Many factors have contributed to the downfall of America’s schools. One rarely discussed issue is the disproportionate praise heaped on the teaching industry, which has led teachers to believe the scope of their influence ought to extend beyond the teaching of facts and figures. As a society, we have praised teachers to the extent that even mild criticism of the profession is met with a chorus of boos. “My sister is a teacher!”
When discussing widespread problems in the profession, instead of presenting an actual argument, those who reflexively defend the industry will often mention having friends or relatives who are teachers, as if this anecdotal tidbit is a meaningful response.
“Teachers are heroes” is practically an infallible dictum. It is unclear why teachers, by default, deserve the disproportionate praise our society gives them. Even suggesting that they might deserve merely the same amount of respect we give most other professions (the horror!) will be perceived by many as “an attack on teachers.”
The prevailing wisdom suggests it is particularly noble to be a teacher. Is it especially noble to teach fourth-grade social studies? Is it more noble than delivering packages? Is one of these industries more replaceable than the other? Kids can and are being educated by parents at home — a practice growing in popularity as our public (and in some cases, private) schools deteriorate into cesspools of leftist orthodoxy. Short of actually working for UPS or the like, parents cannot replace a nationwide package delivery system, suggesting that one of these professions is at least partially replaceable by parents.
Many educators see themselves as quasi-parents who are responsible for crafting our children’s values and beliefs. When we regard teachers as heroes, we should not be surprised when they believe their duties include having discussions normally reserved for parents. Teaching long division is not heroic, but if our society convinces teachers otherwise, it is unlikely that educators will place appropriate limits on the breadth of their influence. Because we bear responsibility for creating this hero complex but also want teachers to stick to facts and figures, Republicans have asked for two mutually exclusive concepts.
The counterargument posits that teachers are heroes because they have saved countless troubled students by offering them an environment that they lack at home. The first part of this statement is true, but embedded within the second part is an implication that warrants further discussion. A student from a broken home with deadbeat parents will benefit from spending time with any functioning adult. Students would develop similar bonds if they spent seven hours a day with realtors, and troubled students would inevitably benefit from those relationships.
Put simply, children without parental role models will always benefit from spending time with adults who are more responsible and loving than absentee or abusive parents. Teachers happen to be the only professionals in a position to fill that role. This should not be confused with the claim that teachers are the only people capable of filling that role as if they possess a unique moral aptitude the rest of us lack.
At the very least, teachers ought to demonstrate they are good at their jobs before deserving disproportionate praise (or any praise). Is there anything more pernicious than a bad teacher? How about a public school system filled with bad teachers? We ought to examine empirical data and draw conclusions about the performance of the teaching industry over the last few decades. We might discover that the way we have lionized teachers bears no proportion to the amount of praise the industry deserves. If the teaching industry is not to blame for how our children have been educated, then what is?
Some will suggest that educators are hamstrung by lesson plans and are only doing what is required of them. In some cases, this might be true, but this disqualifies them from being heroes. To argue otherwise would be to assume the following: Teachers who knowingly infect the minds of America’s youth with poisonous ideas are heroes nonetheless and deserve the elevated status we give them.
For educators who are unhappy with the trajectory of our public school system, a good place to start would be educating. In other words, they should refuse to teach formation they know to be infused with toxic ideology. We cannot have it both ways — teachers cannot be heroes while lacking the courage to push back against the insidious Marxist curriculum.
If teaching facts and figures is courageous, then surely insurance brokers and UPS drivers are also heroes. In that case, employed society would consist almost exclusively of heroes as most professions have value. That is not to say that being a teacher is easy, as nearly all professions are challenging in their own way. Being a great teacher requires certain skills, just as being a great carpenter has its own requirements. Dealing with a classroom of screaming kids requires different tools than building cabinets, but being different does not mean being heroic.
A better approach would be to reserve the word “hero” for those who pull people from burning buildings or dodge bullets on the battlefield. Honesty is a critical component of fixing our public schools. We currently treat teachers like emotionally fragile beings unable to accept a truthful characterization of their profession. Taking this dishonest, condescending approach will benefit only those who see our public schools as yet another opportunity to infect America’s youth with harmful ideology.