Belle of Liberty

Letting Freedom Ring

Friday, February 18, 2011

Why Teachers Fail

Former N.J. Education Secretary Brett Schundler was a guest speaker at our local Tea Party meeting last night. I’d met him before and it was nice to see him again. His topic, obviously, was education reform.

He pretty much danced along the fence, not wanting to offend anyone, particularly the former NJEA and NEA chapter president sitting just off to his right. Schundler spoke about the high expectations of his own high school history teacher, and how following a regular curriculum with lectures, homework, quizzes, and longer-term tests serving as the benchmarks of a student’s progress.

As soon as he was finished, the former union representative jumped up (he reminded of Gerald O’Hara in Gone With the Wind) and shouted that the number one problem in classrooms today was lack of discipline. The teachers are no longer taught how to control their students.

Even though he was union representative, no one disagreed with him. He also insisted that there was too much teacher-bashing going on, that it wasn’t the teachers’ fault students aren’t doing well in school. No one really disagreed with him about that, either.

A woman off to my left pointed out that Schundler had neglected to mention parental involvement. Evidently, the former Education Secretary had read “Waiting for Superman.” He cited the Kipp Schools as an example, and said that good teachers with a good method of teaching could make up for that lack of early parental education.

But if it isn’t the fault of teachers that inner city children aren’t learning and parents are useless, that given the same educational advances within a charter school system, urban children can succeed as well as their more affluent suburban counterparts, then whose fault is it that they’re failing so miserably?

Who has encouraged the lack of discipline and the disrespect for authority that makes teachers’ jobs, especially those in the inner cities, so difficult? In my mother’s day, everyone was poor. Classrooms were packed with 35 children. My mother came from a broken home. Yet, far from failing, she skipped two grades and graduated high school at 16. As a child, she was so hungry, she chewed on shoe leather.

She was a minority Christian in a predominantly Jewish high school. By the time she graduated, she could quote Shakespeare. Who prepared her for school? My grandmother had an 8th grade education. My grandfather was extremely intelligent, though. Yet by the time Mom was 10, my grandparents had separated and my mother was sent to live with her strict and verbally abusive grandmother. My mother was unhappy and depressed. Probably she wouldn’t have dared to come home with a bad report card. But somehow, I don’t think she needed a negative motivation to succeed.

If the kids are undisciplined today, or spoiled and unruly, it’s because someone wants them to be. Teachers and principals are hindered in their discipline of students in our modern society. Someone has taught the kids not to care about those authority figures, or learning the basics, which as Schundler said last night, are crucial building blocks to further educational progress.

Several people in the audience complained about one of the real problems, particularly in suburban schools, control over the curriculum. These are parents and grandparents who don’t want their kids being taught fake science, revisionist American history, how to apply a condom, or that Heather having two mommies is “normal.”

But here Schundler deferred to the curriculum revisionists. He said he felt teachers had the right to teach whatever they felt was appropriate, without consulting parents. Part of the problem is electing school board members who authorize the purchase of such texts. The school administrations have a hand in that selection, too, though.

Seeing that he was pleasing no one, Schundler went on to say that that was why he favored vouchers, school choice, and charter schools. That way, a teacher could teach their conscience, and if parents didn’t approve, they could send their children to some other school.

I didn’t have that option when I was in high school. Either I accepted the teacher’s Communist dogma in place of the American history he was supposed to be teaching, or I could fail, along with my fellow 1976 rebels. Schundler forgets that students are a captive audience; they have no choice, indeed. A teacher shouldn’t be granted such a right at the expense of his students.

The audience gave the ornery union member a wide berth. He was evidently looking for a fight. He claimed teachers deserved their pay, no matter how exorbitant. We could have pointed out that we had just a wee bit of a problem with teachers being allowed to retire at age 55 on full pension with full health benefits. In doing so, a whole new crop of teachers must be brought in, who will also retire at 55. We could have pointed out that we average people (I will have to work until 67 in order to be eligible for Social Security – if it’s still in existence by that time) generally can’t afford retirement homes in Florida.

We also have a little problem with all the money the teachers’ unions pour into political campaigns.

They demand cost of living raises at a time when the economy is bad and taxpayers are struggling. We don’t hold them entirely responsible for the fact that our kids can’t read or write and don’t know that Nancy Hanks was Abe Lincoln’s stepmother. We do blame them, though, for politicizing and indoctrinating our children in anti-American rhetoric, and using them as pawns in their unionization strikes.

They have our children’s welfare at heart, maybe when it comes to education. But once money and benefits enter the arena, the unions only have their own self-interests at heart. They want to be considered professionals but on the picket line, they behave no better than the grimiest coal miner fighting, picketing, and threatening violence on behalf of wealth redistribution.


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