Disposable Teachers

Certain ideas make my skin crawl. High on the list is this notion that teachers are the main problem in U.S. public education. Inevitably, this leads to a corollary skin crawler: the idea that the problem with these bad teachers is that you can’t fire them, and the solution is to eliminate tenure protections.

It’s particularly galling to see NPR, dreaming its liberal dream of being fair and balanced, promoting the idea so uncritically (“Is Teacher Tenure Still Necessary?”). Everyone rails against lawyers, but you’ll never see an NPR story called, “Is Legal Tenure Still Necessary?” The end of tenure is a long standing dream of the right wing, now largely successful in higher education.

The roots of the attacks on tenure have little or nothing to do with teaching effectiveness. There are lots of ways to improve schools that have proven much more effective than making teachers easier to fire. The roots of this idea are economic, a part of a systemic drive to make all workers more disposable by creating what’s often called a “flexible” work force.

Imagine, in this year of big budget crunches, if administrators could get rid of all of those pesky and expensive teachers with thirty years’ experience. You could hire two new teachers for the price of one; no doubt your health care expenses would go down too, as you dump employees more likely to be ill and to use the doctor. And, of course, if you could destroy the teachers unions too…

About Ray Watkins

I was born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, at Our Lady of the Lake Hospital. I grew up in Houston, as a part of what we only half-jokingly call the Cajun Diaspora. At a certain point during the Regan administration, I had to leave, so I served in the Peace Corps, Philippines, from 1987-89. I didn't want to return to the United States just yet, so I moved to Paris, France, where I lived for three years or so. I then moved back to Austin, Texas, where I had received my Masters Degree, and (eventually) began a Ph.D., which I completed in 1999. I spent a year at Temple University and then accepted a position at Eastern Illinois University where I worked until May of 2006. I now work exclusively on line (although that may change) for Johns Hopkins, the Art Institute Online, and Smarthinking.com. I can be reached most easily via email: raywatkins [that 'at' symbol] writinginthewild.com

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