If you haven’t heard (wouldn’t blame you if you hadn’t), in the Alabama State House, a legislator switched parties–from the Republican Party to the Democrats, which, given the trend, especially in the South, over the last few decades is surprising. What’s even more surprising is why he switched–teacher bashing:
Chalk up another Democratic win this week: Alabama State Rep. Daniel Boman, who entered the legislature as a Republican in November, is switching parties to become a Democrat after he says the GOP went too far in attacking teachers in the state…
Now there’s Boman, who’s walking away from the GOP after it took on the state’s public school teachers.
From the Tuscaloosa News:
Boman, a 36-year-old lawyer from Sulligent, said Wednesday’s vote on a bill to change the state’s tenure and fair dismissal laws for educators convinced him he was in the wrong party.
Digby identifies the dangers of the teacher bashing strategy (italics mine):
Republicans are walking into a minefield with these attacks on teachers. Everyone’s had them. many of us are related to them. Most of them, at least in the lower grades, are women. Turning them into the enemy is going to turn many millions of people against their own families.
Once again, I’m struck by how the Republicans have run out of ways to Obfuscate their real agenda. People aren’t liking it much once they realize that they have finally met the enemy and apparently it is them.
There are four million teachers in the U.S., not including retired teachers. Oddly though, I get the impression that most of the pro-reform bloc, especially the punditocracy, don’t know very many teachers. Like actual union members, they are an abstraction*. There’s a reason why someone like Jon Stewart has reacted so furiously to the teacher bashing, in spite of his class and cultural (i.e., ‘progressive’) membership: his mother was a teacher. The fiction that teachers are lazy government employees who don’t care about their students doesn’t ring true. Because he knows teachers. Not professional reformers who might have taught for a couple of years a long time ago (e.g., Michelle Rhee; Teach for America**) or think tank policy wonks, but people who, year in and year out, have taught students in classrooms.
Because when you do know and listen to teachers, you hear about a lot of problems that aren’t ever discussed. Students who are unready to learn. Sclerotic administration. Inadequate resources for science teachers (we should never have to raise money through Donors Choose–although you should give–a civilized nation would provide the money). The warping effect of standardized tests (even teachers who score well typically hate them). Class sizes that are too large. Students who don’t show up regularly. The inability of administrators to deal with severe discipline problems, including violent students. In biology (and other courses), political presure–and lack of administrative support to counteract that pressure–by the theopolitical right to alter areas of the curriculum (e.g., evolution, rightwing historical revisionism). The lack of funding to learn and implement new teaching methods and curricula.
I realize it’s human nature to blame everyone and everything but yourself, yet most teachers will admit there are dreadful teachers. But over the years, largely through circumstance, I’ve come to know teachers in a variety of school systems, rich and poor, urban and suburban. Between what they tell me and what the data suggest, it seems that many of our schools’ problems won’t be solved by ‘incentivizing teachers’–that is, flogging them harder.
Educational ‘reformers’ need to get out more.
*One factor is that many pundits/policy wonks have graduated from elite institutions and simply don’t move in those circles.
**It also seems that Teach for America teachers are disproportionately sent to poor schools. Between the socioeconomic gap and the unique challenges poor students face, this gives them a very skewed perspective, especially if, like most Teach for America graduates, they leave classroom teaching.