Archives for category: Teachers and Teaching

Jan Resseger understands that legislators don’t know what teachers do all day. This ignorance enables them to echo outlandish insults about teachers and to write laws to solve non-existent problems. Legislators need to spend time in their local public schools to inform themselves and dispel the myths.

She writes:

Political attacks on teachers seem to be everywhere. Fanatical critics charge that teachers destroy white children’s self esteem by honestly acknowledging racism, and worse, they accuse teachers of “grooming” children. Public schoolteachers are the collateral damage in a widespread political campaign to discredit public schooling and promote privatization. As the new year begins, I have been grateful to prominent news commentators for calling out the scapegoating of schoolteachers.

The Cleveland Plain Dealer’s retired editorial page director, Brent Larkin devoted a weekly column to exploring what’s been happening in Ohio politics: “A large number of odious types in elected life are so obsessed with demonizing public schoolteachers that it interferes with these legislators’ ability to deal with real problems.” Larkin quotes Scott DiMauro, president of the Ohio Education Association: “When you have people deliberately fostering distrust, it has a devastating impact on educator morale… There are just so many challenges in terms of inequity of resources, discipline, poverty and culture-war attacks that have been very deliberately orchestrated by people on the right.'” Larkin concludes: “Great teachers are to be treasured. The way they’re treated speaks volumes about where we’re headed.”

The Washington Post’s culture critic, Robin Givhan wonders: “Who will remain when educators tire of picking their way through a political obstacle course of ginned-up outrage over bathrooms and manufactured controversies about racial justice?… Who will educate children when teachers finally become fed up with dodging bullets—or taking bullets—in service to someone else’s child?… It’s no secret that they’re underpaid for all the duties they perform… The United States has lost 370,000 teachers since the start of the pandemic… Critics have been punishing a them from all sides. The country asks public school teachers to carry this nation’s future on their backs, and then we force them to walk through a field of land mines.”

John Merrow, the retired education reporter for the PBS NewsHour recently wrote: “According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, teachers are about three times as likely as other U.S. workers to moonlight… However, if you factor in part-time jobs within the school system, like coaching, teaching evening classes, or even driving a school bus, then an astonishing 59% of teachers are working part-time to supplement what they earn as full time teachers, according to the Economic Policy Institute… Teacher salaries have not kept up with inflation… and according to Education Week, ‘Teachers are also working under a ‘pay penalty,’ an economic concept meaning they earn lower weekly wages and receive lower overall compensation for their work than similar college-educated peers…'”

Data confirm Merrow’s concerns. In last summer’s most recent report from the Economic Policy Institute on the need to raise teachers’ salaries, Sylvia Allegretto reported the serious and growing disparity in the wages for teachers and other comparably educated college graduates: “Inflation-adjusted average weekly wages of teachers have been relatively flat since 1996. The average weekly wages of public school teachers (adjusted only for inflation) increased just $29 from 1996 to 2021, from $1,319 to $1,348 (in 2021 dollars). In contrast, inflation-adjusted weekly wages of other college graduates rose from $1,564 to $2,009 over the same period—a $445 increase.”

Bloomberg adds that one consequence of low pay on top of a barrage of controversy about what and how teachers teach is the growing shortage of teachers: “Overall, the U.S. job market ended 2022 at a near record for growth but one area in particular underscores how some parts of the economy still lag far behind pre-pandemic levels… The slow crawl is largely due to one industry—education—making up more than half of the jobs lost… (T)here has been a mass exodus of educators, leaving school districts with mounting vacancies to fill.”

There is clearly a tragic disconnect between the needs of America’s public schools and the resources legislators across the states are providing. Why? Part of the cause, of course, is the ideologically driven campaign the news commentators have noticed. Far right groups like the Bradley Foundation, EdChoice, Americans for Prosperity and the Goldwater Institute are pursuing a lavishly funded lobbying campaign—with model laws written and distributed by the American Legislative Exchange Council—to encourage legislators to privatize the whole educational enterprise.

Something else, however, has made our legislators increasingly susceptible to the ideology of the lobbyists and school privatizers. For several hours in December, as I watched a televised hearing of the Ohio House Education Committee, I was struck by so many lawmakers who seemed to define the role of teachers as mechanical producers of standardized test scores—and who conceptualize schools as merely an assembly line turning out workers who will help attract business and manufacturing to Ohio. I listened to a conversation filled with standardized test scores—numbers, percentages, and supposed trends measured by numbers. The only time human beings appeared in the discussion of education was when legislators blamed teachers for the numbers. It is not surprising that the same Ohio legislators are trying to transform the Ohio Department of Education into a new Department of Education and the Workforce.

In Ohio and across every state, aggregate standardized test scores dropped during the school closures and remote learning during COVID-19, but as I watched the televised hearing, the legislators seemed furious that teachers had not quickly come up with a different set of test-score production methods and turned the scores around. They seemed to believe that teachers should have been able to erase students’ emotional struggles during the return to schooling after COVID disruptions. Several declared that putting the governor in charge of education would take care of the problem and make teachers accountable.

As I watched the hearing, I realized again something that I already knew: Many of the people who make public education policy at the state level don’t know what teachers do. Few people on that committee seemed to grasp that teaching school is a complex and difficult job.

Watching the members of the Ohio House of Representatives discuss their concerns about our public schools made me think about David Berliner’s description of teaching. Berliner is Regents’ Professor of Education, Emeritus, at Arizona State University. He has also taught at the Universities of Arizona and Massachusetts, at Teachers College and Stanford University. Berliner comments on the human complexity of teaching as he contrasts the work of teachers and doctors:

“A physician usually works with one patient at a time, while a teacher serves 25, 30 or in places like Los Angeles and other large cities, they may be serving 35 or more youngsters simultaneously. Many of these students don’t speak English well. Typically anywhere from 5-15% will show emotional and/or cognitive disabilities. Most are poor, and many reside in single parent families… Many patients seek out their physicians, choosing to be in their office. On the other hand, many students seek to be out-of-class…. I always wonder how physicians would fare if 30 or so kids… showed up for medical treatment all at once, and then left 50 minutes later, healed or not! And suppose this chaotic scene was immediately followed by thirty or more different kids… also in need of personal attention. And they too stayed about 50 minutes…. Imagine waves of these patients hitting a physicians’ office five or six times a day!”

Berliner continues: “(T)eachers have been found to make about .7 decisions per minute during interactive teaching. Another researcher estimated that teachers’ decisions numbered about 1,500 per day. Decision fatigue is among the many reasons teachers are tired after what some critics call a short work day, forgetting or ignoring the enormous amount of time needed for preparation, for grading papers and homework, and for filling out bureaucratic forms and attending school meetings. In fact, it takes about 10 years for teachers to hit their maximum ability….”

Watching our legislators also made me think about the late Mike Rose’s definition of good teaching. Rose taught college students how to teach and he spent a good part of his career visiting classes to observe and document what excellent teachers do. Rose’s very best book, Possible Lives, is the story of his observations of excellent teaching as he spent three years observing public school classrooms across the United States: “Some of the teachers I visited were new, and some had taught for decades. Some organized their classrooms with desks in rows, and others turned their rooms into hives of activity. Some were real performers, and some were serious and proper. For all the variation, however, the classrooms shared certain qualities… The classrooms were safe. They provided physical safety…. but there was also safety from insult and diminishment…. Intimately related to safety is respect…. Talking about safety and respect leads to a consideration of authority…. A teacher’s authority came not just with age or with the role, but from multiple sources—knowing the subject, appreciating students’ backgrounds, and providing a safe and respectful space. And even in traditionally run classrooms, authority was distributed…. These classrooms, then, were places of expectation and responsibility…. Overall the students I talked to, from primary-grade children to graduating seniors, had the sense that their teachers had their best interests at heart and their classrooms were good places to be.”

I wish the people who make the laws which allocate and distribute state funding for public schools, were required to spend one day every year visiting a public school to watch what teachers do. In fact, I wish every state legislator were required to undertake the challenge of teaching in a public elementary, middle or high school for at least half of one school day every year.

A reader who signs in as “kindergarteninterlude” posted the following comment in the discussion about “growth mindset”:

The year I retire, I will have a tee-shirt made. On the front will be the word- big and bold- “RIGOR”, with the NO Symbol on top (a circle and diagonal line through it).


On the back will be the word data with the same NO symbol on top of it.


I’d love to work in “growth mindset “. What a bunch of garbage.


Hopefully my tee-shirt will be a conversation starter and I will be happy to talk to people about my experiences in the kindergarten classroom.

I will explain that rigor is developmentally inappropriate and the desperate attempt to shove rigor into the heart and mind of kindergartners (and every other grade level student) can only hurt them.

As for data- the obsession is destructive on so many levels. What’s worse, it’s meaningless.


Diane, why does this insanity persist? Why are true best practices and proven methods of success in education completely dismissed? I have been shaking my head (and my fist) for 20 years. Nothing changes. It’s just getting worse. What will it ever take to shift this train wreck that is education?

I have been saving this lovely tribute for the right moment. It’s now, as red state legislatures rev up their attacks on teachers and on the profession. North Carolina leads the pack in its current effort to lower entry standards for teachers (only an associate degree needed to enter the field—two years of college), and pay tied to student test scores, a practice that has failed everywhere tried. In the background is the Gates Foundation, repeating its well-established practice of funding failure. Florida, too, is lowering its standards for teachers and welcoming non-professionals into the classroom. Think of it: Do you want your next air flight to be piloted by someone with six weeks training? Do you want a surgery performed by a medical student?

Dan Rather, a graduate of the Houston public schools (like me), remembers his teachers with gratitude:

One of the great sadnesses of our current age is how politics has polluted so much of our public discourse and spread into realms that once seemed free of partisanship. That this occurs at a time when much of the Republican Party has adopted the posture of a bully and is gripped by extremist ideology and attacks on truth and justice makes it all the more dangerous and dispiriting.

Perhaps nowhere is this more true than in the battlegrounds that our schools have become. We are living in an age when the number of books being banned is on the rise and the willingness to confront America’s complicated history is on the decline. We see intolerance worn as a badge of toughness, while inclusion, the great promise of what public education can be, is treated as weakness. We see a concerted effort to take over school boards, especially in deeply conservative areas, with true believers in the culture wars eager to inflict their small-mindedness, bias, and mean-spirited ideology on shaping how young minds are taught.

Teaching, already an underappreciated profession in this country, is becoming an even less appealing line of work. We have educators who have spent decades in the classroom now forced to look over their shoulders, wondering whether the books on their shelves or their carefully honed lesson plans will run afoul of the new draconian mandates. And we have young idealists with freshly minted teaching certificates wondering whether they can impart their excitement and new ideas into the students before them.

Some of these concerns are not new. When I was a student, for example, racial injustice in the form of legally segregated schools was a hallmark of public education. Schools have always been shaped by the larger societal forces that whip around them. Public education is, after all, about molding the minds and the mores of future citizens. Few institutions have more power in determining what this country will become than our schools.

But there have been decades of progress on what and how our children are taught, and today that wave of advancement is retreating in many parts of America. Sadly, there are so many examples of far-right ideology shaping curricula, on issues ranging from race to LGBTQ rights to science, that to call them all out individually is an impossible task. This is a broad movement not confined by school or district; much of the effort is being directed at the state level.

Republican politicians have learned that they can rally their base through bad-faith misrepresentations of school culture, which they depict as out of control with so-called “woke” ideology (which we wrote about in Steady here) and the bogeyman of “critical race theory,” which they totally mischaracterize — and which is taught in almost none of the schools where they have made it an issue. Nearly every parent wants good schools for their children, and Republicans are playing to fears they have carefully fanned to lure in voters even beyond their base. This was notably true in the last gubernatorial election in Virginia. Meanwhile, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has cultivated his political reputation (and a likely presidential run) by attacking professional educators — and indeed the very idea that schools should be welcoming, tolerant learning environments.

The elections that lie ahead — not only the big, marquee ones, but more importantly, those for school boards and other local offices — will do a lot to shape what will happen in our schools in the years to come. But there is another force that is even more powerful, and as we mark the beginning of a new school year, let us recognize it: teachers.

While we should grapple with the political context laid out above, let us shift the tone of this piece now to one of celebration. Writing about teachers, singing their praises, honoring them as American heroes has long been one of my favorite activities. It never gets old, and it never gets less important.

I would like to use whatever platform I have to shine a spotlight of deep respect on these invaluable public servants. And I am pleased that if you search for quotes from me online, one of the most popular is this:

“The dream begins with a teacher who believes in you, who tugs and pushes and leads you to the next plateau, sometimes poking you with a sharp stick called ‘truth.’”

I believe every word of it. These aren’t empty sentiments. They come from my lived history. A while back here on Steady, I shared my own experiences as a student of public schools, including an emotional return to my elementary school in Houston.

For all the challenges our schools face, right now millions of children are learning about the world and themselves thanks to dedicated teachers. Teachers are going the extra mile, reaching out to kids in need, tweaking lesson plans to include new insights, passing their own inspirations to the young people before them.

The work is not easy — far from it. And it can be an incredible grind, especially when it seems that society doesn’t value it or is even outright hostile to teachers. With this as a backdrop, it is understandable that many are choosing to leave the profession. This is not a reflection on them, but rather on the nation that is allowing it to happen.

Teachers, you are our inspiration and our hope. You nurture the flames of our democracy. You literally save lives. You work miracles every day. Your resourcefulness, resilience, and creativity are boundless. We saw it during the heart of the pandemic. And we see it now. It is all the more reason you should not be taken for granted.

Dear readers, how many of you can close your eyes and be transported to a classroom from your past? Do you see a favorite teacher? Hear that word of encouragement or hard truth that shaped the course of your life? Teachers are the winds that propel our children’s sails forward. They are the North Stars that help guide us all.

I apologize if this reads as a bit trite. I can imagine red ink on the page from some of my previous English teachers marking my excesses. Sadly, those teachers are all now long gone. But in me, as in my classmates, as in all of you, the work of our teachers lives on.

We cannot thank our teachers enough. Each day the gifts they have given us are renewed. We should do everything we can to protect them and value them. A lot of this work must be done at the ballot box, but it can also be accomplished through words of encouragement and support.

To all the teachers out there: thank you.

Trump’s Secretary of State Mike Pompeo just proved that he is the stupidest person in the world. He said in an interview that Randi Weingarten, President of the American Federation of Teachers, is “the most dangerous person in the world.”

More dangerous than the President of China, Xi Jinping, who is threatening the survival of Taiwan and re-imposing a repressive regime across China.

More dangerous than President Kim, the dictator of North Korea, who is threatening South Korea and the rest of the world, with his intercontinental ballistic missiles and nuclear weapons.

More dangerous than Russian dictator Vladimir Putin, who is trying to destroy the people of Ukraine by destroying their access to heat, light, and water as winter begins,in addition to raining deadly missiles on them.

No, Pompeo says, Randi is “the most dangerous person in the world.”

Why? Because she leads a teachers’ unions, and unions are evil.

Teachers too are evil, Pompeo believes, because the children of America can’t read, write, or do math.

He said,

“I tell the story often — I get asked ‘Who’s the most dangerous person in the world? Is it Chairman Kim, is it Xi Jinping?’ The most dangerous person in the world is Randi Weingarten,” Pompeo said.

“It’s not a close call. If you ask, ‘Who’s the most likely to take this republic down?’ It would be the teacher’s unions, and the filth that they’re teaching our kids, and the fact that they don’t know math and reading or writing,” the former top U.S. diplomat added.

Randi replied:

In a thread on Twitter, Weingarten said she didn’t know if the remarks should be considered “ridiculous or dangerous.”

“At the state department, Pompeo defended Middle East’s tyrants & undermined Ukraine. He was more focused on pleasing Trump than fighting 4 freedom, national security & democracy. To compare us to China means he must not know what his own department says,” she wrote.

“Maybe spend a minute in one of the classrooms with my members and their students and you will get a real lesson in the promise and potential of America.”

Pompeo’s blast is ridiculous and stupid. But it’s also dangerous for Randi. It makes her a target of extremists in search of targets. This country has a surfeit of lunatics with guns. Pompeo should pay the cost of personal security for her.

His uninformed, ignorant remarks are insulting to teachers.

I challenge him to name a non-union state that outperforms unionized states.

Every teacher should belong to the AFT or the NEA. They would have higher salaries, health care, pensions, and job security. They would have state and national organizations to protect them in state legislatures and Congress.

The teaching profession is under fire by ignorant politicians like Pompeo. Consequently, many experienced teachers have resigned, and there is a national teacher shortage.

The best way to support teachers and their noble profession is to improve their stature, their salaries, and their working conditions. The only way that will happen is if there are strong unions to stand up for teachers, who alone are powerless.

Only strong unions will fight for the profession against the hostility of bombastic fools like Pompeo.

Pompeo can’t tolerate strong women or strong unions.

There are three things that privatizers hate: public schools, democracy, and teachers’ unions.

In New Hampshire, the privatizers are on the move.

Jacob Goodwin writes about them in The Progressive:

New Hampshire has a proud tradition of public schools, one that, in some towns, dates back to single-room school houses of early America when students would take horse-drawn sleighs to school in the winter. Our schools—and towns, for that matter—are known for operating largely under “local control,” meaning that school boards are made up of parents and community members and are designed to act as sentinels of democracy, tasked with uplifting the highest civic ideals and aspirations.

Historically, the state has had a limited role in determining how schools are run. Consequently, New Hampshire has provided a minimal amount of school funding. While the concept of local control can be both empowering and a burden of responsibility, students and teachers cannot carry out their important work without adequate funding.

Recently, school privatizers seized curricula as a new front in their pressure campaign against teachers, determined to further squeeze public schools financially. Lacking widespread public support, New Hampshire’s legislature restricted classroom conversations about race and gender in 2021—enacting a law which drew ire for its disproportionate penalties and vague requirements. The confusing act prompted the New Hampshire Department of Justice to issue a statement of guidance, confirming the harsh penalties and doing little to protect teachers from potentially career-ending false accusations. The law has placed additional costs on districts in terms of teacher retention and recruitment, compounding staffing shortages in the profession.

Privatizers advance their damaging agenda by undermining the public confidence in schools. Each teacher that leaves due to the relentless attacks is one less trusted adult for children. And the loss of experienced professionals is a way of further loosening communal ties. Traditional, deliberative decision making of small-town New England is rooted in neighborly relational knowledge, but this is now being undercut. Privatizers only see profits by cutting costs, not the most important thing in schools—the people.

Nationwide, attacking teachers and neighborhood schools has become part of a broader strategy to divert taxpayer money away from public accountability. Profiteering and mismanagement scandals in states like Florida and Pennsylvania warn of the danger of moving decision-making from parent volunteers in the auditorium to executives in corporate board rooms.

Despite the odds, teachers are speaking up for their community schools and mounting legal challenges to unjust laws that seek to erode the essential public good of education. On September 14, the presiding federal judge declared that he would rule on the state’s motion to dismiss a suit brought by a coalition including the state’s largest teachers union within sixty to ninety days. But while the speech-chilling law remains in place, teachers fear stifled classroom discussions and even loss of licensure. And the forces of privatization have continued to stretch the civic fabric of our communities through swiftly changing our state with little public input or oversight.

After failing to pass a stand-alone voucher bill in previous legislative sessions, the state Commissioner of Education shepherded a significant voucher bill through the state legislature and into the budget. He promised that the measure would be limited and require a budget of $130,000 in the first year. In October 2021, however, the voucher law was already costing New Hampshire taxpayers $6.9 million…

Distracting the public from the actual needs of over 90 percent of students who attend public schools is part of the coordinated strategy against local control in New Hampshire. The refusal to address funding adequacy, meaningful mental health support for students, and building maintenance are among the major issues that are seldom addressed.

Nancy Flanagan taught music for many years in Michigan. She draws on her deep experience in this post to set the record straight about what parents really want from their schools.

Extremist groups funded by rightwing autocrats claim to speak for parents, but they use their platform to spread propaganda and lies. They say they speak for “parental rights,” but they spread fear, distrust and lies.

John Gibbs, the Republican candidate for Congress in western Michigan, said that:

Folks, did you ever think that one day in America, we’d have to worry about schools putting obscene books in their libraries? This is simply insane–we must stop the madness. Voters overwhelmingly oppose sexually explicit books in public school libraries.

Flanagan answers Gibbs:

Well—folks. I’m not worried about obscene or sexually explicit books in public school libraries. Because there is no madness, no insanity, no pornography in school libraries.

Teachers and school leaders also overwhelmingly oppose sexually explicit books in school libraries. The word we use is ‘inappropriate’—materials are selected by trained school media specialists, who know inappropriate when they see it.

The entire slate of MI Republicans running for statewide or national office, not just Gibbs, is hell-bent on insisting that schools have become (in the past two years) hotbeds of sexual orientation and gender identity transformation, not to mention racial tension and guilt-inducement. They are led in this effort by the Republican candidate for Governor, Tudor Dixon.

Gibbs goes on to say, on behalf of Republican candidate for Governor in Michigan, Tudor Dixon:

What Tudor wants to accomplish is very simple and common sense. She wants to get radical sex and gender theory out of our schools, remove classroom instruction of sexual orientation and gender identity for grades K-3, make sure gender specific sports remain gender specific given biological differences in boys vs. girls and post all curriculum online for parents to see and be involved in their child’s education. Every child deserves a world class education and parents should be in charge of it.

Flanagan answers:

So let’s break this down.

Radical sex and gender theory? (Not a part of the curriculum in any school I’ve been in.)

Classroom instruction on sexual orientation or gender identity for the littles? (Likewise—nope, nope.)

Gender specific sports? (The Michigan High School Athletic Association has a policy adopted in 2012 that determines post-season tournament eligibility for transgender athletes on a case-by-case basis. The group received and approved 10 applications in the past five years—so this is hardly a burning statewide issue.)

Post all curriculum online? (Sure. Most districts post their standards framework—what gets taught, when– and public high schools in Michigan have adapted the Michigan Merit Curriculum.)

Every child deserves a world class education and parents should be in charge of it. (Right out of the Glenn Youngkin playbook, a statement like this, which is mostly true, really resonates.)

But here’s the truth (from 32 years of classroom experience): What bubbles up in classroom discussions and playgrounds is what’s on the minds of the kids in that classroom. This starts early, in Tudor Dixon’s forbidden zone, grades K-3—like this story about the boy who chose a ‘Frozen’ backpack.

Kids are curious and they’re paying attention to what their parents and their screens (and their friends, and their older siblings) are telling them. I taught music and math, two subjects you’d think were pretty straightforward and controversy-free, but can testify that anytime you get a cluster of kids together, provocative issues emerge.

Please open the link and read the rest of this common sense, informed commentary. Parents are not fooled by this fear mingering. They know their children’s teachers, and they trust them.

Our nation is experiencing a resurgence of censorship and gag laws that take us back to the 1950s, to the era of McCarthyism, and even to the 1930s and 1940s, when teachers were suspected of subversive activities if they offended rightwing sensibilities. Alan Singer writes here about the upsurge in restrictions on academic freedom in Florida. Undoubtedly, there are other states where Know-Nothings have taken control but Florida stands out because it’s governor is a leading contender for the Republican nomination for the Presidency in 2024.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis wants to control what children learn, what teachers can speak about in and out of the classroom, and ultimately what people think. Lawyers for the State of Florida argued in a recent court filing that professors at the state’s public colleges and universities have no right to freedom of speech when they teach. Florida is defending the state’s Individual Freedom Act, more commonly known as the “Stop WOKE Act.” The law bars teachers at public institutions from introducing discussion of race, racism, and sex. The big danger is that the rightwing majority on the United States Supreme Court may give him his wish. With DeSantis a leading candidate for the 2024 Republican Party Presidential nomination, this would be another step towards suppressing democracy in the United States.

The out-of-control rightwing majority on the Supreme Court is likely to approve the DeSantis ban on free speech and academic freedom. In 2006, in the case of Garcetti v. Ceballos, a 5-4 rightwing majority of the Supreme Court already ruled that first amendment protection does not apply to employee speech and protect them “from discipline based on speech made pursuant to the employee’s official duties.” At the time the Court did not rule on whether the ban included teachers. But today, an even more rightwing Court majority could rule that teachers, K-12 and college, as government employees in Florida, are subject to discipline including being fired if they exercise speech in their official capacities that violates Florida laws including its notorious “Don’t Say Gay” bill and banning any language that might make a student feel uncomfortable such as recognition that Florida was a slave state and attempted to cede from the United States during the Civil War. Since many teacher contracts have a public behavior clause, saying gay or discussing racism outside the classroom but in in public setting could be construed as a violation of professional responsibility and the Florida law.

Florida is not the only state trying to silence teacher and students. According to a June 2021 article in Education Week, in the previous six months bills were introduced in 42 states to restrict teaching about racism and sexism. Anti-CRT laws went into effect in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Iowa, Kentucky, Mississippi, Montana, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, and Virginia. The Alabama law forbids teachers from teaching “concepts that impute fault, blame, a tendency to oppress others, or the need to feel guilt or anguish to persons solely because of their race or sex.” A problem that the Alabama and Florida legislators may not have understood is that slavery in the Americas was race-based. Florida’s law adds that teaching that “people are privileged or oppressed due to their race or sex” effectively wipes out any discussion of Jim Crow segregation, limits on the rights of women, and Florida’s long history of voter suppression.

This is not the first time the fundamental rights of teachers have been under attack in the United States because of their beliefs or speech. In the 1930s and 1940s teachers were made to sign loyalty oaths and fired if they held unpopular political beliefs. In the 1940s, New York State prevented the City College of New York from hiring the noted philosopher and mathematician Bertrand Russell condemning Russell’s views on premarital sex as “immoral and salacious.” In 1941, the New York State Legislature established the Rapp-Coudert Committee to investigate teachers in the state’s educational system. Sixty faculty and staff members at City College were dismissed because they were unwilling to testify before the committee.

In New York City, 1,150 teachers were investigated and 378 teachers were either fired of forced to take early retirement in the 1950s because they were suspected of being current or past members of the Communist Party or had invoked the Fifth Amendment when subpoenaed to testify about their activities. During the Cold War Red Scare teachers were also investigated in other major U.S. cities. At a Congressional sub-committee hearing accusations were made that 1,500 of the country’s one million teachers were “card-carrying Communists.”

In 1954, the school committee in Wayland, Massachusetts removed a second-grade teacher accused of being “[unfit] to teach” because she had been a member of the Communist Party. It accused the teacher of lacking “perception, understanding, and judgment necessary in one who is to be entrusted with the responsibility for teaching the children of the Town.”

The witch-hunts not only impacted the teachers who were fired. Other teachers were frightened into silence and students were denied exposure to ideas that needed to consider, and could potentially reject, about the nature of American society. An earlier version of the Supreme Court recognized this and in Sweezy v. New Hampshire (1957), Keyishian v. Board of Regents (1967) and Pickering v. Board of Education (1968) the Supreme Court, led by Chief Justice Earl Warren, recognized the importance of freedom of speech for teachers. In his majority opinion for the Court in Sweezy, Warren argued, “The essentiality of freedom in the community of American universities . . . Scholarship cannot flourish in an atmosphere of suspicion and distrust. Teachers and students must always remain free to inquire, to study and to evaluate, to gain new maturity and understanding; otherwise, our civilization will stagnate and die.”

Unfortunately Florida Republicans and current Supreme Court seem committed to overturning these rulings and the right of teachers to teach.

Mercedes Schneider opened her blog to an important post by educator James Kirylo. Schneider notes that Kirylo spent many years as an education professor at Southeastern Louisiana University. He is the author of The Thoughtful Teacher: Making Connections with a Diverse Student Population. Kirylo currently resides in South Carolina, where he is watching the race for state superintendent of education with grave concern. The candidate of the Trumpian right, Ellen Weaver, seems likely to prevail and to turn the state’s schools into a laboratory for her extremist views, ignoring their desperate need for qualified teachers and adequate funding.

Kirylo writes:

Make no mistake, this [teacher] shortage is a symptom, a manifestation of a metastasized malignancy: the eroding of the profession itself through a political climate that disrespects educators.

Instead of attentively responding to the alarm bell and working toward building up the profession, policy makers all over the country have intensified the problem by questioning whether educators actually need a college degree; have relaxed state certification requirements; have long encouraged speedy, minimal training before one enters the classroom, exacerbating the attrition rate; have allowed for dictatorial, mayoral control of school systems; have appointed unqualified, unprepared, and unfitindividuals for U.S. Secretary of Education; have allowed the persistence of overcrowded classrooms and outdated facilitiesto persist, disproportionally affecting the poor; and have fostered the politicization of education in such a way that attacks teachers, ultimately threatening the future of public education.

I often wonder of those who have worked to decay the teaching profession if they would rationalize having an underqualified, and-not-yet an MD performing major surgery on one’s child, or employing a non-licensed, inexperienced attorney to take the lead in a grave legal proceeding, or requesting the services of a fast-track-schooled, unproven mechanic to work on the faulty brakes of an automobile.

Consider the upcoming November general elections in South Carolina when voters will elect a new state superintendent of education, one of few states in which this is an elected position. Ellen Weaver, who appears to be a leading candidate, holds no degree in education, has never been a teacher or school administrator, and does not possess an advanced degree that is required by law to be SC state superintendent. She is literally unqualified. Enter in historically controversial Bob Jones University where she hurriedly enrolled in April and just a few short months later, Ellen Weaver purportedly will have a master’s degree in hand by election time.

Weaver’s campaign coffers run deep with support from very wealthy philanthropists. She refers to herself as a “Rush Baby,” meaning as a child she listened to the late conservative radio host, Rush Limbaugh, who influentially indoctrinated his large audience by manipulating truth, spreading disinformation, and irresponsibly promoted conspiracies.

As part of her platform, however, if not ironically—with a fear-mongering tone—Weaver aims to make sure schools are not places of indoctrination, rejected mandated mask wearing during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, ardently supports the public funding for private education, and purports a desire to listen to the voices of educators.

While all politics is local, national implications always hover. Educators across our country have spoken loudly—for years. Time after time, whether it is in South Carolina or any other state, educators are tired– very tired– of the hubris that rationalizes, whitewashes, and make excuses for the non-qualified, non-credentialed, inexperienced, unproven, and unprepared to teach our youth, to lead our schools, and to lead entire systems.

It is that hubris that has led us to the teacher staffing crisis our nation faces today.

If South Carolina elects an unqualified, politicized state superintendent, who knows less about teaching than any teacher in the state, the children and teachers will pay the price. And the state will sink lower still in its capacity (or lack thereof) to educate the next generation.

Every major newspaper carried a story this morning about the sharp decline in NAEP scores because of the pandemic.

The moral of the story is that students need to have human contact with a teacher and classmates to learn best. Virtual learning is a fourth-rate substitute for a real teacher and interaction with peers.

Tech companies have told us for years that we should reinvent education by replacing teachers with computers. We now know: Virtual learning is a disaster.

The crisis we should worry about most is the loss of experienced teachers, who quit because of poor working conditions, low pay, and attacks by “reformers” who blame teachers at every opportunity.

The pandemic isolated children from their teachers. It caused them to be stuck in front of a computer. They were bored.

They needed human interaction. They needed to look into the eyes of a teacher who encouraged them to do better, a teacher who explained what they didn’t understand.

The NAEP scores are a wake-up call. We must treasure our teachers and recognize the vital role they play in educating the next generation.

Any politician who disrespects teachers by calling them “pedophiles” and “groomers” should be voted out of office.

Every “reformer” who disparages teachers should be required to teach for one month, under close supervision, of course.

For the first time in nearly half a century, teachers in Columbus, Ohio, have voted to go on strike.

The Columbus Education Association announced Sunday night that more than 94% of it members had voted to reject the Columbus City school board’s last final offer and go on strike for the first time since 1975….

The nearly 4,500-member union — which represents teachers, librarians, nurses, counselors, psychologists and other education professionals — met for more than three hours at the convention center to vote.

A spokesperson for the CEA said:

“…The school board has tried desperately to make this strike about teacher salary, teacher professional development, and teacher leaves,” she said. “Let me be clear. This strike is about our students who deserve a commitment to modern schools with heating and air conditioning, smaller class sizes, and a well-rounded curriculum that includes art, music and (physical education).”