Skip to main content

Who Would Even Want to be a Teacher These Days?

Rural school districts in Texas are switching to four-day weeks this fall due to lack of staff. Florida is asking veterans with no teaching background to enter classrooms. Arizona is allowing college students to step in and instruct children.

                               The Washington Post, 08/03/2022

We appear to be experiencing a rather serious teacher drain.

I say ‘appear’ because I’ve read one reputable source that says the data doesn’t support findings of a nationwide shortage. But even so, its author admits there are some states — most in the deep South, unsurprisingly — with severe shortages, both chronic and acute.

But whether there’s an actual teacher shortage or not, there is no question there’s a teacher crisis. Teachers all over the country are either leaving the profession, or seriously thinking about it.

And who can blame them?

Their pay is notoriously lousy. Their schools are deteriorating. Their districts are woefully underfunded. They’re burning out at alarming rates. And they’re looking at a bleak future of bigger classes, longer hours, weaker unions, demented parents, and students whose intellectual growth may have been stunted by two-plus years of Covid disruption.

For plenty of teachers, these things alone have been enough to drive them out. But now those remaining in the profession are seeing the rise of something called “parental rights,” the grotesque but dangerous commitment of under-educated parents to under-educating their children.

These parents have been cynically manipulated into thinking all sorts of ignorant nonsense about what their kids should and shouldn’t be taught. They’ve been led to believe that teachers have an “agenda,” one that shames kids for being white, and “grooms” them for sexual abuse.

They’ve fallen for manufactured outrage, and they’ve been drawn into a warped sort of activism: banning books, dictating curricula, rewriting history, stigmatizing anyone not white or Christian, and harassing teachers into toeing a rigid ideological line. They openly confuse pedagogy with pedophilia.

Adding to the pressure, plenty of school districts have adopted policies — and even written laws — that force teachers to think carefully about every word they say regarding American history, racism, gender, and sexual orientation. Critical thinking is permitted only within a narrow — and narrowing — spectrum of acceptable ideas.

Not only is it near-impossible to teach effectively in such circumstances, but it also risks creating a nation of child informers, kids eager to run to their parents at the first sign of teacher heresy.

None of this an accident. It’s the result of a deliberate effort to undermine public education, a long-term investment by Republicans and their corporate enablers. To quote myself:They need the schools to produce the gullible voters of the future, and to train them to not pay attention.”

These are people who were never comfortable in the twentieth century, let alone the twenty-first. They believe — though they’d never admit it — that women needn’t worry their pretty little heads about “book-learning,” and that Black people belong in the fields, not the classroom.

With the assistance of lavishly-funded think tanks like the Heritage Foundation, they have long regarded public education as a threat to their plans for a docile and brainwashed workforce.

For decades, they’ve focused their efforts on school boards, working to install right-wing ideologues, people who will obstruct spending and suppress independent thought. These days, they plant provocateurs at public board meetings, irate but fake “parents” whose mission is to gin up anger in the service of retrograde ideas.

It has always been easy to see what the right is doing, but harder to figure out why they’re doing it. They seem bent on creating a nation of mindless, reprogrammable drones — think North Korea — who will be content to shut up and work.

Yet it seems self-defeating. How useful would that kind of workforce be? In an age of technology, the economy will need more brainpower, not less. Corporations will need workers with educations that are deeper and broader, yet they seem unwilling to push for the necessary resources to make that happen. Creative thinking has long been what sets the American workforce apart from the rest of the world, yet it’s exactly that comparative advantage that is most vulnerable to a degraded education system.

I can only conclude that they’re okay with that. Either they’re too short-sighted to perceive the steep downside to their subversion, or they’re too cruel to care. Either way, teachers bear the brunt of that subversion, and society pays the price in kids who can’t think.

So we have a race to the bottom, with unmistakable elements of systemic inequality and class discrimination. Because even as they starve public schools, they promote a self-perpetuating two-tier education system that mirrors the basic have-or-have-not dynamic of the country at large.

First-rate educations are still available to those who can afford it. The ruling class of tomorrow is comfortably enrolled in the private schools of today. They are growing up in a bubble of entitlement, effectively insulated from both cultural and intellectual diversity. What sorts of leaders can we expect them to become?

Meanwhile, private school teachers are paid even worse than their public school counterparts, so in both cases the question becomes why would anyone want to be a teacher?

It’s still a respected profession, but you’d never know it. Their dedication is, at best, taken for granted, and at worst met with violent rhetoric, public intimidation, and legal jeopardy. 

This is a gross disservice, not just to the teachers themselves, but also to the communities they serve. Not to mention the children they’re trying, against ridiculous odds, to teach.

Dedication only goes so far.



  1. At some point, we need to stop calling it education and start calling it indoctrination -- the tool of choice for autocrats everywhere.


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Warning: Red States may be Hazardous to your Health

In late September, a Nebraska woman was sentenced to two years in prison for helping her daughter obtain abortion pills. The case was less about abortion than about some bizarre behavior regarding the burial of the fetal remains, but this is still appalling on any number of levels. Even so, that’s not what piqued my interest. Rather, I was drawn to one curious footnote to the story, and I’ve heard nothing about it since. Apparently, the judge in the case had ordered the woman to undergo a psychological evaluation prior to sentencing. Presumably, the results might have helped to mitigate her sentence. Which sounds reasonable, perhaps even routine. But that evaluation never happened. It was, strangely, “cancelled due to lack of funding.” Huh? A person whose future may have hinged on that evaluation was denied it because the state couldn’t afford it? How underfunded are we talking? How many other people moving through the Nebraska judicial system haven’t rece

The Media Wakes Up and Smells the Fascism

  A funny thing happened on the way to the 2024 horserace. The mainstream media brought Hitler into the conversation. Trump gave them no choice. He kept amping up his rants in terms that were so explicitly Nazi, so lifted — practically verbatim — from Hitler’s speeches, that it was hard for them to keep ignoring what they’ve willfully ignored for so long. When Trump used the word ‘vermin’ in his Veteran’s Day speech , he was taking a whole chapter from the fascism playbook. Whether he knew it or not. Dehumanization — the art of equating human beings with insects — is a classic stochastic terrorism technique, beloved of dictators the world over. In Rwanda in the nineties, the Hutu tribe openly called its rival Tutsis “cockroaches” on the radio, inciting its members to exterminate them with machetes, which they did. We’ll probably never know who actually wrote the Vermin speech — Stephen Miller or Steve Bannon are likely suspects — but we can be sure it wasn’t T

Things Have Been Too Cheap for Too Long

  Once upon a time, gasoline cost roughly 35 cents a gallon. That halcyon era came to an abrupt halt during the Carter administration, when oil-rich Arab states severely constricted our petroleum supply, causing hours-long lines at the gas pump that are still fresh in the memory of anyone who was there. When the dust cleared, gas was four times more expensive, and now we count ourselves lucky if it’s only ten times that long-ago price. But we did get over it, more or less. We learned to live with it. Around that time, some pundit I can’t remember said something that has stuck with me ever since. To paraphrase, “This country was built on cheap energy and cheap labor, and we’re running out of both.” It stuck with me because it’s even truer now than it was then. This despite the best efforts of corporate interests — and their Republican flunkies in government — to do all they can to keep both energy and labor as cheap as possible. For several decades, they made