A classic Seinfeld episode concerned George Costanza’s decision (at Kramer’s urging) to park in a handicapped zone. This being George, things went drastically wrong. What I remember from the episode, though, isn’t the cascading sequence of disasters; instead; it’s the opprobrium heaped upon George for parking in the blue. His parking decision wasn’t treated as a misdemeanor, an illegal act, an inconvenience, or an act of selfishness. It was treated as a moral wrong. It was the equivalent of spitting on the altar.
That episode keeps cycling through my head, because the other day I too committed a moral crime. I criticized teachers. Yup. One of my facebook friends fulminated about the fact that his daughter’s American history teacher was a vast reservoir of misinformation. I agreed: “Some teachers are really dreadful.” That was my spitting on the altar moment. I was told that I was condescending; I was told that teachers shouldn’t be scapegoated all the time; I was told that parents have a responsibility too; I was told that teaching is a noble profession; and I was told that there are bad lawyers out there, so I have no right to criticize teachers.
None of this personal invective altered two truths: my friend was venting about an actual bad teacher, and I stated, perfectly correctly, that some teachers are really dreadful. I heaped more coal on the fire by noting these two truths and by adding that, in a free market, one can criticize bad lawyers, getting rid of them, and leaving the field open for good lawyers to bloom and prosper.
Somehow, in the last few years, teachers have become above criticism. This is separate from the fact that the pact between teacher’s unions and governments means that they can’t be fired. In a logical universe, this pact, which cements bad teachers in place, would increase the rumble of criticism against teachers. But at precisely the same time that tenured teachers became permanent fixtures, no matter their incompetence, Leftist societal morality also said “you cannot criticize teachers.” This was not a coincidence. It’s the only way to protect the public schools from perpetual parental outrage.
The funny thing is that, at bottom, I truly respect teachers. Or more accurately, I respect good teachers. Teacher is a challenging j0b, although it can be a rewarding one. (The same is true for most other jobs, when done well.) Teaching is not an overwhelmingly profitable job, but it can provide a decent lower to middle class lifestyle. (The same is true for most other jobs, when done well.) Teaching requires a certain amount of training and education. (The same is true for myriad other jobs.) You get my point — teaching is a job. It requires training and hard work. Some days are boring, some fulfilling. The income is okay, although you’ll never get rich.
But only teachers, if they put in the time, cannot get fired and, apparently, only teachers cannot get criticized. Theirs is a job like everyone else’s — only different.
If I was a good teacher — and there are so many good teachers out there — I’d be hacked off at this situation. Permanent employment is nice, but the accompanying degradation of ones professional is less nice. The fact that one is not allowed to say evil of teachers doesn’t mean one isn’t thinking evil. Moreover, the fact that people cannot criticize teachers (or, as I’ve discovered as a parent, oust the bad ones from the classroom), means that the teaching profession is denied the opportunity to cull out deadwood and correct mistakes. Teachers are like a garden run wild, with the healthy plants dying as the weeds and poison ivy take over.
As an honest black person in Britain said, this type of “positive discrimination” is as damaging as the old kind of negative discrimination once was. It tarnishes the brand, whether the brand is race, color, creed, sexual orientation, or teaching certificate.