Teachers are, apparently, above reproach

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.

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  • MacG

    It seems that you can’t criticize them because they the priests who are teaching children the doctrines of the state.

  • http://ymarsakar.wordpress.com Ymarsakar

    Teachers are no longer moral agents. Much like Islamic Arabs or Muslim adherents. They don’t have the freedom to make their decisions due to their various constraints. For Muslims, it is called being killed for harboring anti-Islamic or simply pro-Western views. For teachers, their salaries are paid by the unions and the politicians, so they are bought and paid for mercenaries. Not hired by the local community. Why should the local community treat with respect foreign mercenaries being billeted in their homes on the local community’s dime?

    You are not your own agent when you are simply somebody else’s servant and obey whatever you are told to do by your Master. An adult? Don’t make me laugh. They aren’t adults. Not independent decision makers in America. That is what adult means to an American.

    Teachers don’t fight back against the unions for the same reasons that Muslims are fine leaving the extremists alone. Because if they don’t, they’ll get more trouble than they can imagine.

  • http://ymarsakar.wordpress.com Ymarsakar

    The pay scale for teachers is a self invested swamp. Much of the work force and experienced individuals are cut off because you need a degree to teach high school. To get that degree, guess what, you need to go to a 4 year teaching college, which means money is going into the professorial class to pay for more tenured positions. Then when you are out, you get even more money the more years you teach, which discourages people from going into the active private work force and then coming back to teach cause they’re losing their seniority wages. And on top of that, you also get a great increase the more Masters and Doctorates you hold. Which means teachers are now invested  EVEN MORE in the hierarchy of the higher education con game.

    Not only are their paid their living wages by union bosses and political Democrats, but they also pay into the shell game by investing decades of their lives in education.

    To the point where they have no other world from which to judge moral values, cultural events, or human interactions. Their very essence has now been iron trained by academia.

  • jj

    I don’t much care that teachers aren’t moral agents, that was never really the job anyway.  What I do object to is that far too many of the silly s**ts are illiterate.  Somehow or other that bothers me, that they get the jobs with, apparently, zero qualifications; and the inability to speak or write with even a distant, touch-and-go relationship to decent grammar and usage is not an automatic disqualification.
    This brainless little jerk who’s off to jail in Wisconsin for emailing murderous threats to Walker and 15 Republican senators – her name’s Katherine Windels – not only did the crime, but did so with a barrage of incorrect usage, atrocious grammar, and not much ability to spell.  She is astonishingly ignorant.  Naturally – as 99% of the media reports have NOT mentioned – she’s a teacher.  Once she gets out of jail, they’ll probably promote her to Chair of the English Department for the Madison schools.
    That bothers me very nearly as much as what she did.

  • http://ymarsakar.wordpress.com Ymarsakar

    A moral agent is not a job. It is someone with free will to make ethical decisions and to act for good or evil.

  • http://rhymeswithright.mu.nu Rhymes With Right

    Actually, Books, only LIBERAL teachers are above reproach.
    Those of us who dare to be conservatives are not — and are, in fact, subject to verbal attack and efforts to get us fired — http://muse-musings.blogspot.com/2011/03/five-weeks-to-taks.html
    Not to mention the annual phone-a-thon to my principal and superintendent demanding that I be fired for daring to express opinions (pick one)
    in favor of George W. Bush
    against illegal immigration
    in opposition to Muslim terrorism
    opposing Obama
    objecting to honor killings and child marriage in the Muslim world
    against global warming
    against a favored liberal candidate for office
    in favor of a disfavored conservative candidate for office
    opposing abortion
    supporting Israel
    against a Democrat blogger who has threatened to physically assault me
    not in line with some aspect or other of the current liberal dogma

  • Charles Martel

    What never gets questioned in the whining about how dedicated teachers who are teaching disadvantaged youths might get cut is whether those youths are actually getting an education. I rarely run into an educated, articulate “disadvantaged” (read minority) youth, and only somewhat more often into a white high school or college grad who knows much of anything or can state it in good English.
    Yes, it would be a crime to let all these wonder workers go because of funding cuts. And just as soon as I can be directed to the places where they are holding out, I’ll make sure to rush in with my outspoken support.

  • http://bookwormroom.com Bookworm

    Rhymes with Right:  I had no idea about your travails, RWR.  Here in Marin, there are no conservative teachers, so there is no need for the parent population to grumble about the fact that their little darlings might be exposed to anything other than hard left views.

  • http://ruminationsroom.wordpress.com Don Quixote

    I discovered in the 1980s that you not only cannot criticize teachers, you cannot criticize their union.  Everything their union does, you see, if for these saintly teachers and their precious students, so the unions could not possibly ever do anything wrong.

  • http://rhymeswithright.mu.nu Rhymes With Right

    The thing is, Books, is that not one of these folks lives in the district where I teach, much less has a student in my class or school.  They are outside agitators, Democrat activists and bloggers, who think it is unacceptable for someone with deviationist opinions to be allowed in the classroom.
    They apparently tried to get the local head of LULAC after me a few years back, to no avail.  You see, I HAD taught his niece, and she told him in no uncertain terms that I’m good at what I do, scrupulously fair in presenting controversial issues, and fair towards the Hispanic kids who the activists say i’m racist against because of my conservative political leanings.

  • http://bookwormroom.com Bookworm

    RWR:  You are a true teacher.

    Does it bug you that the unions enable useless space wasters to hold jobs, cheapening the reputation of the entire teaching profession?  It bugged my dad like crazy.  He, like you, was a true teacher.  He was forced to belong to the NEA, and picked fights at the meetings.  He had the chops too, having risen through German communism, fought the Nazis and fought the Arabs.  The union guys irritated him, but didn’t frighten him.  Of course, they had the numbers, so he always lost his fights.

  • http://thoughtyoudneverask.blogspot.com/ zabrina

    That’s the thing, the fights are always still being lost because the system is set up to favor the teachers’ unions.
    We certainly criticize the bad teachers here at home. My kids are always telling me the silly and incorrect things teachers say–sometimes real howlers. The English teachers seem to be the most consistently, surprisingly ignorant–and I’m talking about English things: incorrect meanings and pronunciations of words, usage, etc. And miserably written tests. They get bellicose, and never apologize when they’re wrong. It’s their arrogance and intellectual incuriosity that really miffs me. If I were a teacher at least I’d want to be corrected if I were wrong, and would share the correct answers with the class (teachers don’t have to be perfect, but they should want to get things right).  One 9th grade English teacher had never heard of Shakespeare’s play, “Richard III.” I’m always surprised by how much the teachers don’t know. And continually surprised by the low standards they tolerate. But I tell my kids you can learn something from every teacher, and no teacher can know everything, and that their education ultimately depends on themselves, not their teachers. Been telling them this since grade school–you have to. They need to learn to discern these things.
    Bad teachers are no secret in the public schools. The kids all know them, the parents know them. The parents complain year after year to the PTA and the administration. But the administration says that nothing can be done. It’s the teachers’ unions and the public school administration politics that have set it up like this, to benefit themselves over everyone else, including the individual teachers. (It is not good for individual teachers to have great teachers rewarded and lumped in the same as the awful teachers.) Nice little business the unions have set up. And that’s why it is so eye-opening to see the unions come snarling out of the woodwork in Wisconsin when their racket is threatened. It is baldly clear where their priorities lie–protecting their graft at all costs. They are anti-children, anti-education, anti-community and, at base, anti-teacher too. Just watched “Waiting for Superman,” a moving film that conveys this very well.

  • Gringo

    They get bellicose, and never apologize when they’re wrong.
    While that trend may be stronger today, it has always existed. From my independent reading in elementary school and junior high, my knowledge of geography and history in certain areas was greater than many of my teachers. I corrected them a number of times, especially  on their geographical knowledge. And back then, because teaching was one of the main career paths for college-educated women, the quality of teachers was higher than it is today. I never claimed to know something when I didn’t, which some students will do. Looking back, nearly all of my teachers were pretty good natured about it. They really were! Then there was the time that I corrected a student teacher on his knowledge base for a geography quiz bowl. My teacher -not the student teacher- said that I was “obnoxious.” Maybe so, but I was also right.
    One 9th grade English teacher had never heard of Shakespeare’s play, “Richard III.”
    That state of knowledge is pathetic. But politically correct, as what is Will but a dead white male? :)
    But I tell my kids you can learn something from every teacher, and no teacher can know everything, and that their education ultimately depends on themselves, not their teachers.
    Excellent advice. It is a shame that you needed to give it as early as elementary school.
    TX is a weak teacher’s union state, so the issue of poor teachers being kept in place is not so much an issue in TX. If the principal doesn’t think a teacher is up to snuff, the 3 year contract will not be renewed, regardless of the experience of the teacher. Simple as that.
    What is an issue, not just in TX but all over the country, is that teaching is no longer a 40 year career. Half quit in the first 5 years after beginning teaching, and very few last past their early 50s. The demands placed on teachers these days cause burn out very quickly.

  • http://rhymeswithright.mu.nu Rhymes With Right

    Fortunately, no unions down here in TX to speak of.  While I’m actually the building rep for one organization, that doesn’t account for much — we are primarily there just to provide a little bit of legal assistance in those rare cases where trouble does arrive.  Like a few years back, when one of my colleagues was being sexually harrassed by another teacher and the school wanted to discipline them both in the name of “equity” and “fairness” — we did bring down a staff attorney from Austin to help settle the matter.  But there is no collective bargaining for public employees, so the worst excesses do not exist.