Secretary Arne Duncan has been on the road selling his idea of “RESPECT” for teachers, but teachers don’t feel any respect from the U.S. Department of Education. Teacher John Thompson has called on Secretary Duncan to apologize for the ways he has encouraged and promoted the currently hostile environment surrounding teachers.
The Metlife Survey of the American Teacher reported a dramatic decline in teacher morale from 2009 to 2011. What happened in 2009 that changed the climate? Could it have been the launch of Race to the Top? Could it have been the endless rhetoric blaming teachers for low scores? Could it have been the idea–launched by Arne Duncan–that teacher evaluation should be tied to the test scores of their students?
Things have gone downhill since then. In 2010 came the teacher-bashing “documentary” called “Waiting for ‘Superman’” which was repeatedly praised by Duncan and President Obama. President Obama even invited the children in the film to the White House. And then of course there were cover stories and Oprah appearances, and anyone who trashed public schools was considered a hero for trying to liberate children from the basic democratic institution that is so important to our society.
And the privatization of public education continues. And teachers ask how all these terrible things befell them. Historians in the future will trace a clear narrative, including No Child Left Behind, Race to the Top, the rise of Tea-Party governors, and the relentless attacks on teachers and public schools. Anyone who was part of this privatization movement will be portrayed by historians as the villains of American education, the thieves intent on giving away our public schools to private sector interests.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if Secretary Duncan took a strong stand against for-profit corporations invading public education and against the willy-nilly proliferation of charter schools and against those who would roll back collective bargaining and against those who want to remove teachers’ academic freedom and rights to due process? Wouldn’t it be wonderful if he admitted–based on evidence and experience– that he was wrong to push the idea that teacher quality can be measured by the test scores of their students? I can assure him that it cleanses the soul to admit error.
We can always hope.