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'In What Other Profession ... ' by David Reber

Reprint of relevant article on education that appeared in another blog.

I ran across this letter in an online blog about education and thought it was worth sharing. It’s relevant because the Illinois legislature is still dealing with the pension problems they caused, and everyone in Springfield seems focused against teachers, and for some reason, all kinds of people feel that they are the experts in education.  So even though this piece is a couple of years old and came from another state, it’s relevant now.  The author of the blog gave me permission to print this. 

In what other profession... by David Reber

August 27, 2010 

I’m going to step out of my usual third-person writing voice for a moment. As a parent I received a letter last week from the Kansas State Board of Education, informing me that my children’s school district had been placed on “improvement” status for failing to meet “adequate yearly progress” under the No Child Left Behind law.

I thought it ironic that our schools were judged inadequate by people who haven’t set foot in them, so I wrote a letter to my local newspaper. Predictably, my letter elicited a deluge of comments in the paper’s online forum. Many remarks came from armchair educators and anti-teacher, anti-public school evangelists quick to discredit anything I had to say under the rationale of “he’s a teacher.” What could a teacher possibly know about education?

Countless arguments used to denigrate public school teachers begin with the phrase “in what other profession….” and conclude with practically anything the anti-teacher pundits find offensive about public education. Due process and collective bargaining are favorite targets, as are the erroneous but tightly held beliefs that teachers are under-worked, over-paid (earning million-dollar pensions), and not accountable for anything.

In what other profession, indeed.

In what other profession are the licensed professionals considered the LEAST knowledgeable about the job? You seldom if ever hear “that guy couldn’t possibly know a thing about law enforcement – he’s a police officer,” or “she can’t be trusted talking about fire safety – she’s a firefighter.”

In what other profession is experience viewed as a liability rather than an asset? You won’t find a contractor advertising “choose me – I’ve never done this before,” and your doctor won’t recommend a surgeon on the basis of her “having very little experience with the procedure.”

In what other profession is the desire for competitive salary viewed as proof of callous indifference towards the job? You won’t hear many say “that lawyer charges a lot of money, she obviously doesn’t care about her clients,” or “that coach earns millions – clearly he doesn’t care about the team.”

But look around. You’ll find droves of armchair educators who summarily dismiss any statement about education when it comes from a teacher. Likewise, it’s easy to find politicians, pundits, and profiteers who refer to our veteran teachers as ineffective, overpriced dead wood. Only the rookies could possibly be any good, or worth the food-stamp-eligible starting salaries we pay them.

And if teachers dare ask for a raise, this is taken by many as clear evidence that teachers don’t give a porcupine’s posterior about kids. In fact, some say if teachers really cared about their students they would insist on earning LESS money.

If that entire attitude weren’t bad enough, what other profession is legally held to PERFECTION by 2014? Are police required to eliminate all crime? Are firefighters required to eliminate all fires? Are doctors required to cure all patients? Are lawyers required to win all cases? Are coaches required to win all games? Of course, they aren’t.

For no other profession do so many outsiders refuse to accept the realities of an imperfect world. Crime happens. Fire happens. Illness happens. As for lawyers and coaches, where there’s a winner there must also be a loser. People accept all these realities, until they apply to public education.

If a poverty-stricken, drug-addled meth-cooker burn downs his house, suffers third degree burns and then goes to jail, we don’t blame the police, fire department, doctors, and defense attorneys for his predicament. But if that kid doesn’t graduate high school, it’s clearly the teacher’s fault.

And if someone – anyone - tries to tell you otherwise, don’t listen. He must be a teacher.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Mark September 09, 2012 at 01:14 PM
Its interesting that people keep saying it is a pension problem. When it fact its a legislator problem. They kept "borrowing" from a fund as if it was free money, not keeping their obligations and not paying it back. Its a funding problem. People do not work for free. Teachers in Illinois pay over 9% toward their retirement. They don't receive Social Security. Those that do pay approximately 3 times less into social security. Its a business problem. Follow the money trail and you will find that by cutting the pensions of your firemen, police, judges, college professors and yes teachers (they are all part of the same scheme), business has much to gain in the form of tax breaks and politicians in the form of contributions from those businesses. There is a lot more there that is ignored and it is easy to loose sight as to why Illinois is "broke". Think of it this way, what is happening is is akin to changing the rules of a baseball game in the 9th inning because you have less points than the other team. Should we start doing that? The pension rules are not only being changed because one side is down, but because their cheating (borrowing and not paying all along) did not put them ahead. Stop believing what everyone says (including me) and do some research. Get the facts.
Kota September 10, 2012 at 04:23 PM
No, not the teachers fault. It's the PARENTS fault. Take some responsibility for your children.
Tim September 10, 2012 at 04:35 PM
It's funny how when there are problems, its the parents fault. But when it's time to ask for a raise or increased benefits, suddenly its a job full of responsibility and we hear how teachers are 'underpaid'. Teachers are either a babysitters, or educators. Teachers no longer get to pick which one to be on any given day, based on whatever argument is being made. Teachers don't get it both ways, and this back and forth has been used so many times, people are not falling for it as easily anymore.
LMS September 11, 2012 at 12:52 PM
School successes depend partly on parents, kids, teachers, and administrators. If administrators aren't diligent about hiring the best teaching candidates, doing honest and informed evaluations, and documenting any concerns the whole process falls apart. If teachers and administrators are afraid of vocal parents who are in denial about their "angels" and their shortcomings the whole process falls apart. If parents don't keep an eye on what's happening at school and/or sit around complaining and hand-wringing instead of getting involved and putting concerns in writing the whole process falls apart. Teachers have never gotten to pick whether they get to be educators or babysitters. How much of their time is spent picking up the slack for caregiver neglect depends on the family situation of each individual child. Class size and lack of administrative support for behavior issues factor in as well. None of those things involve teacher choice. I do agree with what's in this letter, but similar letters could be written by or about administrators, parents, and/or the kids themselves. They all have their roles. When any of the adults involved start to play victim rather than actively advocating for positive change the whole system breaks down and each group lays the blame on the others.
Mom of 2 September 12, 2012 at 03:11 AM
Teacher, firefighter and police bashing. That's all we ever hear from you. Have you ever asked yourself, "How do I make a difference?" "How can I make a difference?" If you start focusing on how you can answer those questions, the hatred in your heart might lessen. I'm not kidding Tim. Start making a difference. You're life will turn around.

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