to be positive everyday in the classroom when you know that people who would be lividly angry if someone told them how to do their job feel that they are “experts” at education and start demeaning teachers and telling us how to do our job. They believe they are somehow experts at education just because they went to school 20 years ago.
Then you have the Governor of Minnesota declare war on educators, oh sorry, just the unions. And it goes on. Creationist attacks on science education occurred in over 10 states last year. School vouchers, which are code words for allowing public money to be used at religious schools are brought up every year by the republicans.
It goes on and on and on. Education is under a concerted and organized attack in the United States. Our learners are being tested to the point where teachers can’t teach anything but the material on the test, the tests are re-written every few years to make them harder and harder, and then the republicans scream bloody murder because the same number of learners are passing the tests. Duh.
And everyone just allows the republicans to get away with the lies, the distortions and the rampant framing of the debate. Randy Turner has a great piece entitled “Gutless media has failed American Schools.” Absolutely correct.
The media has not challenged the rampant lies about education. The facts are easy to find and dig up. Not only have the scores gone UP on the NEAP exam, but they have gone up significantly! The number of graduates from American colleges have DOUBLED in the last decade! (But Bill Gates is allowed to spin this as a negative?) The number of kids graduating high school is at an all time HIGH! (But the graduation rates are so low? How are graduation rates calculated? Do you know? I do. It is a shell game, designed to make the numbers appear lower. This school district has a good explanation of the game.)
So the politicians have defined schools as failing, independent of any facts. The media has gutlessly gone along with the redefinitions, therefore allowing the entire discussion to be framed in purely negative terms.
If this was the military, people would be screaming bloody murder! When the soldiers in the field do not accomplish the goals set out for them, we do not blame them, we blame the generals. but in education …
When we don’t like the way our students score on international standardized tests, we blame the teachers. When we don’t like the way particular schools perform, we blame the teachers and restrict their resources.
Compare this with our approach to our military: when results on the ground are not what we hoped, we think of ways to better support soldiers. We try to give them better tools, better weapons, better protection, better training. And when recruiting is down, we offer incentives. via
Not for teachers though. The gutless media has allowed the debate to be framed entirely in the context of greedy teachers (who have to work second jobs to make ends meet) and failing schools (that will see record cuts this year because they are failing?)
No. This is wrong. I, for one, will be standing up to anyone who repeats the framing of the discussion. In formal debate terms, the framework is being rejected by this debater. I will explain this in public, in person face to face, and in public on the internet.
As teachers, we need to stop being complacent and allowing the people who created the problem to frame the discussion about how to “fix” the problem. Instead, we need to reject their assumptions and start over.
Edit: 14 May 2011. The facts are even easier to find as people start actually looking at the economy and taxes.
I wonder where this terrific economic “trickle down” is? Clearly the richest Americans are making more, but they are paying taxes less than ever, and they certainly are not creating jobs with that wealth. Well, maybe jobs in China (manufacturing) or Switzerland (banking).
Edit 31 May 2011
And more evidence of the fact that effective tax rates are the lowest not only in the recent history of the US, but that the US has the lowest corportate tax rate of all industrialized nations. From the NY Times.
Edit 1 June 2011
Well, the issue of when is still open, but how is pretty well detailed. I have been on the receiving end of the religious right’s anger before, so I do understand exactly what is the issue here. Susan Ohanian, who has won awards for her investigative journalism has followed the money trails on the attacks on education and teachers. The religious right is a large mover in this, because they want to dismantle the public education system in the US, as well as Bill Gates and friends. The money rarely lies in issues such as these.
Edit 6 June 2011
This just gets worse and worse. At the federal level, corporations are taxed less than citizens are. The website ThinkProgress breaks down an article on 12 corporations that had $173 BILLION in profits and payed no taxes! Really. This is based off of an article by Citizens for Tax Justice that shows clearly our revenue problem in the United States. I guess idealogues like InvestorJunkie have less and less leg to stand on, just the same lame arguments based on a flawed and outdated ideology.
Edit 10 June 2011
Wow, the edits on this post are going to deserve a post of themselves, I think. One of the complaints is that teachers are “ineffective”, whatever that means. Usually, what they mean is that the test scores of the teacher don’t meet some arbitrary and illusory criteria that will change every year in order to make more teachers appear to be ineffective. Of course, the reality is that the learners family income level matters more than a teacher ever could. The quantity of research on this is staggering, but the ideologues dismiss it all with things like, “the poor in the US are better off than the rich in other countries,” as if that comparison actually means anything.
Edit 25 July 2011
As the summer winds on, the debt ceiling debate rages on, and the republicans are lying to the public continuously about the debt and why / how it occurred. The rational person sees the evidence and realizes that the Bush tax cuts are a major cause of the current problem, and need to be reversed. The delusional just keep denying the evidence as usual.
Edit 7 Aug 2011
Scott McLoud posted this graphic today showing the true amount of dollars in taxes actually paid in the US both compared to other countries and ourselves over time. It is very telling, as well as indicative of just how much the teabaggers lie about taxes. Something has to give.