OPINION: Why do politicians keep bashing public school teachers?

Friday, January 28, 2011

Bashing of teachers is the favorite subject for politicians these days. Their rhetoric follows the same theme: The country is falling behind in education because of bad teachers.

I have read statistics stating that Asian students are more advanced in math, science and reading than students in the USA. If this is true, we must be diligent in examining ways to raise these scores. However, it can be for several reasons other than bad teachers.

I would better respect politicians if they would be honest, and instead of saying teachers have crippled education, say they want to eliminate the way education is structured in the U.S. by placing all blame on teachers and replacing public education system with charter and private schools.

Would problems be solved in a fair and proper manner by doing away with all job security and rewarding with merit pay? And if teachers are going to be rewarded for their successes, how is this going to be determined?

Most teachers know that merit pay will not work. Favoritism and cheating would play in the scheme of the situation? Morale among teachers would plummet, and the country's best and brightest would choose careers in other fields.

As for the old adage that bad teachers can't be fired, it is false. It is more difficult and takes more time to fire a bad teacher who is on tenure, but it can be accomplished.

In no way am I upholding a bad teacher. When there is a problem with a teacher, it should be dealt with through proper channels in a fair and proper manner.

I take offense at the remark Gov. Mitch Daniels made in his State of State address when he said "class size is virtually meaningless" for a good teacher. It is true and I agree that a teacher with excellent discipline techniques can manage a classroom more efficiently than a teacher who doesn't display those special talents.

Picture being in a classroom with 32 kindergarten or first-grade children. No matter how efficient the teacher, that is far too many children dropping pencils, having to use bathroom facilities, talking, crying because of a stomach ache or suffering from ADDH. Add this situation to children who have a limited English vocabulary or who come from a troubled home and you have a chaotic atmosphere.

Another misnomer is when our students are compared to Asian students. The programs are structured differently; furthermore, the whole culture is different. It is comparing apples to oranges.

One of my best friends is of Chinese ancestry but was raised in Indonesia. Her goal was to come to America and study at Wayne State University to earn a master's degree in chemistry, which she did. (That is the goal of many foreign university students.)

She came from a disciplined family. Throughout her school years, her parents made her rise each morning at 4:30 to study two hours before breakfast. After school, she studied another two to three hours.

When she entered junior high school, students in her class were funneled into two directions -- an academic program or vocational program. The programs are known under the acronyms of SMA for those who can continue academic studies and SMK for those who study vocations preparing for work. She was chosen for the academic program.

Following high school, it is extremely difficult to be accepted to an undergraduate college in Asia. She said she met with several hundred other students in a large gymnasium. She was accepted, but only a couple hundred were allowed to enroll in college -- the cream of the crop you might say.

This is one of the reasons that students in Asia study so diligently. They know they have a small chance of being accepted to a university.

The education program in China is also different than the U.S. I have read they gear their education toward tests starting in primary and going on to university level. It is thought that this suppresses personal and professional development.

Much different, the United States concentrates on development of personality and practical skills. We emphasize individuality. Scholarships are awarded to students who not only have academic skills but who have taken part in social activities and have been active in community service.

Also in our educational structure, students with learning disabilities take tests -- such as the ISTEP in Indiana -- along with top students. These tests measure a teacher's and a school's success.

In the book "The Learning Gap," written by Harold Stevenson and James Stigler, they say, "We (Americans) pride ourselves in providing a popular education for all students and not just an education for a select few. It should be no surprise, therefore, that the more representative American samples obtain lower average scores."

Stevenson and Stigler write that differences in Asian and American education are "parental attitudes toward schooling, children toward learning and society toward education."

Another factor Stevenson and Stigler pointed out is that Asian elementary students have frequent breaks during the day for playing vigorously. American children often have only one recess during the entire school day. Also, Asian students have a longer school year and are not away from academics a long period at a time.

Before the education system of the U.S. is channeled to Charter and private schools, perhaps more research should go into these many differences.

Once again, no one should uphold bad teachers and the U.S. should continue to strive for better education, but teachers should not be scapegoats for all woes of education.

From statistics I have seen, Charter schools are not showing improvement over public schools. Some scores are better, some scores are worse and some are about the same.

If this whole purge against teachers is to lower pay and exclude seniority, perhaps politicians should be the first to take an initiative for a lower pay scale and term limits.

Jo is a staff reporter for the Greene County Daily World. She can be reached by e-mail at tojo631@sbcglobal.net .

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  • When you take the unions out of the School's you'll be able to control the Teachers and get better teachers !!

    -- Posted by jessie70 on Fri, Jan 28, 2011, at 11:39 AM
  • Our education system needs work. It is not solely anyones fault but all share the blame. Until you get teachers, parents and lawmakers on the same page(for that matter the same book)we will continue to short change our children.

    -- Posted by POP on Fri, Jan 28, 2011, at 11:40 AM
  • There is a lot to be said about how playing affects children in learning and development. I like your statement: "Another factor Stevenson and Stigler pointed out is that Asian elementary students have frequent breaks during the day for playing vigorously. American children often have only one recess during the entire school day." Often times when students get in trouble, what is the 1st thing taken away? Recess.....

    "You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation."

    "Child development researchers over the past 20 years have produced evidence that play facilitates a child's gross and fine motor development, cognitive and language development, and social adjustment."

    -- Posted by Ice Breaker on Fri, Jan 28, 2011, at 11:41 AM
  • -- Posted by Music Man on Fri, Jan 28, 2011, at 11:47 AM
  • I want to begin by saying "Thank you" for this article. Teachers are getting a bad rap these days, most are NOT bad. If a teacher is ineffective, then the administration should do their job and get them out (it is possible).

    To your comment jhenne: You obviously are not a teacher and do not belong to a union or you would understand their importance! It is not the unions fault that there are bad teachers. They are there to protect the good teachers.

    If the governor and Bennet get their way, teachers will begin to start teaching to the ISTEP test and only what is on that test. Students will forget how to think for themselves, because the teacher and the students will only be worried about filling in the correct "bubble".

    Also, they are pushing hard for charter and private schools. All tax payers will be paying for these schools. I don't know where the money is going to come from. Schools are strapped for cash and now they want to give more away to private school.

    On the DOE there is an interesting report of all school corporations in the state. It shows them in order of passing the ISTEP by grade level. The charter schools are highlighted in grey. Most of the charter schools are at the bottom of the list. Do you want your money to go there, at the bottom of the list? Mitch and Bennet are making them sound like they are wonderful places with the best teachers; well, their scores show a different story.

    And finally, last time I looked, Bennet was the sup. of PUBLIC education.

    -- Posted by wolverinegirl on Fri, Jan 28, 2011, at 12:24 PM
  • Great points wolverinegirl! The money to fund the charter schools is going to come back on the corporations. "The bill allows for the acquisition of under-utilized buildings in school corporations. The chartering agency may acquire the space for $1 each year for 20 years. The lease can be extended for 20 years. The school corporation must maintain the buildings. Vacant and partially utilized facilities/building mandatory requirement to lease. Charters have first right of renewal. The acquisition for the use of a charter school takes priority over any other use by the releasing school corporation." Compliments of the current legislation being tabled.

    I might add that the current legislation being looked at will allow 50% of the teachers in a charter school to not be licensed. Hmmm....so who exactly will be teaching our children??

    -- Posted by Ice Breaker on Fri, Jan 28, 2011, at 12:40 PM
  • World English Dictionary

    misnomer (ˌmɪsˈnəʊmə)

    -- n

    1. an incorrect or unsuitable name or term for a person or thing

    2. the act of referring to a person by the wrong name

    [C15: via Anglo-Norman from Old French mesnommer to misname, from Latin nōmināre to call by name]

    -- Posted by ConcernedDad on Fri, Jan 28, 2011, at 1:27 PM
  • Chris and Nick, why don't opinion pieces go under the OPINION tab and leave news on the NEWS tab?

    -- Posted by ConcernedDad on Fri, Jan 28, 2011, at 1:33 PM
  • How about this one...tell Mitch that teachers will have 100 percent of students passing the tests as soon as he gets 100 percent of the people in Indiana who are unemployed a job!!!!!

    -- Posted by NewberryUSA on Fri, Jan 28, 2011, at 1:40 PM
  • Great article. I'm sure this will circulate among teachers across the state.

    -- Posted by GCC on Fri, Jan 28, 2011, at 2:09 PM
  • http://www.downsizinggovernment.org/education/spending-cuts

    How about getting the Federal government out of local education. According to the above listed website, "The sad truth is that rising control from Washington has probably damaged American schools by reducing local flexibility, retarding innovation, and burying school administrators in regulations."

    -- Posted by macline on Fri, Jan 28, 2011, at 2:33 PM
  • I agree with the above comment. It is not the teachers, it is the administration. It is all the new "concepts" that supposedly help children learn forced onto the teachers. You know, the ones that have all the cute acronyms. I have one acronym I think teachers could really educate our kids with: the 3 R's. I am all for getting rid of the department of education and putting control of our schools into our teacher's hands.

    -- Posted by RDK on Fri, Jan 28, 2011, at 3:03 PM
  • It may be listed as an Opinion but it is definitely worthy of "front page news". It is full of FACTS not just someones opinion. Thank you for putting it out there, Jo. It is about time someone stood up for the teacher! I do feel the need to point out that the first link listed should be read with the understanding that it was Jeb Bush's wish. And as of this posting the second link is from CATO a Libertarian Organization. No opinion of either of these. Just thought you should know before "clicking" on them. LEAVE the UNION Out of It!! IT is NOT the factor that keeps us from having good teachers! It is their voice. Like it has been said before...If you can read this, please thank a teacher!!!

    -- Posted by truthorfiction on Fri, Jan 28, 2011, at 3:15 PM
  • You can say it is teachers, Mitch, Bennett, Indianapolis, administration, or Washington, but it comes down to one thing. Parents. It is that simple. If parents show interest and work with their kids, they will learn, if they do not, it is very difficult. All of the above can only do so much, but it comes down to the parents, like so many other things in our lives. Our values, morals and ideals come from, good or bad, from our closest and earliest examples, parents. Blame whomever you want, but there are very few kids who fail when parents care. And when I say care, not complain on here then do not help at home.

    Can teaching be improved? Sure. Can laws be changed to help? Sure. Can administrations be combined and improved? Definitely. But that will not do any good if parents do not read to their children, work with them, and encourage and help them. Two of the most important words: Personal Responsibility. Be responsible for your children's education and they will learn.

    -- Posted by HarveyGrant on Fri, Jan 28, 2011, at 3:46 PM
  • Public schools need the support of our local communities.

    Most public schools in the state outscored charter schools in terms of students that pass the math and language arts ISTEP.

    When the BEST teachers leave the professional, we will ALL be wondering who will be teaching our kids.

    I also believe this movement is almost entirely about cutting teacher pay and very little about improving education.

    I also wonder why "education reform" is Mr. Daniels and the Statehouse's number one priority when Indiana's unemployment rate is higher than the national average. Why is Gov. Daniels getting a passing grade on the economy?

    You are missing the boat folks.....The state will still be spending money on schools; it just won't be in places like Linton or Bloomfield, IN.

    I expect our new lawmakers to improve education by creating better schools, not by throwing our good teachers under the bus and forcing the best into other careers. Time to wake up, folks.

    -- Posted by THE END on Fri, Jan 28, 2011, at 3:52 PM
  • I hope the paper will start covering all of Rep. Ubelhor's views on issues, not just the social ones. I hope the paper will start covering all of the votes and issues at the State level. We need accountability and our local paper can help us with it, especially job creation and education.

    Our kids shouldn't be used as pawns in this game, including those pitiful radio commercials where the kids are begging..."motivate me".

    When parents, students, administrators, and teachers are ALL making education a priority, then you will see a dramatic improvement in education.

    Unfortunately, people need someone to blame....and all teachers get compared by the worst of them.

    -- Posted by THE END on Fri, Jan 28, 2011, at 4:01 PM
  • Thanks for printing the truth.

    -- Posted by Music Man on Fri, Jan 28, 2011, at 5:41 PM
  • This is also a ploy to keep the "bashing" off of themselves!!

    -- Posted by wmemp on Fri, Jan 28, 2011, at 6:25 PM
  • Good article!

    I also believe over 90% of a child's education begins, continues and finishes in the home. The teachers should be considered an augmentation of what the students learn at home. Unfortunately, teachers are an easy target to blame for a student not succeeding. Just look at the number of parents who go to parent teacher nights at the high school level.

    When the rubber hits the road, my most influential educational motivators were, my parents and my teachers, not the federal government, state government, school administrators or what they served for lunch.

    I know why people want private schools and charter schools. They just want a school that supports good parents and one that cuts through the bureaucracy and pays the best teachers what they are worth, not how long they have lived.

    -- Posted by cow rancher on Fri, Jan 28, 2011, at 9:07 PM
  • our govenor always touts all the glorious things he has accomplished and also tells us about how well we are off compared to other states. he has yet to tell us how many hundreds of millions of dollars the state owes to the state teachers retirement fund. if he is so sharp why hasnt the state paid all of the millions of dollars back and this man wants to be our president.

    -- Posted by windy52 on Fri, Jan 28, 2011, at 10:03 PM
  • Charade. That's what Mitch Daniels and

    Tony Bennet are pushing in the name of

    school improvement. Indiana has quality

    good public schools. Here are the real reasons

    that he is pushing his political agenda.

    1. Lower the taxes of Wave Runner dealerships

    in Carmel

    2. Bust the teacher union. (this will backfire)

    3. Most teachers are democrats

    4. Make Indiana tax payers subsidize the costs

    of the rich in Marion county who send their

    kids to expensive private schools

    5. Stupidity!!

    -- Posted by thunderoad on Fri, Jan 28, 2011, at 11:31 PM
  • Maybe police pay should be based on crime level because it must be the fault of police if crime levels are high!!!Right Mitch!?!?

    -- Posted by hoosierelectrician on Sat, Jan 29, 2011, at 7:03 AM
  • The heresy continues. Mitch and Tony just needed a cause to champion and teachers are an easy target. It takes alot of guts for Mitch and Tony to target those in the trenches. Remember this in 2012 folks. Mitch for president? Just vote NO.

    -- Posted by Music Man on Sat, Jan 29, 2011, at 9:23 AM
  • If you support teachers and public school:

    Call the State Senate Switchboard toll free to leave a message for your senator at 800-382-9467 to support the amendment on SB 575. (You may also call the local number at 317-232-9400.)

    -- Posted by Music Man on Sat, Jan 29, 2011, at 9:33 AM
  • Thank you for opening this "opinion" article for comments. I wish all opinion articles and editorials would be available for on-line comment.

    Respectful comments are always helpful, even if one doesn't agree with them. At the very least they allow readers to see what others are thinking and help us to better respond to others' concerns.

    -- Posted by Forrest on Sat, Jan 29, 2011, at 10:57 AM
  • I don't know that I have heard politicians bashing teachers as much as teachers unions. Unions everywhere are taking it on the chin and with good reason in some cases.

    I do and don't blame teachers for our current crisis. They have or at least are supposed to have control of their union officials. So in a way I guess they do bear some responsibility.

    There is also plenty of blame to be heaped on having a cookie cutter educational system and one that prizes winning at sports above academic achievement. I remember my high school days, way back in the early eighties. Thinking for one's self and initiative was not only discouraged but expressibly forbidden. Not just by a factory worker faculty but by the other students. Let's just say the atmosphere there was far less than desirable for educational endeavors.

    I myself was intellectually challenged, I cannot spell my way out of a wet paper bag, my handwriting is illegible and I cannot add two and two and come up with four consistently. As keyboards, spell checkers did not yet exist in an affordable form and we were forbidden to use calculators I ended up one of those students not destined for college. Years later I did make it to college, no my language skills did not improve much but at least you can read my writing because I type everything. BTW typing was another class I almost flunked because they gave us big old Royal manual typewriters that only barely surpassed a stone tablet and chisel. How about Math, well I only had general math in high school and passed it with a C. I however made it all the way through from pre algebra to trigonometry in college, passed with a B and used a calculator the whole time. I guess where I am going with this is that technology in college allowed me to use the other skills that I do possess while the cookie cutter school system did not.

    I guess in retrospect there were many things the teachers could have done. Perhaps they had too many students to recognize any talents in the "average" or "below average" students. They could have at least made a little more effort to end the blatant bullying that was occurring all around them.

    In the end it won't be teachers or principals with masters degrees in education that will fix all of our educational problems though they could work together to at least make sure the whole system is at least conducive to learning. The assembly line mentality will not longer cut it and more emephesis must be placed on individuals rather than classes. Teachers must identify the areas a student may be weak in and try to perhaps find a tool or technique that student could use to overcome some an area where they are deficient.

    Parents are going to have to be forced into the mix. We must stop subsidizing families who pop out children with no regard for their future and subsist solely on a government check. There are also going to have to be some penalties with real teeth in them to hold parents and students accountable for disruptive, violent behavior or simply a lackadaisical attitude toward their studies.

    As much as all of you teachers out there don't want to hear it we are going to have to have some standardized tests to measure results. We are also going to have to have some charter schools to deal with students whom simply do not perform well in the larger more impersonal public schools. I am for testing every student every year and give them some incentive to do well so they do not simply throw the test because they don't like their teacher or school. In the end while we may never outperform the Asians at math we can produce adults with skills that meet and exceed the new challenges we face.

    -- Posted by keninman on Sat, Jan 29, 2011, at 11:05 AM
  • Cowrancher - I was thinking the same thing! It all starts at home. Kids today have zero respect for teachers and administrators. And why? Because that is how they are being raised. It's not all on the parents, because when they took power and dicipline out of the teachers hands, that is when the world changed. Kids are not afraid of teachers or the administrators. Parents think their kids are perfect and don't make mistakes therefore blaming teacher and whoever else might be standing in the way trying to help. When your not worried about getting diciplined, your not focusing on anything but yourself. You develop a "I don't care attitude" and so your school work starts to suffer, your attitude changes, you become angry at everyone and pointing fingers. I say it's time for a change. Put dicipline back in the schools! Control what we can control in our education system!

    -- Posted by CROSSWAY on Sat, Jan 29, 2011, at 11:53 AM
  • Crossway, I teach K-college and I can tell you within the first week which students are raised to value education. I was blessed with an easy child and understand that each child is different BUT all can be taught to respect. Grumpiness and disrespect should be saved until you reach the age of 40. (grins)

    -- Posted by Music Man on Sat, Jan 29, 2011, at 1:12 PM
  • As with most things, follow the money and look at the big picture. Who benefits financially from charter schools? Are charter schools sometimes getting their hands on valuable real estate at a fraction of its worth, when the taxpayers have originally paid for it? How do our school boards and administrators spend public school funds? How much do these fancy electronic signs cost that seem to be springing up at some local schools? What local school system recently spent several thousand dollars to pay for books written by an administrator? How much money goes out every year for "consultants?"

    Big business is trying to gradually get their hands on education as they see it as a potential money maker. If this happens, eventually only the rich will have a chance to get a good education (and there's already too much disparity as it is).

    Please give teachers the respect they deserve and watch your administrators and school boards closely.

    -- Posted by Ellie on Sat, Jan 29, 2011, at 4:03 PM
  • Education takes the collective effort of the teachers, the administration, the parents and the student (in no certain order.)

    Jobs, parenting and life demands hard work, which requires cooperation. When did we as a society lose sight of that?

    -- Posted by JShafford on Sat, Jan 29, 2011, at 10:37 PM
  • For perspective on Gov. Mitch Daniels' education policy, consider the ramifications if a similar policy applied to Indiana's city police departments.After all, the police departments clearly are failing. Each week, dozens of crimes occur in... our city, and many of them go unsolved. As Hoosiers, we cannot allow this record of failure ...to continue. Remember when we were kids? We could walk to the park without our parents. We could leave our doors unlocked. Clearly, the police departments have gotten worse and worse.at we need is to give police departments competition and to give citizens choices.Indiana should empower a university with a criminal justice program -- say, Indiana Tech -- to authorize charter police departments. Citizens could choose to have the charter department, not city police, patrol by their homes and answer their calls for help.

    -- Posted by Music Man on Sun, Jan 30, 2011, at 8:21 AM
  • I was in Indy alot in the 60's to the '90's and was there last night. Crime, filth pollution were so common that we did not go to Indy alone at night. The drive in on Washington street became more tense as we entered downtown and gangs were running the dark streets. It is a beautiful city now, crime is still there, but the police are placed all over downtown.

    I am disappointed that gangs (10-30 in size) are beginning to roam through circle center mall. A shooting there last week ramped up the police presence (we counted around 20 just in the mall). I don't think the police are to blame but the youth are all causing altercations due to lack of parenting and supervision. I don't see a solution to the problem without the mall closing due to scaring away the shoppers. Perhaps the solution could come from having private security work with IPD. There were at least three different security teams present last night.

    Privatizing public services could provide relief for our socialized woes.

    -- Posted by cow rancher on Sun, Jan 30, 2011, at 10:39 AM
  • Year-round school is a huge way to improve education.

    -- Posted by C2H5OH on Sun, Jan 30, 2011, at 11:44 AM
  • sigh..it was an analogy cow rancher.. an analogy...

    -- Posted by Music Man on Sun, Jan 30, 2011, at 12:01 PM
  • "After all, the police departments clearly are failing."

    I considered your statement as an analogy until you stated the police departments failing.

    Maybe I just couldn't delineate your analogy from reality.

    I apologize if I didn't interpret your comments the way they were intended.

    Then I agreed with you....sigh....

    -- Posted by cow rancher on Sun, Jan 30, 2011, at 1:04 PM
  • U R so right ethanol man. There needs to be many changes in our education system and year round classes is a good place to start.

    -- Posted by keninman on Sun, Jan 30, 2011, at 1:51 PM
  • I love that name: C2H5OH, I need to google how to do subscripts.

    Just the fact that keninman knew that compound is a testiment that the schools are working.

    In a country I just visited, the students attend year round classes. They start at 8a.m. and get out at 1:30 each day. They have four weeks off throughout the year and wear uniforms.

    -- Posted by cow rancher on Sun, Jan 30, 2011, at 4:25 PM
  • Ken is full of CH4..

    -- Posted by Music Man on Sun, Jan 30, 2011, at 8:46 PM
  • MM, Beano helps that and I am thankful I don't have to deal with a room full of D.M.s with ODD or ADHD. I really do feel your pain but then again better you than me. :p

    -- Posted by keninman on Sun, Jan 30, 2011, at 9:42 PM

    -- Posted by lillymae on Mon, Jan 31, 2011, at 2:50 PM
  • I THINK YOUR CAPS LOck is on. Parental choice in their child's education is our perogative. Isn't that the reason Obama sends his girls to a private school?

    I still like Matt and respect his choice in education.

    -- Posted by cow rancher on Mon, Jan 31, 2011, at 8:45 PM
  • Parents not controlling their children is the place to start. Teachers cannot control their classrooms, for fear of being arrested for touching one of the precious perfect children, who are never at fault. Until parents step up and control, or we let teachers have authority they need to control classrooms, we will not improve grades or anything else in schools.

    -- Posted by hilltop on Tue, Feb 1, 2011, at 9:51 AM
  • Our great democracy's foundation sits

    on many important things. Some are under

    attack by the right. Accessible and affordable

    legal representation is one. Fox and other

    pundits frequently complain about too many

    lawyers. Another target is public education.

    Why? Too many reasons to mention in this note.

    ..but mark my words " you don't miss your water

    till your well runs dry". Where is a real Tea


    -- Posted by thunderoad on Wed, Feb 2, 2011, at 3:07 PM
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