Sympathy for the (supposed) Devil

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Damian Wayne 2006-2013

http://www.cnn.com/2011/09/06/living/teachers-want-to-tell-parents/index.html

I suppose that if this blog had a thesis, which it doesn’t, it would be a defense of public education, with responses and thoughts in regards to reform. With an eye on that, I read this article and I want to share some thoughts on it.

I’m pushing thirty, and just the same, as I was growing up teachers were still regarded as the most important people in a community. They weren’t revered or venerated, but they were still treated with the same respect as anyone else that works inside of a demanding and difficult job. I often think about that, the ways that our country’s opinion has changed in regards to teachers since I was a kid, and I wonder where things went wrong and started to change from how they were to how they are.

Somewhere along the way, teachers stopped receiving the sort of respect that other skilled workers do. Somehow, somewhere, it began to be assumed that teachers didn’t know what they were talking about, and that their job was easy. The article points out that the average tenure of a teacher is at four and a half years now, and I don’t blame any teacher that does retire from the profession before then, with the incredible amount of pressure that they have to deal with on a daily basis.

Think about it for a moment. A teacher is already entrusted with the most important task that anyone could ever have, that being the education of other people’s children. Other people place their trust in teachers to give their children the best education possible; if you don’t think that’s a crushing amount of responsibility, then I have no idea what you would consider to be equivalent. On top of that, teachers now have No Child Left Behind, mandating that teachers will spend an inordinate amount of class time towards teaching material that will help them pass a test that will ensure that the school continues to receive funding. Most of this test material detracts from actual class time, and makes it very difficult to actually structure meaningful lessons that don’t have to do with the test material. Add to that the heightened media pressure that’s heaped on top of teachers because of a few bad eggs (I’ll never deny that there are bad teachers out there, the same as there are bad workers in every vocation. The amount of bad teachers is not nearly equivalent to the amount of good teachers, who daily work their fingers to the bone in an increasingly thankless position), and then to top it all off, teachers then have to deal with parents who, meaning well and wanting what’s best for their children, will be distrustful and suspicious to everything that a teacher does.

I guess this goes hand in hand with my earlier post about conspiracy theories because it figures in to the idea that people who are not trained in a specific vocation know better than those who have been. Take the pediatrician who recommends a booster shot for Little Johnny (Little Johnny is my favorite stand in when referring to a nonspecific child). A booster shot is an extra round of inoculation to make sure that the child is reliably immune to whatever disease it is that they’re being, or that they have been, inoculated against. To become a pediatrician, someone who is already naturally intelligent and predisposed to helping children has to go through around eleven years of school. They have to know their profession inside and out, frontwards and backwards. That isn’t to say that they can’t make mistakes, being humans they will of course make mistakes from time to time. But, on topics like inoculation, chances are that they aren’t wrong. So, Little Johnny’s mom, being a very well meaning person who wants the best for her son, does a few hours of research on the internet about inoculation and booster shots. Despite the fact that she means well, that she wants what is best for her son and that she has been a mom to Little Johnny for far longer than the pediatrician has been a doctor for Little Johnny, none of that means that she knows what she’s talking about when it comes to inoculations, especially against a pediatrician. Part of this comes from being able to tell bad information from good information, as in the case of her doing her research.

It’s just the same when it comes to parents who, as described in the article, hover over the shoulder of teachers while they attempt to do their job. No one would ever accuse any of these parents of not loving their children or of not wanting what’s best for their children. But they don’t have the same perspective, they don’t have the same knowledge and they don’t have the same training as a teacher does. I do realize that the age of the internet has made experts out of all of us, but thinking so does not make it so and good intentions still pave the road to Hell.

Trust me on this. The job of a teacher is already incredibly difficult. It’s like having a house in the middle of a minefield, and your mailbox is a mile away from your front door. You need to get that mail, but in order to get it, you have to cross that minefield twice, every day. All of the unearned media attention and all of the hover parenting in the world doesn’t help, and in fact, often causes far more damage than any amount of good.

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