Your best public policy lessons on any issue come from observing at the ground level. And since I’ve got no kids and haven’t seen the inside of a school since the early 1990s, I often steer clear of education debates. It’s complicated, emotional stuff, which I learned when a deeply progressive colleague and parent told me she thought rightwing education wonk Sol Stern made some important points. That said, Chris Bowers over at Open Left seems to have a solidly commonsense point about the White House’s show on merit pay for teachers.
The main problem with bad teachers not getting fired is connected to the teacher shortage, not due to tenure. If you want to solve that problem by recruiting and retaining new teachers, you need to make the prospect of becoming a teacher more attractive. Part of that means having widely admired political leaders such as President Obama not make public threats to increase teacher workloads, make the profession less collegial, and fire lots of teachers.
My mom’s a retired grade school teacher and I have several friends who teach or have taught. Maybe I’ve got a skewed, unscientific sample, but where are all these awful, lazy, good-for-nothing teachers I’m always hearing about? Most of the folks I meet who work in schools are frustrated, over-worked and doing their best to make something out of nothing—whether it be pennies for teaching supplies, scarcely few free moments to have meaningful interaction with kids, or counterproductive parents. Seems like they need help, not scapegoating. But that’s me. What y’all parents think?