I’ve commented before about the way in which America’s teachers paint themselves as the hardest working, most pathetically abused people in America. In 2011, I noted that today’s teachers work fewer hours and are paid more than my dad’s generation of teachers, but the latter didn’t whine all the time. Last year, I posited a reason for the unusual deference teachers get, and it’s not because they’re the overworked saints of their own heated imaginations:
At National Review, Jason Richwine points out that this martyrdom shtick benefits them in intangible ways, and is the flip side of the disdain with which doctors are increasingly treated in our society. This got me thinking about the fact that, in every society that socialized its medicine, doctor’s status instantly degraded. This is true whether you’re looking at the Soviet Union, Cuba, England, Canada, France, or anywhere else. This is true even though doctors have the longest education and apprenticeship of any job in America and, once they’re working, they truly hold our lives in their hands. Likewise, in every socialized society, teachers’ status improves. This is true despite the fact that their training places a moderate demand on their time and they don’t hold our lives in their hands.
Thinking about it, of course, this socialist inversion makes perfect sense. Teachers produce the next generation of socialists; doctors cost money by saving the lives of old socialists who no longer contribute to the commune. The relative values assigned these jobs in a socialist society has nothing to do with their contributions to the individual and everything to do with their contributions to the state.
Richwine and I aren’t the only ones paying attention to this teacher worship phenomenon. Writing at The Federalist, Daniel Payne, a homeschooling parent, also asks “Why Do Teachers Complain So Much?” His theory is that teachers lack backbone. Products themselves of America’s public school system, they have no ability to face adversity.
Reading his post, it also occurred to me that today’s teachers, unlike teachers of yore and homeschooling parents today, have an infinitely harder time teaching, not because students are inherently worse behaved than they were 50 years ago, but because their pedagogical tools are so poor. Whole language is sneaking its way back into the classroom, despite a thirty year run of failures that saw the pendulum swing, way too briefly, back to phonics teaching. Since we have a phonetic alphabet, the latter is the only teaching methodology that makes sense. And those countries, such as China, that do not have phonetic alphabets, spend way more than 45 minutes per day, 5 days a week, making sure their students master “whole word” recognition.
Math too is becoming increasingly impossible because Common Core has also abandoned common sense. In addition, where teachers once taught English classes that focused on language and composition and history classes that spoke admiringly of our own country, their English classes are now Left value propaganda and their history classes are deeply depressing diatribes about how evil we are. Kids don’t want to learn this stuff, and no wonder.
My conclusion would be that today’s teachers whine partly because they’re not as tough as past generations were, and partly because they teach in a socialized system that simultaneously elevates their status even as it makes teaching an impossible, demoralizing, and depressing job. The cognitive dissonance this forces on the teachers is an uncomfortable mental realm to inhabit.