By David Reber, Topeka K-12 Examiner May 21st, 2011
I read your Teacher Appreciation Week letter to teachers, and had at first decided not to respond. Upon further thought, I realized I do have a few things to say.
I’ll begin with a small sample of relevant adjectives just to get them out of the way: condescending, arrogant, insulting, misleading, patronizing, egotistic, supercilious, haughty, insolent, peremptory, cavalier, imperious, conceited, contemptuous, pompous, audacious, brazen, insincere, superficial, contrived, garish, hollow, pedantic, shallow, swindling, boorish, predictable, duplicitous, pitchy, obtuse, banal, scheming, hackneyed, and quotidian. Again, it’s just a small sample; but since your attention to teacher input is minimal, I wanted to put a lot into the first paragraph.
Your lead sentence, “I have worked in education for much of my life”, immediately establishes your tone of condescension; for your 20-year “education” career lacks even one day as a classroom teacher. You, Mr. Duncan, are the poster-child for the prevailing attitude in corporate-style education reform: that the number one prerequisite for educational expertise is never having been a teacher.
Your stated goal is that teachers be “…treated with the dignity we award to other professionals in society.” Really?
How many other professionals are the last ones consulted about their own profession; and are then summarily ignored when policy decisions are made? How many other professionals are so distrusted that sweeping federal legislation is passed to “force” them to do their jobs? And what dignities did you award teachers when you publicly praised the mass firing of teachers in Rhode Island?
You acknowledge teacher’s concerns about No Child Left Behind, yet you continue touting the same old
retoric: “In today’s economy, there is no acceptable dropout rate, and we rightly expect all children – English-
language learners, students with disabilities, and children of poverty - to learn and succeed.”
What other professions are held to impossible standards of perfection? Do we demand that police officers
eliminate all crime, or that doctors cure all patients? Of course we don’t.
There are no parallel claims of “in today’s society, there is no acceptable crime rate”, or “we rightly expect all
patients – those with end-stage cancers, heart failure, and multiple gunshot wounds – to thrive into old age.”
When it comes to other professions, respect and common sense prevail.
Your condescension continues with “developing better assessments so [teachers] will have useful information to guide instruction…” Excuse me, but I am a skilled, experienced, and licensed professional. I don’t need an outsourced standardized test – marketed by people who haven’t set foot in my school – to tell me how my
students are doing.
I know how my students are doing because I work directly with them. I learn their strengths and weaknesses
through first-hand experience, and I know how to tailor instruction to meet each student’s needs. To suggest
otherwise insults both me and my profession.
You want to “…restore the status of the teaching profession...” Mr. Duncan, you built your career defiling the
teaching profession. Your signature effort, Race to the Top, is the largest de-professionalizing, demoralizing,
sweeter-carrot-and-sharper-stick public education policy in U.S. history. You literally bribed cash-starved
states to enshrine in statute the very reforms teachers have spoken against.
You imply that teachers are the bottom-feeders among academics. You want more of “America’s top college students” to enter the profession. If by “top college students” you mean those with high GPA’s from prestigious, pricey schools then the answer is simple: a five-fold increase in teaching salaries.
You see, Mr. Duncan, those “top” college students come largely from our nation’s wealthiest families. They
simply will not spend a fortune on an elite college education to pursue a 500% drop in socioeconomic status
relative to their parents.
You assume that “top” college students automatically make better teachers. How, exactly, will a 21-year-old,
silver-spoon-fed ivy-league graduate establish rapport with inner-city kids? You think they’d be better at
it than an experienced teacher from a working-class family, with their own rough edges or checkered past, who
can actually relate to those kids? Your ignorance of human nature is astounding.
As to your concluding sentence, “I hear you, I value you, and I respect you”; no, you don’t, and you don’t, and
you don’t. In fact, I don’t believe you even wrote this letter for teachers.
I think you sense a shift in public opinion. Parents are starting to see through the façade; and recognize the
To save yourself, you need to reinforce the illusion that you’re doing what’s best for public education. So you
play nice with teachers for one day - not for the teachers but for your public audience...
read the entire post here. http://www.examiner.com/k-12-in-topeka/mr-duncan-you-are-a-shining-example
No doubt some will dismiss what I’ve said as paranoid delusion. What they call paranoia I call paying
attention. Mr. Duncan, teachers hear what you say. We also watch what you do, and we are paying attention.
Working with kids every day, our baloney-detectors are in fine form. We’ve heard the double-speak before;
and we don’t believe the dog ate your homework. Coming from children, double-speak is expected and it
provides important teachable moments. Coming from adults, it’s just sad.
Despite our best efforts, some folks never outgrow their disingenuous, manipulative, self-serving approach to
life. Of that, Mr. Duncan, you are a shining example.