Teacher Bashing a Myth

Diane Ravitch, long time commentator on education, after attending another conference on the state of school performance in the United States, says, June 14, in the New York Sun :

We have heard all of this before, for at least the past 25 years. When the time comes to talk about solutions, the conversation and the remedies always seem to focus on teachers. The line goes like this: Our students are not learning because our teachers are not smart enough, are lazy, don't care, get paid regardless of their effectiveness, and so on."

I think for Ravitch to accuse people of always blaming teachers for school failures is a grand over statement. What people DO blame are the systems that allow incompetence, neglect, etc. to occur and to continue. Many teachers I know do not want to work alongside a "bad apple" and equally see the system as the obstacle to accountability and reform. After giving many reasons why it is wrong to blame teachers, Ravitch however swings around and seems to blame parents:

I have not met all three million of our nation's teachers, but every one that I have met is hardworking, earnest, and deeply committed to their students. All of them talk about parental lack of support for children…

I find this statement hard to swallow, coming from a person loaded with credentials such as Ravitch. But the comments section responding to this article, while having many teachers grateful for the support, has a number of excellent comments from parents bemoaning their “powerlessness”.

Parents feel powerless Submitted by Debbie Smith, It's not that most parents don't support their children in school and that they don't push their children to work hard and succeed – it's that parents feel powerless in schools. For those parents who have remained involved in their children's education they have found 'tin-ear' schools that lack incentive to improve and school board members who are ineffective in their positions. As long as the monopoly on education exists our public school system will continue with the status quo, fighting every effort of reform along the way.

It is unfortunate, that to this day, many parents still feel excluded or rebuffed from meaningful experiences with their children's schools. The above cartoon really makes me wince,“hearing” the slamming door! Once parental authority and sovereignty has been displaced (usurped) by the system it is hard for individual parents or groups of parents to make a dent at reform or inclusion. Statutory help from government may be needed to restore some balance–either by making provisions for parent involvement in school or widening choice (vouchers, tuition tax credits, scholarships).

In British Columbia Parent Advisory Councils have been legislated since 1989 to provide some parent voice in public schools. See my articles on Parent Advisory Councils.

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