Why Do People Hate Teachers Unions? Because They Hate Teachers.

Like Doug Henwood, I’ve spent the last few days trying to figure out why people—particularly liberals and pseudo-liberals in the chattering classes—hate teachers unions. One could of course take these people at their word—they care about the kids, they worry that strikes hurt the kids, and so on—but since we never hear a peep out of them about the fact that students have to swelter through 98-degree weather in jam-packed classes without air conditioning, I’m not so inclined.

Forgive me then if I essay an admittedly more impressionistic analysis drawn from my own experience.

Like many of these journalists, I hail from an upper middle class background. I grew up in Chappaqua, an affluent suburb of New York. My parents moved there in 1975 for the schools, which were—and I believe still are—terrific. From elementary school through senior year, I had some of the best teachers I’ve ever encountered.

Two of my social studies teachers—Allan Damon and Tom Corwin—had more of an impact on me than any professor I ever had in college or grad school. In their classes, I read Richard Hofstadter’s Anti-Intellectualism in American Life, E.H. Carr’s What Is History?, Michael Kammen’s People of Paradox, Hobbes, Locke, Richard Hakluyt, Albert Thayer Mahan, and more. When I got to college, I found that I was considerably better prepared than my classmates, many of whom had gone to elite private schools in Manhattan and elsewhere. It’s safe to say I would never have become an academic were it not for these two men.

We also had a terrific performing arts program. Phil Stewart, Chappaqua’s legendary acting teacher, trained Vanessa Williams, Roxanne Hart, Dar Williams, and more. We put on obscure musicals and  destabilizing plays like The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie. Ronald Dunn, our choral teacher, had us singing Leonard Bernstein’s Chichester Psalms, Vivaldi’s Gloria, and the works of Fauré. So inspiring were these teachers that many of us went onto organize our own plays, musicals, and a cappella groups, while we were still in high school.

Despite this, many kids and their parents held teachers in contempt. Teachers were not figures of respect or gratitude; they were incompetents and buffoons. Don’t get me wrong: like most people, I had some terrible teachers. Incompetents and worse. But like most people I’ve also had some terrible friends, some terrible co-workers, some terrible neighbors, some terrible doctors, some terrible editors, and some terrible professors. Mediocrity, I’d venture, is a more or less universal feature of the human condition. But among the upper classes it’s treated as the exclusive preserve of teachers.

It’s odd. Even if you’re the most toolish striver—i.e., many of the people I grew up with—teachers are your ticket to the Ivy League. And if you’re an intellectually ambitious academic type like me, they’re even more critical. Like I said, people move to Chappaqua for the schools, and if the graduation and post-graduate statistics are any indication—in my graduating class of 270, I’d guess about 50 of us went onto an Ivy League school—they’re getting their money’s worth. Yet many people I grew up with treated teachers as bumptious figures of ridicule—and not in your anarchist-critique-of-all-social-institutions kind of way.

It’s clear where the kids got it from: the parents. Every year there’d be a fight in the town over the school budget, and every year a vocal contingent would scream that the town was wasting money (and raising needless taxes) on its schools. Especially on the teachers (I never heard anyone criticize the sports teams). People hate paying taxes for any number of reasons—though financial hardship, in this case, was hardly one of them—but there was a special pique reserved for what the taxes were mostly going to: the teachers.

In my childhood world, grown ups basically saw teachers as failures and fuck-ups. “Those who can’t do, teach” goes the old saw. But where that traditionally bespoke a suspicion of fancy ideas that didn’t produce anything concrete, in my fancy suburb, it meant something else. Teachers had opted out of the capitalist game; they weren’t in this world for money. There could be only one reason for that: they were losers. They were dimwitted, unambitious, complacent, unimaginative, and risk-averse. They were middle class.

No one, we were sure, became a teacher because she loved history or literature and wanted to pass that on to the next generation. All of them simply had no other choice. How did we know that? Because they weren’t lawyers or doctors or “businessmen”—one of those words, even in the post-Madmen era, still spoken with veneration and awe. It was a circular argument, to be sure, but its circularity merely reflected the closed universe of assumption in which we operated.

Like my teachers, I have chosen a career in education and don’t make a lot of money. Unlike them, I’m a professor. I’m continuously astonished at the pass that gets me among the people I grew up with. Had I chosen to be a high-school teacher, I’d be just another loser. But tenured professors are different. Especially if we teach in elite schools (which I don’t.) We’re more talented, more refined, more ambitious—more like them. We’re capitalist tools, too.

So that’s where and how I grew up. And when I hear journalists and commentators, many of them fresh out of the Ivy League, talking to teachers as if they were servants trying to steal the family silver, that’s what I hear. It’s an ugly tone from ugly people.

Every so often I want to ask them, “Didn’t your parents teach you better manners?” Then I remember whom I’m dealing with.

Update (September 13, 12:45 am)

I’ve gotten a fair amount of flak from liberals, on Twitter and in the comments, who claim I’m being unfair to liberal critics of the teachers union—I’m not taking their arguments seriously, making assumptions about their elitism, etc.

I want you all to have a listen to one liberal critic—Andy Rotherham, who has a column at Time— on the Diane Rehm Show.  This is what he says (at 50:30):

Part of this strike, it’s pretty clear, is that the union needed to have some theater for its members, let them blow off some steam, and that’s increasingly obvious.

Remember, he’s talking about a union led by an African-American woman, in a school district where 40 percent of the kids are black. Look at ’em all, blowing off steam.

Yeah, I was really being unfair.

(Also on the show is the indispensable Diane Ravitch, who does a pretty excellent job — when Rehm lets her speak — of debunking the liberal shibboleths in this debate. If you’re wondering why I don’t engage the arguments more, it’s because Ravitch already has. Again and again and again and again.)


  1. Jeremy Nathan Marks September 12, 2012 at 12:25 pm | #

    I come from a similar background (Montgomery County, MD). I know what it is like to come from an affluent suburb filled with “toolish strivers” who hold people in public service in contempt, despite the fact that I grew up next door or in the midst of what you might call “government central.” I had a friend who once insulted my mother by saying he could not believe she knew proper grammar because “she was a nurse.”

    I think you’ve pegged it: unless you are in it for the money, you are a loser. It doesn’t matter if you are a teacher, a nurse, a nursing home attendant, janitor . . . we could go on and on. I am always struck by how these are some of the most essential jobs in our society and they are held in such contempt. Like you said, how do parents expect their children to get educated enough to go off into those elite institutions if they don’t have good teachers around? Of course, maybe a lot of this resentment of teachers comes from the fact that many of these middle class parents aren’t as wealthy as they’d like to be (wealthy enough to send their kids to private school) so they need a scape goat.

    I’m also not at all surprised that you get a pass for being a professor. I think it’s because you could go around calling yourself “doctor” if you wanted to. That usually intimidates people because many who have made money know that they have done so not through any great intelligence or ingenuity, but through luck or ordinary hard work (not through the stroke of brilliance our media tells us separates the super rich from the rest of us). So, they like to say how hard-working they are, like their parents allegedly were. The hard-working excuse doesn’t work on people with fancy titles like “doctor” because most people accept that to earn that credential you need to be in school for too many years. But if you have an ordindary job with little or no hope of fortune attached to it, you are subject to ridicule.

    • Dave Purcell (@davepurcell) September 12, 2012 at 1:03 pm | #

      Thanks for your thought-provoking post. Like you, I am a professor (of sociology at Kent State University, though I come from a working-class background. In my childhood world, teachers were idolized, both in public and private schools (I went to Catholic schools). The only teachers who were scorned were those who were known to be legendarily bad teachers or coaches who taught only because they were required to do so. It seems like that this is a question that varies greatly by class, race, and region.

      I don’t have time to search for evidence on this, though I did find this after a quick Google search: a Phi Kappa Delta/Gallup poll showing that 70% of respondents would give their teachers an “A” or “B.” Further, “Just over 70 percent of poll respondents say they have trust and confidence in public-school teachers, and about three quarters also say that they would encourage the brightest person they know to become a teacher and that they believe teachers should be given flexibility, rather than be required to follow a prescribed curriculum.”

      Again, I don’t have time to dig in to the sample and such, but I thought it was worth passing on. Cheers.


      • Donna Gratehouse (@DonnaDiva) September 12, 2012 at 10:43 pm | #

        Yeah, teachers are held in high esteem by the general public. I took Robin’s post to be directed at the affluent types of people who get lots of airtime to denigrate public school teachers and their unions. Unions in general have a poor image now due to decades of relentless anti-union propaganda. The “ed reformers” have tethered their anti-teacher crusade to that. They haven’t totally succeeded yet but they will.

    • Bud September 19, 2012 at 8:26 am | #

      People don’t just hate Teachers Unions, they hate unions in general, because they, like Affirmative Action, have outlived their usefulness.
      We would have gotten rid of unions long ago except their leaders have gotten so powerful they can’t be unthroned! And in case your wondering I am a Democrat, just not a stupid Democrat.

      • jonnybutter September 19, 2012 at 10:19 am | #

        Please tell me you aren’t a teacher.

      • Jeremy Nathan Marks September 19, 2012 at 10:36 am | #

        I am one of those folks who doesn’t believe that unions have outlived their usefulness because I don’t see how collective action could ever outlive its usefulness.

        Unions, at their best, are a counterweight to hierarchical structures of power. Since I see no signs of hierarchical power structures disappearing in business or government I fail to see how the need for protecting individuals will go away any time soon.

        I think our society has a somewhat strange attitude towards collective action. We are suspicious of it in protests, with suspect corruption with unions and we don’t like oligopoly. I am not sure most people like large businesses either, seeing as how small business continues to command the most respect in our entrepreneurial culture. But if we are going to attack unions, why aren’t we attacking large, bureacratized corporations too? I know the Occupy Movement is, but why hasn’t this become more a part of our popular political culture and dialogue?

        • debmeier September 19, 2012 at 2:14 pm | #

          Reminder. What data suggests that PEOPLE–in general – hate teachers or unions? Or is the conservative media’s read which even we’ve accepted?

      • Robert Dudek September 22, 2012 at 3:24 am | #

        “Unthroned” – good one there.

      • hb October 1, 2012 at 9:44 pm | #

        Can’t ‘unthrone’ unions? What? Unionization is at historical lows in the US. “Unthroning” has been ongoing since the end of WW2, starting with Taft Hartley, right up to today’s offshoring, outsourcing, & privatization.

        I don’t know what kind of people can continue believing the FOX news talking points about the “powerful unions” when less than 7% of the private workforce is unionized (& taking concessions everywhere) & just a little over 1/3 of public sector unions are, with the teachers’ unions being the biggest slice of that pie (& under attack/taking concessions everywhere).

        It takes a very special mind to continue believing in & pushing that party line in the face of all real-world evidence.

      • cm February 22, 2016 at 2:22 pm | #

        I used to believe that my teachers’ union had no value until I became more active in it. Teachers sign a one year contract that they cannot leave until the school year ends without risking their license and livelihood. They need protection and a collective voice during that year. This is not a job where you can walk out one day and show up at another employer the next. The union can insulate teachers from unreasonable and capricious bosses. The working conditions are generally clean and dry but the union exists to make sure they are also safe for both teachers and children. It is the myth of teacher unions that the union protects bad teachers and helps them keep their jobs when they deserve to lose them and that is the very infrequent occasion. All of the work that my union does is to make sure that teachers are recognized for the work that they do and to stop us from what I call the “nibble and bits”, adding just one more thing to our job, day or week, without compensation. The job that I sign up for also has a three year pay schedule and I can’t get additional raises for those nibbles. So my union makes sure that I don’t get overworked and burned out by the increasing expectations of the administration, district, state and voters.

      • big inky September 22, 2017 at 4:27 pm | #

        What is black propaganda for two thousand, Alex?

        Unions and affirmative action have been fighting against extreme odds and persisting if not winning. Billionaires and their minions never rest, because their lives are improved so dramatically by adding incrementally to their existing unspendably large fortunes. I tell you the reverse is true; we are not providing great enough challenges for the billionaires and need to tax them down to mere millionairage so they can show their moxie.

      • Dee Paul January 29, 2021 at 7:07 pm | #

        Totally agree!

    • LFC September 23, 2012 at 10:06 am | #

      Like J.N. Marks, I grew up in Mont.Cty. Md. (from the age of 8 on). My experience was that teachers were generally respected in the community. They were not looked down on as a group, at least not by the kids and parents I knew. This may be partly a matter of timing (I graduated from high school in the mid-70s, perhaps attitudes changed a bit after that), or a function of the particular people I knew.

      • Antje May 14, 2016 at 10:14 am | #

        I’m also from Montgomery County and I was taught to respect my teachers, but what made me in fact respect my teachers is that they were extremely good and caring. They deserved respect. It was obvious. They were also in many cases respected members of the neighborhood community, if not the best paid.

    • Rick The Explorer October 8, 2012 at 3:17 pm | #

      Why do people hate teachers’ unions? Because Teachers will ‘fail’ the kid with the highest aptitude test scores, to make it look like their course is challenging to the administration, at the same time, they will give ‘A’s” to the dumb children, so it looks like their course helps the children, all for more $$$. That is Teaching 101.Thats why dumb people are in control of America now, and why our smartest kids fail in school. The teaching proffesion should be abolished altogether. Get celebrities to make videos on Math and Physics, make all education be online. All teachers go into the proffesion, for the same reason a bully in highschool becomes a cop – to have control over who they want to control.

      • Susan Logan November 25, 2012 at 8:50 am | #

        You don’t earn a high grade because of your aptitude. You earn it because you show up and do the work. And the turtle often does pass the hare when the hare is complacent about that quick mind and goes to sleep.

      • Rick The Explorer December 28, 2012 at 11:14 pm | #

        Susan, you completely forgot what teachers are taught to make more money: fail the smart kids, uplift the dumb kids. Are you seriously trying to say that smart kids don’t show up and do the work? You know the truth. Smart kids do work too. What an idiot, what a corrupt retort.

        • Myles Hoenig February 19, 2016 at 3:38 pm | #

          Rick, I’m a teacher.
          You’re an idiot.

        • Someboby Somewhere February 20, 2016 at 2:52 pm | #

          I was a smart kid who got bad grades, and yes, it’s largely because I didn’t do the work.

      • cestgigi January 9, 2013 at 11:52 pm | #

        Wow… I thought I just wanted to teach because I have a natural bent for it-

      • Bronxteacher February 1, 2013 at 10:46 pm | #

        Wait, how do teachers make more money by failing students? Not in any school I know of. In fact, where I work, we’re supposed to pass everyone. In my last meeting with my principal he asked me why I failed so many students in one class (22% failed) and I responded that they failed because they didn’t come to class and he told me to “never blame the students”! I am supposed to pass students who don’t even show up? I give ‘A’s’ to the smart children who do their work, ‘B’s’ and ‘C’s’ to the dumb children who do their work and the smart ones who don’t, ‘D’s’ to the ones who show up and have a pulse, and ‘F’s’ to the ones who don’t show up. This is pretty standard in NYC under the current regime. It’s all about numbers.

      • Rick the Idiotic March 9, 2013 at 11:51 am | #

        Rick, I have no idea where you think you are getting your “facts” from but your claims are ludicrous. I have never even heard claims of teachers making more money to fail the smart kids. Please cite where your claims are from so all of us can understand where you misunderstood the real facts. Thanks.

      • Rosemarie Wolfel Brody Schaut August 4, 2013 at 10:31 am | #

        I am a teacher because I had a teacher in high school who made me love literature so much that I wanted to move students to have the same passion I did for that subject. I place my students in control whenever possible in my classroom and as a result, they produce excellent work. I was never bullied in school. I actually enjoyed high school and do my best to make school an enjoyable experience for my students every single day. You should be careful with words like “all”. I do not know how old you are but you should probably also grow up and lose the chip. Not everyone shares your experiences or your extreme views.

    • William Boothe October 24, 2012 at 2:09 am | #

      Sure teachers unions take care of students. When they grow up and join the teachers unions.

      • Rick the Idiotic March 9, 2013 at 11:51 am | #

        You obviously do not know any teachers.

        • John Tipre March 12, 2013 at 6:22 pm | #

          What is it, 11.8% of the workforce are union members (2012). In 1950s 35% were protected. It was an era when the modern American middle class was shaped, the same middle class that reactionaries and neo-liberals are plundering. Truly, the US dominated world trade in those days, and the economy needed labor including plenty of teachers; yet today, other nations–civilized nations–who share the world GDP pie, treat their working classes, including teachers, with respect not benighted derision. In the end the culture decides.


    • George Greene August 7, 2013 at 3:22 pm | #

      Montgomery county is NOT similar to Chappaqua. It may be upper-middle class but it is NOT AS upper- as Chappaqua. Almost NO kind of public school is similar to Chappaqua, and for that reason, Corey Robin was NOT QUALIFIED to comment AT ALL. Chappaqua is such a TOTAL OUTLIER among American public schools in general that it simply cannot be cited AT ALL IN ANY argument, EXCEPT as an example of WHAT’S WRONG. In case you hadn’t noticed, the 14th amendment requires EVERY state to provide TO ALL persons under its jurisdiction (INCLUDING SCHOOLCHILDREN) *THE*EQUAL*protection of the laws! THE ONLY thing Corey Robin SHOULD have been saying about Chappaqua is how much WHITE GUILT he incurred by going to public schools there WHILE OTHER New York schoolchildren had to go to public school in the SOUTH BRONX or in ANY poor district of color, in New York.

      It’s worse in Pennsylvania — there, the state Supreme Court is so conservative that it hasn’t even deemed the question justiciable at all.
      Those idiots make Clarence Thomas look smart.

  2. zenner41 September 12, 2012 at 1:10 pm | #

    In addition to your points, which are quite valid, I don’t think we can neglect sheer anti-union ideology, which has always dogged the teachers’ unions, especially. The complaints of course, are usually that they make it impossible (allegedly) to get rid of lousy teachers, which are said to be a large proportion of all teachers (probably because of the view that teachers in general are “losers,” as you say), and the work rules they win supposedly contort and constrain the teaching process in such a way that “real teaching” (i.e., what the anti-union people think is “real teaching”) is impossible.

    Also, there is a very strong push for “charter” (i.e., private enterprise) schools now. Apparently, once the teachers are hired by a private corporation, they will now become regular employees, working stiffs like everybody else, and therefore no longer “losers.” (Well, only to the extent that all salaried workers are “losers,” of course.) It seems to be the move from government employee to corporate employee that has the magic effect.

  3. Rob Hunter September 12, 2012 at 1:23 pm | #

    My public school experience was rather similar to Corey’s in that upper- and upper-middle-class students and their families routinely looked down upon teachers as failures. That was particularly the case at my high school, where some students would mimic their parents’ tax-revolt angst by complaining about teacher salaries siphoning off “their” (sic) money. Of course, things were different at the other high school in my hometown, which was closer to the (unionized) GM plant — the same one that Paul Ryan shed crocodile tears over when it was closed in 2008.

    I think that Jeremy Nathan Marks, above, nailed it on why professors are treated differently — there’s a popular perception that higher education is difficult but that “anybody” could somehow become a public school teacher. Of course, in reality the latter is a *very* demanding job, and there are plenty of college faculty who would flame out spectacularly on their first day as a high school teacher.

    • Matthew Brown September 13, 2012 at 3:13 pm | #

      I think professors get a pass partly because people must spend such large amounts of money for college tuition. That, and professors might be seen as trading money for status, something elites understand. Giving up status AND money for altruistic reasons, a love of one’s discipline, a genuine interest and concern for the young — all of these make little sense to people interested primarily in wealth and status as markers of success. Since the costs of public schooling are borne by the public at large, the work done in public schools is therefore devalued (social loafing at work, I suspect). It takes a rare combination of chutzpah and humility to teach in a public high school.

      I agree that high school teaching is difficult — I teach high school history, law and psychology. My sister is a professor, however, at an elite school, and I think she’d be a good high school teacher. I don’t think she’d love it as I do, though. If you’re a generalist in the humanities who is not terribly fond of researching narrow topics and you like working with young people, high school teaching is far more satisfying if you find the right school.

      I’d add one more thing: Teacher stereotypes in our culture make us into either heroes (Stand and Deliver), cardboard comic figures, or complete losers AT DOING OUR JOBS — a type of teacher everyone relates to as mentioned in the OP. Teachers are so rarely depicted as characters of any real depth in film and fiction that we often forget that the greatest heroes of any age have often been teachers foremost.

      • Corey Robin September 13, 2012 at 3:16 pm | #

        Well said, all around!

      • Jet (@jethomme) September 13, 2012 at 5:53 pm | #

        Thank you for saying so well what no pols either understand or care to understand. For a while, I thought I was reading my biography.

      • cestgigi January 10, 2013 at 12:01 am | #

        I don’t know who is giving professors a pass, but I am not one of them. Education doesn’t confer either class (no pun intended) or intelligence, but it can make someone insufferably arrogant, which is no doubt redundant. I wrote a three-thousand word post on the arrogance and ‘nuttiness’ of one professor who waylaid me on the way to the voting booth in an uncivil discourse we engaged in on Facebook. I subsequently discovered she had signed a petition in support of the founder of the Weather Underground. Nice-

  4. Arthur S Reber September 12, 2012 at 1:32 pm | #

    A good bit of this effect can, I suspect, be traced to the gradual shift of the profession to one that was regarded as “women’s work.” It started with women taking over the early grades and, as they slowly became more common in middle- and high-schools, it progressed (or better, regressed). Pay scales fell behind other professions, respect in the community dropped and the notion of a career worthy of pursuit became linked with spinsterhood.

    • Donna Gratehouse (@DonnaDiva) September 12, 2012 at 10:48 pm | #

      Also, because teaching is now a female dominated profession done on behalf of children, it is regarded as care-taking work that women are just supposed to do. It was hilarious listening to Chicago parents griping on NPR about how inconvenient it was to arrange for child care because of the strike. It was clear this is what they think a teacher’s major function is.

      • Corey Robin September 12, 2012 at 10:50 pm | #

        That’s a really interesting point, Donna, re childcare: never actually thought of that, but it seems very right to me.

      • Donald Pruden, Jr. a/k/a The Enemy Combatant September 13, 2012 at 12:26 pm | #

        I wish I had the presence of mind to point out that fact. Thanks, Ms. Gratehouse. This teacher-bashing does sound a lot like the contempt one typically from affluent types aimed at their domestic “help”.

      • donnadiva September 13, 2012 at 3:49 pm | #

        Thanks, Corey. I’ve heard more than one conservative politician here in AZ deride all-day kindergarten (which is proven to improve outcomes, especially for lower income kids) as “babysitting”. They think mothers use it to get out of caring for their kids for a longer part of the day. They refused to fund all day K statewide so now we have a situation where wealthier districts have it and many poor ones don’t.

        And AZ is a right to work state so the union isn’t very powerful here. We are at the bottom of the nation in school funding and our teacher attrition rate is atrocious. I wish people who think teacher’s unions are bad would explain why the schools suck so much in the non-union states.

      • femanon October 22, 2012 at 5:21 pm | #

        re childcare: never actually thought of that, but it seems very right to me.

        It might have occurred to you if you’d bothered to pay attention to gender issues. I suppose that’s asking too much of the typical white male anarchist, however.

  5. Aliothemage September 12, 2012 at 1:33 pm | #

    Most teachers are politically left-wing or far-leftists and they do not care about hiding it.
    They should spent more time teaching and less time pushing their socialist agenda

    • Hampus September 12, 2012 at 1:52 pm | #

      Right, where do you get this “fact” from? Also, even if it was true; no, they shouldn’t.

    • Sprohnn September 12, 2012 at 5:38 pm | #

      Gotta say, bro, that I _wish_ I had had some teachers who pushed a socialist ideology while I was in school. It would’ve helped me a lot, as I instead had to come upon it all by myself. What a fool you are.

    • Chris Bonner September 12, 2012 at 6:28 pm | #

      Why don’t you spend less time posting and more time huffing glue? Time better spent, in my far-left opinion.

    • Sancho September 12, 2012 at 7:16 pm | #

      I think it’s fair to say that a majority of teachers and academics are left-leaning (but not the hidden army of communists so frequently implied), but to to criticise that is to ignore the bigger question: why do so few conservatives become teachers?

      • Shannon September 14, 2012 at 8:23 pm | #

        I consider myself a conservative and I am a teacher, an Art Teacher to boot! Before you generalize a group of people maybe you should get to know individuals. Both sides are judgmental and categorize people with out knowing the facts.

      • Dan September 16, 2012 at 2:38 pm | #

        Shannon, I suggest re-reading the first sentence of the post to which you replied: “I think it’s fair to say that a *majority* of teachers and academics are left-leaning” (emphasis added). In other words, *most*—and by the same token, *not all*–teachers are left-leaning.

        Like any generalization, the statement implicitly acknowledges that it doesn’t apply to all members of the group in question. Not only does it not deny exceptions; it admits them.

      • Shannon September 16, 2012 at 7:32 pm | #

        Dan, I agree and I am aware that it was quoted as a “majority” meaning some not all. My opinion is not why does it have to be a conservative verse liberal issue.I know plenty of good conservative teachers, like wise liberal teachers. Political views are a personal opinion not to be used in the classroom, classrooms are for facts not to influence the students to lean one way or the other.

        The bigger question…
        Why do so few people want to become teacher?

        My answer is that it is a thankless job. You have to love it. You have to have a thick skin and know why you do it everyday, because some days are hard, but the great ones out weight the bad. I don’t think you have to be conservative or liberal to know that. Teachers also don’t make the money that other professionals do, but lets be realistic teachers have bills, they have families and whether you are conservative or liberal getting into teaching is not for the big money. Maybe the liberal mind set is that the personal satisfaction is enough and out weights monetary, while the conservative is that I can make more with the same personal satisfaction. I don’t think making decent money to support themselves is a exclusively conservative value any more than liberal. Liberals have bills to pay, they want decent pay. So why do so many liberals become teachers?

    • jmano September 12, 2012 at 10:05 pm | #

      Interestingly enough, the most conservative —in some cases right wing—teachers in the school where I teach are the social studies teachers. I refer to the department as the AEI, Southwest Branch. Sorry to break your bubble with facts, Aliothemage.

    • Elly September 13, 2012 at 12:19 pm | #

      You’ve got to be kidding me. When my (now college-aged) kids were in school, their teachers were circumspect to the point of leaving huuuuge gaps in their educations. They were allergic to controversy. Time and time again, I was the one who had to fill in the blanks – to the point where my kids would come home from school, tell me something they’d learned in Social Studies or History and then ask me point blank: “Is it true?”

      My kids understood it too. Here’s what my daughter wrote, after her first few weeks at the local community college (http://tellyroftales.com/?p=1390):

      “So far I’m liking all of my professors. Something I noticed on my very first day was that my professors were very unabashed about making their opinions known. I was pretty much aware of the political affiliations, backgrounds, and various opinions of all my professors the first time I entered the classroom, all of them were very forthcoming about who they were and where they were coming from.

      This may seem like a weird thing to note since it seems obvious when you think about it, but it’s a very new thing for me coming fresh out of public school where displaying a controversial opinion carried the threat of being mobbed by angry parents. Colleges are free from the intrusive, hand-wringing nanny of the State, so the profs aren’t punished for thinking what they think and letting people know it. Public schools have to pull the thankless double duty of being teaching institution and surrogate parent, while in college it’s assumed that you are all grown-up enough to handle someone having a different worldview from the one you currently possess (not always true for students and professors, but it’s a decently safe assumption.).”

      My kids’ experiences in school highlighted the bitter truth ID’d by people like James Loewen. There was no “socialist agenda” in my kids’ classrooms – if anything, the opposite was true.

      • Sancho September 13, 2012 at 7:31 pm | #

        The Pollyanna answer is that if facts are taught and assessed, the political leanings of teachers are irrelevant.

        The reality is that a large segment of the population in developed countries operates according to an alternative set of ersatz facts developed largely by religions and industry lobbies.

        It’s often not teachers that are being defended, but the values of the Enlightenment.

    • Sandra Anselm September 13, 2012 at 11:11 pm | #

      WHAT?!? Perhaps you could share how you know what the political views are for most teachers. Let me assure you that if teachers weren’t spending 12 hours a day educating your children, they would have more time to dispute the claims of people like you.

    • cestgigi January 10, 2013 at 12:05 am | #

      Wow, again- In the time I’ve been teaching, I’ve heard more right-wing conservative teachers ‘pushing’ their views, than the other way around. Haven’t done a study of it, though-

  6. Geoff Mattson September 12, 2012 at 1:56 pm | #


    Amazing post.

    Sent from my iPhone

  7. kumagau September 12, 2012 at 2:15 pm | #

    Reblogged this on textamajig and commented:
    “In my childhood world, grown ups basically saw teachers as failures and fuck-ups. “Those who can’t do, teach” goes the old saw. But where that traditionally bespoke a suspicion of fancy ideas that didn’t produce anything concrete, in my fancy suburb, it meant something else. Teachers had opted out of the capitalist game; they weren’t in this world for money. There could be only one reason for that: they were losers. They were dimwitted, unambitious, complacent, unimaginative, and risk-averse. They were middle class.

    No one, we were sure, became a teacher because she loved history or literature and wanted to pass that on to the next generation. All of them simply had no other choice. How did we know that? Because they weren’t lawyers or doctors or “businessmen”—one of those words, even in the post-Madmen era, still spoken with veneration and awe. It was a circular argument, to be sure, but its circularity merely reflected the closed universe of assumption in which we operated.”

    Spot. On.

    • Susan Logan November 25, 2012 at 8:54 am | #

      In my childhood world, teaching was a respected profession. I didn’t want to become a teacher because I wasn’t sure I was willing to give up my entire life- including most of my leisure time- to be of service. I eventually realized I am happiest when I am helping others and teaching became the best fit.

  8. Alain September 12, 2012 at 2:16 pm | #

    I went to school in a working class neighborhood in Queens New York. So my take is a little different. Corey’s take on why the upper middle class and wealthy look down on teachers makes sense. But I think what has changed is alot of blue colar middle class folks have also turned on them. I thnk the failure in Wisconsin showed that the majority of the “middle class” (if such a term still means anything) resent the benefits and wages received by municipal employees. And they resent this for two reasons: (1) the vast majority of us (me included) do not have pensions and quite often don’t make a livable wage. (2) So many people conclude why should I pay for someone else to have a better life than I do? I work with several people who think of government workers as parasites largely responsible for our fiscal problems. And these are people of modest means. Jealousy and resentment are powerful political emotions.

    • Kath September 13, 2012 at 3:11 pm | #

      I think you make a very good point, unfortunately demonstrating that teachers are getting ‘hit’ from all sides.

      • debmeier September 13, 2012 at 5:22 pm | #

        Still, the pols do’t show it–I we, teachers, super-sensitive?

    • Sunil Sharma September 13, 2012 at 9:46 pm | #

      This has been my take on it as well. There was a long essay in some mainstream publication (NYT, or Bloomberg, I can’t remember) a few months ago about education that was critical of the talking points pushed by the so-called “reformers”. The article had garnered a few hundred comments, which I was masochistic enough to read through.

      It was quite clear that much of the animosity from the anti-teacher crowd came from a standpoint of envy and resentment. The particulars that got them foaming at the mouth were the paid “summer vacations” and the “short work days” of “overpaid” teachers. Regardless of the facts (summer time off isn’t part of teachers’ salaries; most teachers spend a lot of unpaid time at home after-hours and weekends prepping for classes and IEPs, etc), it was the perception that teachers had it so cushy, and that they are fighting — through their unions — to keep or expand all their benefits and privileges that really gets the haters in a tizzy. The complaints basically boiled down to, “I don’t have months of paid vacation and a seven-hour workday, why should they, and who the fuck are they for complaining?” In other words, if I have to suffer the degradations and miseries of work, why shouldn’t teachers? What makes them so special?

      Rather than asking themselves, what am I doing to improve my lot in the work world — whether through joining a union, speaking up to the boss, or burning down the fucking enterprise — the anti-teachers want the “pampered” teachers to take it in the ass just like they do. Sometimes the expressed sentiments are subtle, but most of the time they’re not. And it really speaks to the decline of any sense of democratic-mindedness. Truly ugly stuff.

    • Rebecca September 13, 2012 at 11:32 pm | #

      I think you’re right on the jealousy and resentment front. The question is, why is the response to tear down those who have these benefits and work for them honestly, rather than be encouraged that there are still groups that are willing to take personal risks to preserve them?

    • Steven Ashby September 15, 2012 at 8:09 pm | #

      Two-thirds of parents with children in Chicago Public Schools support the teachers union on the fifth day of the strike, according to a poll this week. The union has done an excellent job to get its message out. You all shouldn’t generalize this “everyone hates teachers” stuff — there’s the ideologically driven attack on teachers’ unions, led by Democrats and Republicans alike, and then there’s the people.

    • Betsy September 16, 2012 at 1:21 am | #

      Please remind people who complain about teacher pensions that retired teachers DON’T receive Social Security!

      • C Stack September 17, 2012 at 2:09 pm | #

        I will trade MY Social Security for an average teacher pension any day of the week … and twice on Sunday.

    • Richard Haven January 2, 2013 at 7:42 pm | #

      The benefits that municipal workers get are the negotiated agreement with citizens’ representatives. One way for those representatives to get quality workers and keep taxes down (in the short term) is to defer a lot of benefit until the workers’ retirement. So the workers have made a choice to forgo immediate wages for a nice retirement.

      The citizens, having ignored reality for decades and let their representatives make such agreements as long as the A) did not raise taxed, and B) provided good services, now froth in rage at the “unfair” benefits in those agreements.

      You don’t want a nanny state? You want the right to make bad choices? Okay, kiddo: here you go. Take responsibility for your past apathy and childish priorities and pay up.

      You want to eviscerate teachers’ benefits now? Okay, you will get poor educational services. While that won’t saddle future generations with monetary debt, it will saddle them with educational debt that is far worse.

      • Valerie Ursini February 14, 2013 at 3:34 am | #

        “Okay, you will get poor educational services.” According to the Chicago Public Schools web site, “Only 7.9% of all 11th graders in 2011 tested college ready, while the graduation rate stands at 57%” The results are poor already. To be fair, let’s examine the performance of public school administrators!

    • cestgigi January 10, 2013 at 12:08 am | #

      This makes a lot of sense, but we don’t seem to show the same contempt for politicians. Why don’t we feel the same resentment toward those businesses who get our money year after year? Dentists, doctors, car dealers, etc?

  9. Aaron Lercher September 12, 2012 at 2:25 pm | #

    Why the anti-teacher hatred now?

    A theory: It is because of the growing class divide in the US, which causes parents to have increasing anxiety that their children will not be able to get good jobs.

    I think that there is increasing anxiety about all aspects of child rearing and education, and anti-teacher sentiment is just part of it. But I do not know how to confirm whether there really is this wide-spread increase in child-rearing anxiety, although I think there is.

    Praise for wonder-working teachers may oddly reinforce this anxiety, if this is correct. “Why isn’t my child’s teacher a miracle-worker like that?” some parents may ask, and think, “If other children benefit from this miracle-working teacher, my child is falling behind.”

    (We might say that there’d be less focus on miracle workers if people had clearer expectations about what school can or should be.)

    Then Republicans have practical goals of breaking the teachers unions and public funding for private and charter schools. At least the Republicans know what they are trying to accomplish.

    Then your point about contempt for teachers is important.

    There is such variety in the forms and targets for resentment and contempt! Resentment is such a fruitful resource for many purposes!

  10. jonnybutter September 12, 2012 at 2:30 pm | #

    Jealousy and resentment are powerful political emotions.

    They seem to be dominating political emotions!

  11. csaid81 September 12, 2012 at 2:46 pm | #

    Corey: I found this post to be really unfair and ad hominem. I must be one of the “pseudo-liberals” you speak of, if by “pseudo-liberal” you mean someone who is concerned about income inequality and fairness, but who worries about how unions may sometimes hurt the common good. I am ambivalent about teachers unions because I think that standardized tests, for all their flaws, make an important contribution to how we evaluation education. And because I think that $74,000/year, in light of limited resources, is actually quite a lot of money. (For reference, it is double what I make, and more than I expect to make n the next 10 years.) These are the real, honest-to-goodness reasons why I am ambivalent about the unions, and if you want to disagree on the merits, that’s totally fine and encouraged. Just don’t attribute false motives like you did in this post. To an outsider they sound like they come from someone who hasn’t made good faith attempts to engage with the other side.

    • unlikely September 12, 2012 at 3:32 pm | #

      Is this a correct use of “ad hominem”?

    • Corey Robin September 12, 2012 at 3:44 pm | #

      Chris, have you read this report by the teacher’s union, which lays out their positions in this conflict? I don’t know how any fair-minded observer who claims to be liberal could argue that their positions are not on the whole in line with the common good, as liberals understand that term. Also, pay is not the issue in this conflict. As both sides have publicly stated, they’re very close on compensation questions. So no point in anyone arguing over that. The fact that so few liberal commentators have actually engaged with the union’s positions — preferring instead to argue that the union hurts the taxpayers and the kids (if that were so, you’d think the Chicago voters, who comprise the tax base and the parents, would be less supportive of the strike, yet a plurality are in favor it) or to engage in phantom debates about teacher compensation, which is again not the issue in this strike — is why I see no reason to engage with theirs. From you bio, I gather you’re some kind of neuroscientist. I wouldn’t dream of taking a position on what constitutes good neuroscience in any circumstance, but if I had to take such a position, the first thing I’d do is ask you. How many of these commentators has ever asked a teacher what makes for good teaching? What they need to be good teachers? Hence, my skepticism about them.

      • csaid81 September 12, 2012 at 5:06 pm | #

        Thank you for the link.

        (1) Looks like you’re right on one point: compensation is now a minor issue in the dispute.

        (2) You’re also right that teachers have valuable insight into good teaching practices. We should take their input seriously. That being said, we have seen in a variety of fields how supposed experts don’t actually know as much as they think they do, and that quantitive analysis by outsiders does better. Crusty old baseball scouts thought they they knew how to spot the best players. Wrong, turns out algorithms do better. Crusty old political talking heads thought they their experience made them great a predicting elections. Wrong, turns out that algorithms do better. And in the case of teaching class size, a major focus of the CTU report, a review of the empirical literature shows that there is little to no advantage for smaller class size, and whatever benefit there might be is not worth the cost (http://bit.ly/QLw5cF). All of this being said, I am totally aware of the many problems caused by quantitative measures, and that’s why it should only be part of evaluation process. CPS is weighting quantitative measures at about 45%, which seems reasonable to me.

        (3) Crumbling facilities are bad, and more money should go towards fixing them. At the same time, my own experience with maintenance work makes me strongly suspect that many of these problems stem from shoddy workmanship, which is itself caused by other labor unions. Why do a thorough job fixing the roof leak when you can’t get fired?

      • Mitchell Freedman September 12, 2012 at 5:20 pm | #

        Chris, I find it interesting that when builders are building commercial buildings, they use union labor. And there are very few construction defect lawsuits. The buildings are mostly very well built. Contrast that to private homes, where it’s pretty much slap dash, and of course non-union. The old homes built with union labor, though, those still last. Your example, then, about roofers strikes me as not proven and built on an assumption that is actually mistaken.

      • MF September 12, 2012 at 5:48 pm | #

        “Why do a thorough job fixing the roof leak when you can’t get fired?”

        Perhaps such a sentiment influences the “real, honest-to-goodness reasons why I am ambivalent about the unions.”

        You Malcolm Gladwell types might want to practice harder at keeping the data-driven, beings of pure rationality facade up.

      • Quill September 13, 2012 at 12:08 am | #

        As a new CPS teacher at a K-8 school last year, I was shocked by the amount of testing we were required to do. I was hired midway through the year, and we had 3 different tests (Scantron, ISATs, something else) to give in the spring semester. This, of course, is on top of DIBELS (a reading test done several times a year one-on-one with each student individually) and any tests that teachers gave as part of their curriculum. I don’t know what tests they did in the fall. Did we actually make use of most of that data? I doubt it; if we did, I wasn’t made aware of it and couldn’t use it to help my students. Frequently, by the time the results make it to the schools, it’s summer. The students are gone. When we do see the results, they’re often supplied in ways that are not useful in helping individual students.

        And the reality is that most experienced teachers I worked with seemed to easily predict how each student would do on different sections of the standardized tests, because they see the students’ work every day. They know that Juan can’t read at grade level, and that Marissa doesn’t understand fractions. They’d be teaching them and giving them extra help, if they weren’t being forced to do so much testing, on top of dealing with Stephen’s reaction to his parents’ divorce, Kayla’s hyperactivity, and Niko’s homelessness, etc. With up to 45 students in each class, a new common core standards (which are great, IMO) to adopt, and, in many CPS schools, a desperate lack of basic resources – like toilet paper and soap! – it shouldn’t be surprising that teachers are sick of wasting time dealing with administering standardized tests that simply tell them, over and over again, that their students are struggling.

        CPS teachers know that many of their students are struggling. We work with them every day! Some of them see us for more hours a day than they spend with their parents. We desperately want to help our kids. But there are, according to several teachers I talked to on the picket line this week, ~ 300 counselors for the entire district. That simply isn’t enough to deal with the difficult emotional problems of almost half a million students. There are no art classes, music classes, language classes, or even gym classes for many of our schools. A scary number of schools don’t have a school library, or a computer lab with a trained technology teacher. None of that should be optional. Art and music may seem like extras, but they aren’t. They’re opportunities for self-expression, chances for non-academic kids to excel, and areas where these kids may find a marketable skill. Computer skills aren’t optional for any American, yet the kids who are least likely to have a computer at home are also the least likely to have regular access to one at school. Libraries aren’t just storehouses for books; they’re staffed by a librarian, who’s specialty is to train students to do the research they’re expected to be able to do as a high school or college student. If they don’t get that training, they struggle to even contemplate doing the work they’re expected to do.

        These kids deserve schools that aren’t leaking, bathrooms that are clean and stocked with supplies, and the resources and classes necessary to prepare them for a difficult, complicated, competitive world. Unfortunately, they probably won’t get that. Instead, they’ll be stuck in school in June because of the strike dragging on, melting in 95 degree classrooms, with teachers who will probably leave for jobs in the suburbs where they may not get respect, but might be able to wash their hands. I won’t probably notice a big difference between a 3% raise and a 5% raise in my paycheck, but I’ll notice if my school is able to hire a counselor to help our unhappiest students, or pay for new books for the library, or bring back the custodian whose job was cut so that the bathrooms will be kept clean. And, please, could we cut our class sizes down to something small enough that I could contemplate sitting with a few students and bringing them up to speed on fractions?

    • whatssnext September 12, 2012 at 10:50 pm | #

      The $74k number was debunked, it is closer to $58K, it is a common tactic of the right, to throw out a number and then when it is quietly corrected, no one knows and continues on raging about the first false number. For example here in Arizona, Senator Kyl stated that 97% of Planned Parenthoods funding paid for abortions, he said this with a straight face, knowing it was a lie. Later, when challenged, he admitted that the 97% was the figure used for womens health like pap smears, etc., but the damage was done. When you talk about test scores, how about evaluating level of improvement from beginning of school year to end. Tthat would be a truer measure of the success of a teacher. Teachers get dealt whatever group of kids they get, if they can bring UP their performance, they are doing their job.

    • Mark W. Schumann September 14, 2012 at 11:44 am | #

      How is your $37K salary relevant here? I think Alain’s right, this is about jealousy and resentment, not policy.

      • csaid81 September 14, 2012 at 4:45 pm | #

        Mark: The only reason I included it was to insulate myself from arguments like those in the title of this post: https://coreyrobin.com/2012/09/10/terry-moran-how-much-fucking-money-do-you-make-a-year/

      • csaid81 September 14, 2012 at 4:47 pm | #

        To follow up, Mark: Apparently, rich people aren’t allowed to criticize teacher’s unions (because they are rich), and neither can lower income people (because they must be jealous).

      • Valerie Ursini February 14, 2013 at 3:25 am | #

        No, this is about what is financially feasible. In other words, reality.

  12. normanbirnbaum September 12, 2012 at 2:59 pm | #

    Dear Corey The picture seems culturally and historically variable. When I taught in Europe (LSE, Oxford, Strasbourg and visits to German universities) there seemed to be a certain amount of respect for the teachers, regardless of the political views and career perspectives of the students or their own social origins. (Undergraduates.) At Williams when I entered in 1942, it was prewar still, country club Republican students, New Deal faculty, but a certain amount of strylized respect was obvious and that was even larger in Williams’ postwar surge, with the erstwhile prep school boys who had fought the German Army or Japanese Kamakaze planes greatly matured. I found the same thing as a teaching fellow at Harvard. My one encounter with polite disdain was in the mid and late seventies at Amherst, with many students heading for business and law making it clear that their tolerance for their teachers’ scholarly concerns was instrumental…..Georgetown Law another story, of course. Regards NB

  13. Hampus September 12, 2012 at 3:30 pm | #

    I think you’re right Corey, and as a lot of other people have pointed out in the comments, learning is not considered worthwhile in itself anymore (sorry to revert to “the good ol’ days” thinking, I was born in the 90’s, so what do I know?), but merely a ticket to the upper echelons. This is especially true of the U.S. But even in my home-country, Sweden, which has a great Social Democratic tradition (although getting more neoliberal…), people shit on teachers more and more. Not to impugn certain kids as “bad apples” or anything, but I had several friends who were such troublemakers, and their parents NEVER reprimanded the kids, but maintained that the teachers are incompetent when the kids would get kicked out of five different schools. Most of the time, these bourgeois parents would fix conflicts by buying their kids a new cellphone, not realizing that perhaps this behavior made their children indulgent and spoiled. As I say, I hate reverting to the cliché of “things were better before”, but this is certainly a trend that seems to be growing – blaming one of the lowest paid, but most important, people in society.

    • Arker September 15, 2012 at 4:23 pm | #

      I am a huge fan of the Swedish school system, I have seen it first hand and was very impressed. The issue of stupid parents is there like anywhere else, but the Swedish system really seems to work very well nonetheless, at least in comparison.

      But I doubt many readers understand that the Swedish system is a school choice system, more closely resembling proposed voucher systems for privatised education than the Prussian system of monopoly schools which we actually have in place. Despite what one would otherwise expect, it is the US that has a fully socialist school system, and Sweden which has one that at least closely resembles a free market system.

      • hb September 17, 2012 at 12:51 am | #

        The choice model in swedish schools is a fairly recent development, however.

  14. Donald Pruden, Jr. a/k/a The Enemy Combatant September 12, 2012 at 3:42 pm | #

    When I was a kid, and through much of my education and even into my graduate school years, I read of person working as Black public school teacher. Teaching was then seen as a valued and, indeed, heroic profession. Important figures of Black history will cite having been educated as their path out of poverty and into prominence. In describing the path to liberation for one and for all, many Black writers telling their own story will reference the subterfuge of self-education in a racist society that would make their ignorance a matter upheld by law, while many others will name going to public school for the first time after, say, their Great Migration North allowed them to escape segregation. Teachers were beloved in the Black community.

    I have a different explanation and a different history lesson to offer. Maybe someone could let me know if it makes even a little sense.

    Let us begin by noting the following. In 1975 a book was published by the Trilateral Commission. Its title was “The Crisis Of Democracy”. Please note that its title was NOT “The Crisis IN Democracy”. The book’s thesis is that an excess of democracy is making demands upon government and undermining public respect for authority. The chapter authored by the late Samuel P. Huntington (most famous these days for his book, “The Clash Of Civilizations” [1992]) contains a sub-chapter titled ‘The Democratic Distemper’ and here he diagnoses the rise of the public’s will to participate in matters of public import as a ‘distemper’, and he cites certain historically specific causes such as civil rights, the war in Vietnam and rising affluence. Professor Huntington writes that “The single most important variable affecting political participation and attitudes is education.” He continues: “The more educated a person is, the, [extra comma in original pdf. file] more likely he [male pronoun in original] is to participate in politics, to have political issues, and to hold more ‘enlightened’ or ‘liberal’ or ‘change oriented’ views on social, cultural, and foreign policy issues. Consequently the democratic surge could be simply the reflection of a more highly educated public.” Professor Huntington concludes his contributions by writing “Second, the effective operation of a democratic political system usually requires some measure of apathy and noninvolvement on the part of some individuals and groups.” Huntington does not lay out how to manufacture the apathy that leads to non-involvement, but given that he specifically cites the example of American Blacks’ increased participation in politics being coterminous with their rise in numbers of educated persons is highly suggestive as to who at least could do with a little “apathy”, “marginality” and “non-involvement”. While elite opinion on matters of education and democracy vary, a suspicion of democracy was then, as now, an unbroken historical thread that continues to the present day. It is worth noting that it was during this time – the period of the book’s publication – that public universities moved to introduce tuition charges to new students for the first time, coincidentally when Blacks, Latinos and women entered Academe in large numbers, as both students and as educators.

    Let us move a little closer to the present. Readers may recall that the war on educators, although recent, did not always and at first have public school teachers as the declared enemy of all that is decent. Rather, the opening salvos thrown in education’s general direction actually began in earnest in the 1980’s. Books such as, most famously, “The Closing Of the American Mind” (1987), “Imposters In The Temple” (1992), “Illiberal Education” (1991), “Tenured Radicals” (1998), and many others were published to rousing applause in the mainstream press and became bestsellers. Their authors were surprisingly cohesive as an ideological cohort: they were universally conservative in political leanings, and their critical perspective bespoke both rue and anger over the gains of women and non-whites in Academe, as well as the analytical challenges of the new scholarly disciplines known as the postmodern critique, feminism and women’s studies, ethnic studies, queer studies, critical theory, and others. Quite simply, these new disciplines came into Academe at around the time of the liberation movements ranging from civil rights, women’s liberation, GLBT liberation and through to the multi-decades long anti-colonial movements around the world. In 1997, the PBS television public affairs program “Firing Line”, hosted by William F. Buckley, sponsored a debate on the pernicious effects of something called “political correctness” in America’s universities. Needless to say, the antiwar protests of the 1960’s and 1970’s are often cited by older conservatives in the rogues’ gallery of causes for the deleterious presence of progressive political changes on America’s campuses. These were the reargard actions of backlash poltics against the gains of the hated decade of change.

    These days, the battleground of the American “kulturkampf” does not continue to be seen as the college campus. This may be due to the fact that, in spite of Affirmative Actions’ recent defeats, some of the progressive transformations that have struck Academe may, for historical reasons, be too far afoot for conservatives to beat back, hence their apparent silence on the project of wishing them into propaganda mills for the Fox-ification of the American Mind. They have turned their much of their efforts on the so-called “liberal media”. Nonetheless, it does not mean they have lost sight of the education front.

    It is the public schools, and the issue is not so much teacher “liberalism” (although that has been a conservative bugaboo for decades) as it is teacher pay. Now we are brought back to the attack on teachers. While what I note here is far more complex than what I have written here in this simplified manner, I submit that what we are witnessing now the present iteration of Huntington’s proscriptive for the “marginalization” of some sectors of American society by introducing the means by which their apathetic “non-involvement” with political matters can be achieved – for the sake of restoring his vaunted “democratic balance” back to the United States. By the time otherwise poor and disadvantaged kids are in college it is too late; they must be dealt with while still at the primary school level. I hold that this is the REAL reason that some people (such as news pundits, say) hate teachers: teachers prepare kids for participating in democracy by educating them. The anti-democratic strain in American political culture is already well-documented. The attack on public school teachers only its latest fashion. But it is one that may succeed given the slow time it will take to beat this back while demographic shifts (such as a growing proportion of darker-skinned Americans over the next few decades, and feel the effects of reactionary programs imponsed upon them) get into place to wage a defensive reply. The attack on public school teachers – which is conjoined with the push for charter-schools and school privatization (and only in poor, Black districts) – is motivated by the same anti-democratic strain as school segregation, and will have the same result when teaching is seen as a degraded profession for “losers” hired as babysitters in decrepit buildings.

    I am sure I may have forgotten something and I hope respondents will be kind enough to enlighten me. Corey, I know you’re a busy guy what college in session and all (and I follow your appearances on tv and listen to your radio interviews) but I would be grateful if you could comment on my observations and offer any corrections or expansions thereupon.


    • Corey Robin September 12, 2012 at 3:56 pm | #

      I definitely think Huntington’s report and articles were a watershed in the backlash against the 60s, and the connections you draw with education are, on the whole, sound. I’d also add the 1975 NYC Fiscal Crisis to the mix.

      • hb September 17, 2012 at 1:08 am | #

        NYC fiscal crisis: indeed.

        I’ll add — the withdrawl of capital from Detroit (& other black-majority urban centers). Definitely parallels between what’s going on in detroit today to the ‘capital strike’ on nyc in the 70s & its ‘planned shrinkage’ + withdrawl of city services from the poor + planned deterioration of housing & ‘ethnic cleansing’ laying the ground for today’s gentrified nyc.

        (good period analysis of what was actually happening in 70s nyc is:

        The New York City fire epidemic as a toxic phenomenon. Wallace, Rodrick. International Archives of Occupational and Environmental Health vol. 50 issue 1 April 1982. p. 33 – 51

        You are the first person i’ve run across who’s mentioned the nyc fiscal crisis in relation to our present national situation. i’ve felt for quite some time that was the template.

    • Lulu September 12, 2012 at 7:03 pm | #

      This is the best blog reply I’ve ever seen. And one of the best, most concise, and thoughtful explanations of the attack on teachers. Thanks for taking the time to write this, I really appreciate it.

  15. Sam September 12, 2012 at 4:02 pm | #

    I disagree. Unlike Corey Robin, I did not go to elite, upper middle class public schools. I went to public schools in a relatively poor area. In high school at least, the teachers there were bad. They simply didn’t care. Some of our teachers verbally abused the kids. Others just put on tv shows and read magazines at their desks. I know that some of our teachers routinely showed up drunk (I know because they occasionally gave the students beer). So, I lack the fondness for public school teachers that he has.

    Anyway, I think there are two reasons that people are ambivalent about teachers. One has to do with this: according to the Economist (I think they are citing a Mckinsey report), “most teachers were mediocre students. Only 23% of new teachers were in the top third of college graduates.” Maybe the perception that teachers are less competent than other professionals is not entirely unfounded.

    Another reason is the widespread belief that teacher’s unions help protect incompetent teachers and resist reforms that might actually benefit students. Maybe this is false. But I think there is a good reason for believing it:


    • Donald Pruden, Jr. a/k/a The Enemy Combatant September 12, 2012 at 5:42 pm | #

      I will resist the impulse to question “Sam”‘s “recollections” of going to public high school, given its opportunistic moment to introduce the usual anti-public school teacher drivel: Teachers are incompetent and a burden on the taxpayer. I know the work of Ms. Hoxby and on the matter of the efficacy and utility of public school education, it is suspect to say the least . To a sample a critique of the weaknesses that typify her work here is a reply by then grad student at Berkeley University (surely THEY must know something there, no?) Jeffrey Rothstein, to her older work claiming that public education’s lack of “competition” results in ineffective teachers, high educational costs, and poor educational outcomes. The lingo is a bit technical, but the point is as clear as a school fire-drill’s bell. Take especial note of the issue surrounding Ms. Hoxby’s evident selection bias in her study: http://www.ers.princeton.edu/workingpapers/10ers.pdf

      Oh, and check this out. It is a more lively and accessible read. It appears that Ms.Hoxby accuses Prof. Rothstein of race and gender bias when he writes that he could not replicate her claims (Sistah, puh-leeeze!): http://www.ers.princeton.edu/workingpapers/10ers.pdf

      Enjoy, dear Readers.

      • Sam September 12, 2012 at 8:53 pm | #

        I realize that there are critiques of Hoxby’s work on school choice. Almost all substantive empirical research is controversial and the fact that there are critiques doesn’t make her wrong. Anyway, if you had clicked on the link, you would have noticed that I didn’t cite that research that you attack.

        Perhaps needless to say, my claims about my own experience with public schools are purely anecdotal. Other people, especially people who attended public schools in the wealthy suburbs, obviously might have a different experience with teachers.

      • Valerie Ursini February 14, 2013 at 3:41 am | #

        You do realize that Sam was relaying his experience in his own school, right? I don’t see how that’s opportunistic or drivel.

    • A bourgeois tool. September 12, 2012 at 11:15 pm | #

      I had a similar experience with the public school teachers in flyover country, but with all twelve dreary years of my primary education.

      The best students were left to rot as dead-eyed teachers watched the clock while rubber stamping grades on the mimeographed word searches they routinely assigned—this was when they couldn’t get their hands on an AV cart TV with which to lull their classes to sleep. They liked good students because they were less of a hassle, but preferred apple polishers. A friend of mine, a prodigy at math who had straight As, didn’t make Honor Society, because his mediocre teachers didn’t like his braggadocio (he was an occasionally irritating know-it-all, who had a tumultuous home life and derived a sense of worth from his wits). That’s the ugly face of *ressentiment*.

      Teachers would routinely deflect the bullying taunts of little thugs onto the most pathetic of their charges. In the schoolyard food chain, the teachers where the losers in the middle; illiterate sociopaths were at the apex and the kids that smelled like poop were on the bottom. Our public schools are more like Theodore Dalrymple’s *Life at the Bottom* than the tuition-free Eton that Corey Robin seems to have attended. (Although Chappaqua’s social studies department sounds like an acquaintance of mine who marched his six-year-old through his beloved *Lord of The Rings*. Is that nurturing a precocious youth or brainwashing a naïf?)

      I didn’t have a single competent teacher and considered myself lucky when the person wielding the chalk was a kind-hearted babysitter, which happened with six of the fifty-or-so chair warmers to whom I was assigned; six is an exact number. And I’m grateful to those six, if not exactly intellectual indebted to them. And I know good teachers can exist. My great-aunt was one, before she became a college professor. Unfortunately, she died before I was old enough to receive one of her grammar admonishments.

      I came out of high school thoroughly ignorant and nearly illiterate. What I needed was a basic education, which was taught better one-hundred years ago to grammar school kids than it is to college freshman today. Rote memorization versus the hell that is modern public education is a vicious false alternative, but I’d take standardized test prep over the shit my generation (now in their 30s) trudged through.

      What we need is a cultural renaissance. That’s not going to happen soon. But what prevents tolerable schools from taking root like Edison and Apple did in the private sector? The black hole of a public education system that our government *forces* on the majority of American students.

      The striking teachers chant Twisted Sister’s “Were Not Going to Take It” (ugh, those are the teachers I remember). To hell with them; laissez-nous faire! Teaching can be a noble profession, if allowed to thrive under capitalism. The good teachers will be rewarded and the bad will be thrown out on their ears where they can’t inflict themselves on students. Instead, we’re taxed in order to keep the wheels of our terrible public education machine running over children.

      • Bill Murray September 13, 2012 at 12:34 pm | #

        Funny, I went to school in a poor area of flyover country and got a great education and while there were a few mediocre teachers, any bad ones were gone within a couple of years. Maybe they went to your school

      • Harold Quinn September 13, 2012 at 1:06 pm | #

        None of your teachers were worth a damn until you got to university? That sounds like a falsehood to me. And the “big government = big brother” trope in the next to last paragraph was an especially nice touch.

        Cool fantasy story, bro.

      • Elly September 13, 2012 at 1:31 pm | #

        “I came out of high school thoroughly ignorant and nearly illiterate. What I needed was a basic education, which was taught better one-hundred years ago to grammar school kids than it is to college freshman today. Rote memorization versus the hell that is modern public education is a vicious false alternative, but I’d take standardized test prep over the shit my generation (now in their 30s) trudged through.”

        Just curious… where were your parents in all of this? Were you an orphan? Was your mom/dad a single parent who worked two jobs, so s/he had no time to devote to you?

        In my experience, it’s pretty damn hard to have a “good” school, in the absence of parental involvement. It doesn’t matter if it’s public, private/parochial or private/for-profit. Thus, your story feels incomplete to me: I would not have allowed my kids to grow up “ignorant and almost illiterate” – nor would any of the parents I knew who – like me – volunteered their time to the school and individual classrooms.

        In essence, you’re arguing that somehow schools should be able to completely fill the void left by absent, preoccupied or indifferent parents/guardians. And that’s a no-can-do.

        Are there bad teachers? Sure. Are there mediocre ones? Sure – and the number of the latter is growing. But – at least in my experience – this is because the mediocrity is enforced from on high. Forgive me from quoting from my daughter’s blog again, but she writes about an excellent, “the-road-to-hell-is-paved-with-good-intentions” example here: http://tellyroftales.com/?p=465

      • Stevejr September 13, 2012 at 4:23 pm | #

        Except for the fact that in capitalism, good means cheap and bad means expensive.

        Capitalism is far more concerned with filling chairs with warm bodies than your old public school system ever was. In the capitalist education model, good outcomes are the responsibility of the PR department.

      • Richard Haven January 2, 2013 at 7:58 pm | #

        You think that the same amount of money, minus a reasonable return on equity, will create better teachers? Yes, seniority can skew ratings, but “objective” tests are not much better.

        All for-profit enterprises have one goal: increase net profit. Not-for-profit enterprises have different goals; in the case of education, the goal is to educate in a safe environment. Neither is a guarantee of success, but realize that the success of a for-profit is not educated students.

    • donnadiva September 13, 2012 at 4:43 pm | #

      That’s some pretty impressive circular logic: Teaching doesn’t pay nearly as well as many other professions requiring higher education, therefore it doesn’t attract as many top graduates. Therefore we should continue to pay teachers less because not enough top graduates are going into the field.

      • J. Tipre September 13, 2012 at 5:34 pm | #

        Your point is well-taken; however, what you experienced proved not the case at least from the early 1930s through the 1960s. The question is, do we try to bring back public education on all levels, not just wealthy urban areas? Side bar: People lose plenty of their dollars putting their kids in expensive, mediocre, private schools.

      • J. Tipre September 13, 2012 at 5:39 pm | #

        Money alone will not suffice. People need to understand that many teachers are authentically idealistic and will take less pay for, and here’s the point: good working conditions, i.e. supplies for the students, clean surroundings, motivated students*, a say in the curriculum and its implementation including a shared philosophy of and strategy for testing…

        *Sticking point: Too many American urban young people come from distressed environments which then are visited upon the schools. Should schools be expected to solve larger social problems?

  16. Ethan Gach September 12, 2012 at 4:08 pm | #

    What I like to wonder about has nothing to do with people’s apparent disregard for teachers, both as public union employees as well as pressumed second class professionals, but rather why so many knowledgeable bloggers, pundits, and psuedo journalists, in search of the truth, if not always the public good, would rather waste time pop psychologizing about public attidutes, rife as they are with contradiction and paradox, than the actual issues that the strik is supposed to be about.

    Now is the perfect time to have a wave of posts, articles, and essays discussing the relative accuracy and merits of assessing teachers through test scores, and how well the evaluative framework is able to report on the phenomena that we’re interested in meansuring for purposes of hiring, firing and instituting performance based pay.

    My suspicion is that apparent silence on this issue is itself evidence that such attempts are extremely complex and difficult to extrapolate from. Otherwise the numerati would be much more eager to report every last data point as it relates to the policies in question, rather than bantering on about teacher pay.

    • redscott September 12, 2012 at 10:28 pm | #

      It reminds me of a couple of lines from the Britcom called Yes, Minister. “Something must be done. This is something. So we must do it.” You’re right that people like Matt Yglesias and others who fancy themselves wonks never actually get around to discussing anything concrete about the data supporting their latest educational reform hobbyhorse, which instead rests on barely examined assumptions they haven’t taken the time or energy to test empirically. This isn’t about the search for truth, it’s about scapegoating, about promoting the appearance of doing sometthing while not actually doing anything that you really know will work. And, to me, that’s disgusting, because the people doing it are playing games with the lives of teachers, students, parents, and communities based on nothing more than really vague business-school doubletalk.

      • Richard Haven January 2, 2013 at 8:00 pm | #

        Unless they agree to follow the evidence, even if it means higher taxes, then they cannot claim allegiance to the evidence.

  17. Mitchell Freedman September 12, 2012 at 4:17 pm | #

    There’s New Deal liberals, who understand exactly what Corey Robin is talking about, and then there are “Sex and the City” liberals, who are really more libertine than liberal in any economic populist sense of the term.

    Those libertines, who ultimately buy into the Reaganite-Ayn Randian “I want more for me!” line of thinking, define their political views through the lens of cultural issues like abortion and gay rights, and really don’t like unions at all…And yes, teachers are just moochers who live off their “hard earned” taxpayer money.

    • Bilo September 13, 2012 at 1:49 am | #


  18. Nancy Letts September 12, 2012 at 4:36 pm | #

    There’s piece of research in the Kappan magazine titled, “Social Class in School.” I use it often when I facilitate Socratic Seminars (yes, in Chappaqua, too). Strikingly, the research shows says that special needs kids, those who are seen and see themselves at the low end of the social scale, want teachers to like them. That’s what they care about the most: To be liked.

    At the ‘top’ end of the social scale, assuming a teacher will like you is a given. Therefore, kids and their parents at that end feel free to comment on a teachers’ dress, his/her speech patterns, and how intelligent they are. They are not afraid to show their distain-and not always covertly. When teachers read this text they agree and offer many anecdotes of their own.

    Not all students and their parents hate teachers. But those who feel superior to them believe they are entitled to pass judgement. It comes with the territory: few self-respecting members of the monied class aspire to become a teacher. Therefore, they feels free to think and act in a condescending manner. The Chicago teachers strike is just a class issue writ large.

    New research has also begun to show that people with lots of money are not as kind to others, fail to stop at red lights or stop signs as often as others, and continue to blame the poor for their own failings. Children are allowed to cheat on tests, encouraged to endure doping in order to win races, and find ways to one-up anyone who stands in their way.Teachers are simply part of the collateral damage.

  19. chrismealy September 12, 2012 at 5:07 pm | #

    I guess the Chappaqua thing might be relevant to how elites view teachers, but it’s pretty unusual. Few schools send 50 kids to ivies. In a lot of the country teachers are poorly paid and not very good (when you pay like the Pirates more testing and a longer work day won’t turn teachers into the Yankees. Paying the current teachers more won’t turn them into the Yankees either). Unlike Corey and probably everybody else who reads this blog, most kids in school don’t do very well. It’s boring, pointless, and a locus of failure. Most people hate being graded, especially at things they’re not very good at. Then there’s the bullying, which teachers are basically complicit in. I’m surprised that people support schools and teachers to the extent that they do.

  20. Bart September 12, 2012 at 5:33 pm | #

    Why amazes me is the great resentment over teacher salaries that are in the $40-70K range.

    These are not high incomes, especially when you consider the controversy over taxing those who make over $250K.

  21. Lit3Bolt September 12, 2012 at 5:40 pm | #

    Donald Pruden touched on this, but it was a little dense, so allow me to make the point bluntly.

    Teaching and education, and teachers themselves, were never a target of scorn until integration was complete by the 1970s. Suddenly the upper class (ie whites) was faced with paying taxes for blacks and handicapped children, and their children were forced to mingle with classes that were previously unseen and unnoticed in America; our very own untouchable pariahs.

    The political correctness backlash, the attacks on teachers, and the union busting are all symptoms of integrated schools. The the rationale behind vouchers, “parent choice,” forced testing for funding, is part of a mass effort for upper class whites to again dissociate themselves from the lower classes (even as they cheer and offer scholarships for black football players).

    That’s the push for religious schools and private schools, which pay less than public schools because they have no union but all the students can be safely white or non-threatening black, and obviously, no handicapped or retarded children are allowed in these schools.

    Generally, the upper classes view public school teachers are the lowest of the low; ideologues who feel that everyone deserves an education, regardless of race and IQ. Like nurses or babysitters or librarians or social workers or waitresses, they do woman’s work, and worse, they do it for the undeserving dregs of society.

    As you said, they are not players; and if you are not a player, you must be a moocher.

    • Bill Murray September 13, 2012 at 12:40 pm | #

      and obviously, no handicapped or retarded children are allowed in these schools.

      There are some parochial school that have handicapped and retarded children attending them. One of my friends wife teaches these kids at a Catholic school

    • jake the snake October 21, 2013 at 3:34 pm | #

      Don’t forget the origin of many non-Catholic “Christian” schools was as “segregation academies” intended to move white children out of the
      integrated public schools. Home schooling was another response.
      A large part, possibly the largest part of the move of the Christian right into politics was withdrawing public funds from segregated post-secondary schools.
      For this reason, I have a low opinion of private religious schools.
      Catholic parochial schools have a much better history of tolerance
      than some other religious private schools.

  22. brahmsky September 12, 2012 at 5:45 pm | #

    At last I see why I let you marry my sister. Fucking brilliant! Write more stuff like this. CO-rey! CO-rey!!

  23. MF September 12, 2012 at 6:25 pm | #

    I think this post captures well the upperish class experience that colors the views of the punditocracy. But the average spite and resentment fueled american hates teachers because they hated school(as did I), and teachers are the face of it. They don’t see through the individual to the structural, like a good, educated lefty would. It’s like taking your frustration out on a walmart cashier after spending too long in that miserable place.

  24. Still learning September 12, 2012 at 6:29 pm | #

    I think you are really onto something here. The movie “tenure” captures the whole teaching versus seeking what America accords as success in the education profession. I believe that education is people’s first exposure to a mertitocracy, and that explains the scorn that is heaped upon it.

  25. Rebecca September 12, 2012 at 6:43 pm | #

    I live in the state of Victoria, Australia. This year has seen huge pay/condition disputes in both nursing and teaching. The public perception of these two battles and the strikes that were a part of them has been very different. In both professions, the state government has a large role in setting pay and conditions. In both professions, there are both public and private sectors and a nurse/teacher might work in either or both throughout a career. Both jobs require an undergraduate university degree, and post grad studies to specialize.
    Now: the nurses’ strike. Not one person in the whole state would have dared side with the state government. Every person, every newspaper in Victoria and around the country, every blog and every commentator, was on the side of the nurses. When they had strike days, we cheered them. We wore red armbands to work. Everyone was on their side, and rightly so.
    Teachers? Not so much. They are called lazy, greedy, stupid, accused of failing to do their jobs as though any shortcomings were a personal choice, rather than due to poor funding and bad upbringing of kids til and during school age. Even among left-wing, educated people who did well at school, there was mostly an uncomfortable silence surrounding the teacher strikes.

  26. debmeier September 12, 2012 at 7:22 pm | #

    Corey. You are onto something very real. I was embarrassed when I decided to become a kindergarten teacher–I knew my parents would feel let down, etc, etc. It’s an old tradition–teachers are more or less judged by WHO they teach. Little kids don’t need ore than an attentive adult. (Nanny plus.) The older the kids and the wealthier and more elite the institution the more status its adults have. But money and fame rarely go with teaching— Besides there’s a natural tension between the two parties to the rearing of our young–who takes credit, who is to blame. It’s definitely worth our bringing this issue to the fore.

    • Corey Robin September 12, 2012 at 9:01 pm | #

      You had me at “debmeier!” So honored to have you comment on my blog! Folks, Deborah Meier is the *original*, the *real* education reformer. She’s the voice of change we all ought to be listening to.

    • Valerie Ursini February 14, 2013 at 3:51 am | #

      Your parents felt let down because you wanted to become a kindergarten teacher? That is so sad!

  27. Lit3Bolt September 12, 2012 at 7:34 pm | #

    So is the marginalization of teachers a planned assault by conservative think tanks, helped along by a complacent media and pseudo-liberal journalists spouting what they perceive as conventional wisdom (ie “teachers are lazy and greedy”), or is it a massive unconscious class phenomenon that has its roots in integration and women’s lib? Or both?

  28. Marie September 12, 2012 at 7:43 pm | #

    Forgive me for not reading your whole article (I will) and not commenting very thoughtfully, I just felt the need to voice my quirky thought on the different systems because I am not American and the cultural differences are so remarkable because you say

    “Teachers had opted out of the capitalist game; they weren’t in this world for money.”

    I know about the situation of American teachers and always found it very odd, because the situation in my country is very different. I’m German and here the opposite is true: If you become a teacher you opt for a very comfortable life. No, you won’t be rich, but you will be very comfortably upper middle class with no worries about your future. I know plenty of people who only have become teachers because it provides job security (you cannot be fired being a teacher in German once you have become employed by the government) a comfortable life style as German teachers are among the highest paid teachers in the world, and a very high pension among other amenities. The majority of people becoming teachers that I know, chose to be teachers for this reason. With other words, they are in it for the money. I know a great number of people who weren’t able to find jobs that enabled them to survive in this economy and opted to become teachers to finally be free from the fear and worries.

    I don’t want to change any of that, I think the situation of American teachers is horrendous and shows which disrespect the nation pays to educating it’s future in public schools, the ones who cannot afford private school and Ivy League Universities, just mention, that it is a very American-oriented discussion.

  29. Ryan Copeland September 12, 2012 at 7:49 pm | #

    Reblogged this on Class[room]-Conscious.

  30. Hope September 12, 2012 at 7:58 pm | #

    Thank you for backing up people like my dad, Jay Rehak, a CPS and CTU teacher. http://video.wttw.com/video/2277854803

  31. Arker September 12, 2012 at 7:59 pm | #

    I dont doubt at all there is some truth to what you write, and some people that think that way – I am sure there is, in fact, some truth to it.

    But to the degree you seem to be whitewashing all union detractors with the same brush, I must object. My father was a teacher, worked his whole career in education, and to this day despises the NEA specifically, and unions in general, directly as a result of his job experience with them. And I have known a lot of teachers besides him (I have worked in educational institutions most of my career although not as a teacher) who feel the same way, so I dont think it’s fair to equate dislike of teachers unions with dislike of teachers. That’s one reason but there are many others.

  32. Bill Wolfe September 12, 2012 at 8:14 pm | #

    Thanks for writing this – too close to home.

    I grew up just south of Horace Greeley, graduated from the more downscale Sleepy Hollow HS in 1975.

    While we sent far fewer kids to Ivy League institutions and I personally did not benefit from the wonderful intellectual tour you did (but did get solid background in math and science), we could kick your ass in football, but I played soccer and it was an even challenge between the Greeley blue-bloods and the SHHS immigrants.

    My mom served many years on the school board (as I did !) and your analysis is spot on about the dynamics of anti-intellectual resentment of teachers and taxes.

    I attended an Ivy League grad school and make less than my dad, the career bus driver.

    Thanks for telling the truth (again).


  33. matt September 12, 2012 at 8:41 pm | #

    Very sharp reflections. I’ve always found the pop culture treatment of public school teachers disturbing. One old standard was the teacher as utterly selfless hero– see ‘Stand and Deliver’ et al. If you don’t have a deep tragic love of teaching, you must be a pathetic loser (eg: ‘Election’). One thing I liked about ‘The Wire’ was its highly unusual portrayal of teachers as ordinary people. Why do people feel so differently about police? It’s perfectly acceptable not to love police-work (“I hate this shit…”), and that doesn’t render the cop character a pathetic parasite.

  34. Joanna Bujes September 12, 2012 at 9:11 pm | #

    A wonderful article. Thank you. I’d add that another reason why teachers are hated is because they like their work and because their work is actually valuable.

    But mostly just wanted to say: great article and mostly great comments.

  35. Mark September 12, 2012 at 10:29 pm | #

  36. Joseph Palermo September 12, 2012 at 10:59 pm | #

    Great piece Cory I can totally relate!

    • Corey Robin September 13, 2012 at 11:22 pm | #

      Thanks, Joseph! Nice to see you here.

  37. Ljiljana (@tigerljily) September 12, 2012 at 11:54 pm | #

    When I was a kid, the superintendent of schools in the small, conservative, rural town in Washington state where I grew up assigned the best teachers to schools in the poorest part of town, because he felt it was a way to balance the inequity those children were born into. Sit with that for a minute.

    No public official — even in the most liberal parts of the country (and I live in such an enclave) — would do something like that today. We’ve not come a long way, baby.

    • Donna Gratehouse (@DonnaDiva) September 13, 2012 at 2:52 am | #

      Yes, and we can’t just put the most money in the hardest suffering areas. Oh no, we must “race to the top” and force the poorest districts to compete for precious funds!

  38. Corey Robin September 13, 2012 at 12:40 am | #

    For everyone here who thinks I’ve been unfair to liberal critics of the teachers union, please listen to this liberal critic on the Diane Rehm Show (at 50:30): “Part of this strike it’s pretty clear is that the union needed to have some theater for its members, let them blow off some steam, and that’s increasingly obvious.” Remember, he’s talking about a union led by an African-American woman, in a school district where 40 percent of the kids are black. (Also, Diane Ravitch is on the show, and she does a pretty excellent job — when Rehm lets her speak — of debunking the liberal shibboleths in this debate.) http://thedianerehmshow.org/shows/2012-09-12/chicago-teachers-strike

    • csaid81 September 13, 2012 at 10:00 am | #

      I think you’re reading too much into this. I would use the phrase “blow off some steam” to refer to all types of people, including high-status people in law firms and corporate board rooms. More importantly, how do you go from observing a critic’s (questionably) negative attitude towards union members to “this must be the driving force behind his opposition to union policies”? Have you considered the possibility that he might have principled reasons for opposing their policies?

    • Ethan Gach September 13, 2012 at 10:11 am | #

      What I haven’t really been able to find are actual liberal critiques. Everyone seems to be talking about side issues and not what the actual strike is about: teacher evaluations/recalls.

      Maybe when the Kleins and Yglesias’ start actually critiquing they’ll be something to respond to.

      • csaid81 September 13, 2012 at 10:33 am | #

        There is a huge literature on this, and Klein and Yglesias are just on the periphery. Even for them, it’s simply not true to say they haven’t offered their own critiques on teacher evaluations. See here and here, for example:
        These are short summaries of the standard liberal critique: standardized tests are far from perfect, but they provide important information on teacher performance that is not captured by classroom observation or other subjective measures. They should therefore be part of the equation.

      • Ethan Gach September 13, 2012 at 10:59 am | #

        Is there anything from recently, i.e. not over a year old?

        They and others have commented on the strikes without actually engaging on the issues, even by linking to and shortly summarizing their past positions, or by offering new evidence. Instead they’re dancing around salary averages and statistics about the self evident fact that teacher strikes hurt education outocmes.

        If you want to link to a liberal critique from the past week I’ll be happy to expand my opinion though. I’d honestly love to read someone actually making the case.

      • csaid81 September 13, 2012 at 11:29 am | #

        Ethan – you’re right. Most of the liberal critiques this week unfortunately just link to previous posts. But this is because much of what was said before still applies today. E.g. see the links in the posts linked above, as well as this and this. http://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/05/magazine/05FOB-wwln-t.html
        Just to reiterate the point: quantitative measures are flawed but useful.

      • Ethan Gach September 13, 2012 at 11:49 am | #

        I’m not saying the arguments aren’t out there, I’m saying that no one is trying to make them this week when there is an actual chance that they may or may not go into effect.

        None of their posts actually DO link to old arguments. They have ignored them all together, focusing instead on parsing the dollars and cents of salries and city budgets.

        Just now Dylan Matthews has another post out http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/ezra-klein/wp/2012/09/13/the-chicago-teachers-union-has-a-plan-to-fix-the-citys-schools-but-its-pricey/ that talks about all of the policies preferred by the union, saying that most of them are the right ones, but just aren’t affordable. That’s because the reality of the labor dispute is that the mayor is trying to get more output out of less input, and the teachers union sits at the center of that pressure point.

        There’s a difference between critiquing a policy, and saying their jsut isn’t enough money, because each points to a different course of action in response.

  39. John Tipre September 13, 2012 at 3:47 am | #

    Clearly, in the USA teachers are, as you say, generally viewed as “loser” tools (pejorative intended), and the capitalist model motivates the unhappy relationship between teacher and tax paying parent. Though most parents would not admit this fact, it lies palpably just below the surface. Teacher/student relationships are another matter. I enjoyed a respectable, even intellectual relationship with many of my students throughout the 1970s in a middle class Catholic high school and later in my early tenure in one of the better (read in this “very expensive”) private schools in Los Angeles, In the mid 1980s I noticed a shift in attitude of both parents and students. At the time our faculty was comprised of roughly 30% PhDs with most of the rest holding Masters degrees. Our tacit charge: get our students into “elite” colleges where they would proceed to get their “E Ticket” to life punched. Many of these mid 1980s parents considered themselves “shareholders” and began packing the Board of Trustees which influenced administrative decisions ultimately descending upon the classroom. One needs little imagination to consider how the changed attitudes and complexion of board/faculty began affecting curriculum, testing, and most importantly, intellectual inquiry.

    • J. Tipre September 13, 2012 at 2:21 pm | #

      An edited version of above published on Tumblr 9/13/12

      Teachers in the United States are, as you say, generally seen as “loser” tools. I believe the capitalist model instigates the unhappy relationship between teacher and tax paying parents in the public schools, and between teacher and tuition & fees paying parents in private schools. Though most parents would not admit it, this uncomfortable fact lies palpably just below the surface.

      Teacher/student relationships are another matter. I enjoyed a respectable, even intellectual relationship with many of my students throughout the 1970s in a middle class Catholic high school and later in my early tenure in one of the better (read “very expensive”) private schools in Los Angeles. In the mid 1980s I noticed a shift in attitude of both parents and students: Schooling was not about cultivating a better person or citizen, post WW2 attitudes generally sustained from the 19th century, it became concerned with “results,” results that would put one student above another in the wild ascent to the upper middle class. At the time our faculty was comprised of roughly 30% PhDs with most of the rest holding Masters degrees. Our tacit charge: be used in order to facilitate our students gaining access to “elite” colleges. Once installed, they would have their “E ticket” to life punched. Many of these mid 1980s parents considered themselves “shareholders” in a company whose mandate was “punching E tickets.” The move was on to pack the Board of Trustees which would determine a new head master who could raise funds while remaining loyal to the new pragmatism. Administrative decisions gradually descended upon the classroom and the culture and intellectual orienation of the school was changed. One needs little imagination to consider how the changed attitudes and complexion of board/faculty began affecting curriculum, testing, and most importantly, intellectual inquiry. This is the culture in which we remain with the teacher performing his duties like a Helot, as students look confusedly in two directions.

  40. El Pelón September 13, 2012 at 7:09 am | #

    Reblogged this on The rose in the cross and commented:
    My comments along the same line from other correspondence: I think the social reproduction aspect in the key. We are obligated to give over the formation of our children to others, and that always rubs us the wrong way. On the one hand, we are pushed by capital to work at something totally alien to our family unit, and on the other hand, our children are taken from us so many hours a day and entrusted to people under the same pressures as we are. We are afraid that they don’t really care about our children, just was we don’t (secretly) care if our boss is doing well or poorly, so long as we are paid for our work. There is a guilt complex to it, I think, and the fear that this alienation beyond our control stretches into our private lives and to those we love. Personally, I would want to homeschool my kids if I could afford it, but I can’t. All of this is a painful reminded in our society that we are treated as objects and forced to divorce our intimate lives from the public sphere. We then take it out on people who are doing their best just to make a living and teach our kids a thing or two in the process.

  41. Bilo September 13, 2012 at 8:06 am | #

    Randy Newman, many years ago:

    Of all of the people that I used to know
    Most never adjusted to the great big world
    I see them lurking in book stores
    Working for the Public Radio
    Carrying their babies around in a sack on their back
    Moving careful and slow

    It’s money that matters
    Hear what I say
    It’s money that matters
    In the USA

    All of these people are much brighter than I
    In any fair system they would flourish and thrive
    But they barely survive
    They eke out a living and they barely survive

  42. jonnybutter September 13, 2012 at 8:32 am | #

    I’d add that another reason why teachers are hated is because they like their work and because their work is actually valuable.

    I had an interesting argument with a libertarian/reactionary guy before the 2008 election about compensation. I jokingly suggested that maybe teachers should be paid less because they enjoyed doing their job or found fulfillment in doing it. To my (alas, mild) surprise, he answered that this is *exactly* what he believed (and several others seconded his opinion)! He said that enjoyment and fulfillment were in themselves ‘compensation’, and that this should offset the monetary kind. He said monetary compensation should go up in relation to how much someone dislikes doing a none-the-less vital job. I asked him two questions: should garbage picker-uppers be highly paid like they used to be (the answer would surely be ‘no’); and what about upper management types, who get paid millions? Do the latter hate what they’re doing? As is the wont of this type of person, he (and I’m sure it was a ‘he’) conveniently disappeared from the argument at this point.

    Resentment is a HUGE motivating factor in all of American politics. The chimp part of our brain rationalizes trading away something which clearly benefits ourselves and everyone we know, for the symbolic expression of the idea that no person we don’t know is even theoretically capable of getting something they don’t ‘deserve’. AKA ‘cutting off one’s nose to spite one’s face’. If I were a cynical person I would just laugh and say humans deserve the misery they wallow in, but children actually don’t deserve it.

  43. turmarion September 13, 2012 at 8:58 am | #

    Reblogged this on The Chequer-board of Nights and Days and commented:
    As a teacher and son of teachers I found this fascinating (and true to my experience) and wanted to pass it on. h/t to El Pelón

  44. Cannoneo September 13, 2012 at 9:08 am | #

    I appreciate your analysis of the commentary on this strike and the general antipathy toward teachers and their unions. I see this hostility especially among self-professed liberals who are involved in “education reform.”

    But, as an aside, my experience going to the public schools in a rich town (Lexington, Mass.) was different than yours. The families of the ambitious there in the ’80s were generally quite reverential toward our teachers. This may have been because we had high proportions of immigrants and academics among the parents.

  45. Dan September 13, 2012 at 10:23 am | #

    The entire education system was built on a 18th century model which does not work. Unions protect the status quo, therefore nothing will change until everything changes. I suggest that all teachers read the book, the Innovators Dilemma. It describes what happens when a small innovative company/school disrupts the entrenched encombants. If you are a teacher in a traditional school your carreer is about to be changed dramatically. The auto unions in Detroit ignored the lessons of history which is the reason why Detroit is a hollowed out shell. Teachers and their unions should embrace change now, before they get run over by history.

    • debmeier September 13, 2012 at 1:07 pm | #

      I was struck by two themes running through here–maybe three or more? That people hate teachers and/or unions. Evidence? That teachers and/or parents don’t understand each other–which I think is true but needn’t be. That teachers and auto workers were the folks who prevented innovations in their respective industries!!! That’s the most amazing–unless innovation just means working for less pay and for more hours and with fewer rights. And finally that things – when exactly? – used to be so much better. Like when teachers had to quit if they got married, or their pregnancies showed, etc etc.? There’s so much we need to talk about together to get our stories straight.

      • txtracer September 13, 2012 at 2:07 pm | #

        No time for big long talk! Unions bad! Saint Ronnie Reagan said so!

        • Jet (@jethomme) September 13, 2012 at 6:10 pm | #

          All foolish types out there, genuflect to St. Ronnie, union buster and soulful purveyor of cultural disorder.

  46. rmyoun06 September 13, 2012 at 10:46 am | #

    I have a really strong negative emotional reaction to the striking teachers, but mine is borne out of envy. Teachers make more money than I do, and I’m afraid that I’ll never be able to get a job with the pay, security and benefits that public school teachers already get. I know it’s petty of me, and I try not to let it influence my intellectual evaluation of the strike, but that emotion is definitely there. Do you all think that some other of the people who have a negative reaction to the striking teachers might also just be sort of envious and resentful? I mean, it’s 2012, and a lot of us are struggling these days.

  47. rmyoun06 September 13, 2012 at 10:55 am | #

    I have a really strong negative emotional reaction to the striking teachers, but mine is borne out of envy. Teachers make more money than I do and generally have less educational debt than I do, and I’m afraid that I’ll never be able to get a job with the pay, security and benefits that public school teachers already receive. I know it’s petty of me, and I try not to let it influence my intellectual evaluation of the strike, but that emotion is definitely there. Do you all think that some other of the people who have a negative reaction to the striking teachers might also just be sort of envious and resentful? I mean, it’s 2012, and a lot of us are struggling these days.

  48. rmyoun06 September 13, 2012 at 11:00 am | #

    Whoops, sorry for the double post!

    • Bill Murray September 13, 2012 at 2:48 pm | #

      i just shows how strong your emotions really are.

      Did you ever think maybe you could go to school, get certified and become a teacher?

      • rmyoun06 September 13, 2012 at 3:13 pm | #

        Nah, I’ve got more than enough debt already, and my roommate (who is a teacher) was telling me that the job market in this area is so tight they’re turning away people with Master’s degrees for unpaid internship positions. Thanks for the compliment you paid, me, though 🙂

  49. Donald Pruden, Jr. a/k/a The Enemy Combatant September 13, 2012 at 11:57 am | #


    I did indeed refer to Ms. Hoxby’s older work by calling it such. Her work has not changed over the years, and the problems that beset her research remain. I chose it for that reason AND because its controversy made it famous. And typical of conservatives, as well, is that Ms. Hoxby cannot take critique without going ballistic. I found it hard to read race and gender bias in the endless tables in Prof. Rothstein’s analysis. (Now, in Charles Murray’s “Bell Curve”, on the other hand….)

    And speaking of critiques, their existence does not demonstrate the falsity of the critiqued work. Indeed, Rothstein nowhere called her work “false” or “wrong”. And controversy does not prove “substance” — it only proves that such work has invited attention. The work of critique is the examination of research such as that produced by Hoxby and other thinkers of all political stripes. But the critique in question remains: that Hoxby’s work is non-replicable and suffers from (what I will call “strategic”) selection bias is more than merely telling. It is also worth noting that no studies appear to exist that suggest well-funded public schools in mostly White, affluent, suburban districts could not also do with a little “competition”. Let us face it: no self-respecting White suburbanites would sit still while some right wing nut tries to dismantle THEIR public school to replace it with some unaccredited, teach to the test, high-turnover, won’t take disabled kids, for-profit charter — and at taxpayer expense, to boot. I, a Black man, dare someone to try that stuff out here in the Longwood or the South Country School Districts on Long Island.

    @a bourgeois tool,

    Would you be willing to name the school, its district and its location, where the terrors you describe were perpetrated? Again, when faced with a story like yours I am suspicious. Your charges read more like Hollywood fiction than as the experiences of anyone who has actually attended even the worst public schools around (and like many people I have read a lot of such stories, many of which were expressly non-fiction — unlike your tale of woe). The fake anger you express is a dead giveaway, and so too is the fact that your allegations strangely lead to the usual privatization prescription. And THAT is the real purpose of your writing, and not some regret over having been robbed of a good public school education (another giveaway is your snide comment calling school-age Corey’s Chappaqua a tuition free Eton and your mockery of its social studies department… is this the best you can do, fake “class” resentment?) Capitalism will save American education. Just as it saved the economy.

    You even close your piece by referencing that most famous Twisted Sister song. Roll credits!

    Again: the attack on teachers is an attack on public education is an attack on an important instrument with the potential to prepare one for participation in democracy — one that does so at public expense. THIS is the offense that implicate public school teachers and thus so irk pundits and ideologues.

    Has not anyone noticed that this attack is occurring at the same time (not a perfect match, but the temporal overlap is striking) as the effort by Republican legislatures at the state level to undercut the right to vote for selected populations, and doing so by using some rather extreme methods?

    Photo IDs, “emergency managers”, charter schools. If these don’t constitute an attack on democracy, then what the heck do they and their strange coincidence constitute?

    • Sam September 13, 2012 at 1:02 pm | #

      Donald, maybe Hoxby’s work on the effects of competition is flawed (but maybe her basic conclusion that competition has beneficial effects is still correct). Regardless, your comments about Hoxby still show nothing about the research that I cited. So it seems like a non-sequitor.

      • Donald Pruden, Jr. a/k/a The Enemy Combatant September 13, 2012 at 5:38 pm | #

        My apologies for taking so long — I had to read this paper too, and all this scholarly lingo is beginning to hurt my eyes.

        Anyway, this study openly disputes Hoxby’s — and many others’ — claims as regards the cost of unions’ negotiated compensation as instigating negative effects on “education production” (an Owellian phrase if there ever were one…): http://www.economics.illinois.edu/docs/seminars/the-effect-of-teachers-unions-on-education-production.pdf

        That work is the direct reply to the specific writing by Hoxby which is linked in your earlier post. The author examines the methodologies of many scholars that try to push the charter school agenda. His analysis suggest that teacher compensation shows no evidence of negative educational outcomes. Bluntly, teacher unionization does not appear to make school-kids stupid. I will not pick a fight with a Hoover scholar — after all, Ms. Hoxby taught at Harvard while I was a dishwasher. She can do math. But she is a HOOVER scholar.

        I could not read your new link since the essay is behind a price-wall. All I could read was the abstract. Two Canadian Catholic schools dukin’ it out over public funding could very well push toward positive educational outcomes (we won’t investigate what that means; are the kids in those schools learning the science of evolution or are they learning the hogwash that goes by the name of “creationism”? Catholic schools are religious schools). After all, it appears that the only schools competing for kids in this study are these two. Please, please correct me if I am wrong.

        Now, unless I can learn more about the schools in the study you link to, I have cause to look askance at its claims of good outcomes, specifically because these two schools are in competition over the same likely smallish body of Catholic primary-school age students. There may also be other factors that make the two schools especially effective educational institutions. And since the article appears to focus on only two Canadian Catholic schools (what is the race/class/gender breakdown?) we are likely (again, I could not read it) back to Hoxby’s weakness: selection bias. Thus it does remain a bit of a stretch to implicate American public (and secular) schools in that study’s apparent conclusions.

        And by the way — what is the REAL point of that article in its reference to public funding? If these Catholic schools are so great, why can’t they — and the charters — go the entrepreneurial route and raise funds solely from investors? You wanna pull kids outta the public schools and into charters, AND you wanna whine and cry for the overtaxed American? Here is a solution: invest YOUR OWN MONEY into these schools. Compete with public schools by using your private investment capital, and take not one thin dime from the education budget. Why do your unaccountable charters need OUR tax dollars? Hoxby and others begrudge teachers’ their compensation, but they offer the solution of privatization on the public dime. In all of the reply posts here, I think it is telling that THIS issue — the inability of charters to invite solely private investment, one that is not in whole or part PUBLICLY FUNDED — goes un-discussed. This may show how deep the anti-public school propaganda has penetrated our ability to discuss the issues involved.

        So, is the issue EDUCATION for our kids…, or is it really the mere existence of public institutions at public expense that exist for public benefit in a democracy? And is this last the real reason that people who should know better hate teachers?

        • Jet (@jethomme) September 13, 2012 at 7:55 pm | #

          Thank you. “Selection bias” seems to be an operative phrase in a disingenuous academic culture, at least a side of it. Your last (rhetorical?) point: “Does the Public really wish to support public education in a Democracy” chills the spine. It appears that as a whole, we’re not working toward that goal. That invites: What is it we want?

  50. Michelle J Kenoyer September 13, 2012 at 2:07 pm | #

    Wow, it looks like you’ve gotten quite an impassioned response from commenters here, but as a liberal, I think your article is spot-on. I would add, though, that the anti-teacher attitude isn’t limited to just people in the upper class, but in the middle class as well. I would probably have a lot of money for every quarter I’d get upon hearing things like, “Teachers are just people who couldn’t hack it in the real world.” It’s that kind of mentality that fuels the anti-intellectualism in this country and IMO it is going to be our downfall if we keep it up.

    As I asked on my Facebook page when sharing your article, who the heck do people think *teaches* all of those three-piece business-people who are supposedly “keeping the economy alive”? I might also add that the three-piece suits haven’t done a banner job of that in recent years–in fact, they’ve rather sucked at it. Would I really trust the leadership of some jerk who ran a major corporation into the ground over a learned, knowledgeable, and intellectually disciplined teacher or professor? That’s a rhetorical question. 🙂

    • Jet (@jethomme) September 13, 2012 at 6:04 pm | #

      CEO jerk in three-piece suit, or disciplined teacher/professor… Mark me down for the teacher.

  51. J. Tipre September 13, 2012 at 2:24 pm | #

    Reply also published on Tumblr, 9/13/12 as an affirmative response to Corey Robin’s piece on “Teacher Hatred’

    Teachers in the United States are, as you say, generally seen as “loser” tools. I believe the capitalist model instigates the unhappy relationship between teacher and tax paying parents in the public schools, and between teacher and tuition & fees paying parents in private schools. Though most parents would not admit it, this uncomfortable fact lies palpably just below the surface.

    Teacher/student relationships are another matter. I enjoyed a respectable, even intellectual relationship with many of my students throughout the 1970s in a middle class Catholic high school and later in my early tenure in one of the better (read “very expensive”) private schools in Los Angeles. In the mid 1980s I noticed a shift in attitude of both parents and students: Schooling was not about cultivating a better person or citizen, post WW2 attitudes generally sustained from the 19th century, it became concerned with “results,” results that would put one student above another in the wild ascent to the upper middle class. At the time our faculty was comprised of roughly 30% PhDs with most of the rest holding Masters degrees. Our tacit charge: be used in order to facilitate our students gaining access to “elite” colleges. Once installed, they would have their “E ticket” to life punched. Many of these mid 1980s parents considered themselves “shareholders” in a company whose mandate was “punching E tickets.” The move was on to pack the Board of Trustees which would determine a new head master who could raise funds while remaining loyal to the new pragmatism. Administrative decisions gradually descended upon the classroom and the culture and intellectual orienation of the school was changed. One needs little imagination to consider how the changed attitudes and complexion of board/faculty began affecting curriculum, testing, and most importantly, intellectual inquiry. This is the culture in which we remain with the teacher performing his duties like a Helot, as students look confusedly in two directions.

  52. unirritable sue September 13, 2012 at 2:31 pm | #

    I have a cynical position here, one of being glibly dismissive. There is indeed no reason to engage directly and solely with union bashers’ ostensible intellectual content because that’s not what it’s really about to them.
    That’s not to say their capitalism-solves-every-problem-automatically is a pure mask and lie they use not to admit they want to take down somebody else who will never hurt them back for it. They may even believe in their arguments. But it’s a neurotic belief and so a waste of time to defeat directly.
    It’s so annoying how people’s resentments and emotional problems just waste so much time. But such is life.

  53. Matthew Ostrowski September 13, 2012 at 7:04 pm | #

    Having gone to the same high school, but a few years earlier (and I would name-check the same teachers, btw, but add Irene Burns), I would say that the same mentality did not apply at that time. I left in ’79, and although I do recall squabbling over the budget as an annual ritual, I certainly did not see a general attitude towards the faculty as ‘losers.’ I wonder if the attitude he experienced had something to do with a post-Reagan mindset? Chappaqua was also famously liberal when I lived there — we had what are now called soccer moms attending weekly vigils against the Vietnam war — so there may have been some other political shifts as well. The mentality in the US changed very rapidly between ’80 and ’85, and I believe that a great deal changed in the definition of the social consensus at that time, regardless of one’s left-right orientation.

    • Corey Robin September 13, 2012 at 11:19 pm | #

      That’s interesting, Matthew. You might be right. I graduated in 1985, so I could have been right smack in the middle of the process you’re talking about. Anyway, thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts.

  54. NickD September 13, 2012 at 7:25 pm | #

    Hi. As a young teacher (currently seeking work) from / in the UK, I’ve enjoyed reading these thoughts and thought I’d add a couple of points.

    One – it may have been addressed in the comments, I haven’t read them all, but here it’s hard to separate genuine mediocrity in teaching from the consequences of the ruthless de-professionalization of teachers and the kinds of changes that have been imposed from above on the curriculum in the last thirty years. That and the general downgrading in status of public service, I guess. I left the profession because of my immense frustration at the anti-educational aspects of the curriculum and institutional framework, because the majority of fellow teachers seemed so cynical and /or burnt-out that nothing seemed likely to change and because – frankly – I knew I’d sink into inertia and complacency myself.

    I’ve had some incredibly inspiring teachers, when they’ve been free to teach, and students have wanted to learn – mostly at college level. Unfortunately, when I look back at my schooling, much of it does seem have been a waste of time, although I have exemplary grades. I have some sympathy with critiques of public education, but from a democratic left perspective, and SATs, league-tables, politically-driven statistics and “teacher proof” lessons are not the answer.

    I think it’s a tragedy that the discourse around progressive education, which seemed to reach a high-mark here in the 60s and 70s but goes back such a long way in the US and parts of Europe, has been so effectively marginalized by neoliberal ideology. We really need to return to thinkers now of the calibre of John Dewey, Basil Bernstein and Ivan Illich, who I only encountered thanks to my curiosity, background and the suggestions of one inspirational teacher on my training course (the rest were overworked, and intellectually disengaged, to put it politely). We have to get their ideas into the open again and keep them in the open, even as we seek the institutional changes that might permit them to take root. A cursory mention of the “hidden curriculum” in passing won’t cut it.

    It was only when I started to study philosophy of education at grad level that I started to engage with ideas about knowledge, freedom etc. and philosophers like Dewey, Rousseau, RS Peters that should be fundamental to basic teacher training, the diving-off point.

    Keep on keeping on Corey, enjoy your blog…

  55. Jeremy September 13, 2012 at 8:05 pm | #

    I’ve been thinking a bit about this issue, and one thing that struck me was how this relates to the argument Corey made in his “Another Bell to Answer” essay. Broadly speaking, you can divide the way people consider education as real or theoretical parents into two types.

    The first type are people who want to be able to find the best education they can for their kid. They want to be heavily involved in selecting a school that suits them and their kids. They want options, and the ability to seek out the best of those options. They see themselves, basically, as consumers in a market, and they want the market to provide an abundance of choices for the picky consumer. The punditocracy is composed 100% of these types of individuals. Even the lefties that understand that this isn’t the best system see themselves as people who will do research to find the best school possible for their own children.

    The other type see themselves as fundamentally constrained in their ability to choose. They see themselves getting the short end of whatever stick there might be. If there are wide variations in quality, somebody ends up getting screwed, and these people see themselves as the sort likely to get screwed. Their interest is in ensuring that wherever in the school system their kids happen to get stuck, it’s a decent school. I think a lot of the support from native Chicagoans comes from this group.

  56. Taylor September 14, 2012 at 2:44 pm | #

    Aren’t liberals the ones that fight for higher teacher pay, and smaller class sizes? Didn’t republicans just take away a lot of teacher union bargaining rights? Go teachers. Pay them more.

  57. Ed Robin September 14, 2012 at 6:14 pm | #

    What great reflections and accolades about the Chappaqua school systems and its teachers. I always felt the investment in Chappaqua school taxes was well worth the reward. I am a product of the Miami, FL school system and sorry to say it was much below the level of most NYS school district. There were some inspiring teachers but tghey were in the minority. In contract, when I arrived at NYU graduate school I was ill prepared for the work and the competition. Your premise that teachers are so important in childhood development and education is very true; of course teachers are key in this process.

  58. mumphrey September 14, 2012 at 8:57 pm | #

    This is interesting, as it wasn’t like that where I grew up. Like many people here, I grew up fairly well off, and went to a public school outside Philadelphia that was ranked as the best in the state for some of the four years I was there.

    But we didn’t look down on our teachers; we pretty much all respected them. We’d screw around and goof off sometimes, but nobody I knew thought of them as losers. I wonder if that was because half of the students lived in Swarthmore, and most of the rest of us in the next township over. Many of the kids there had parents who taught at Swarthmore. Some of their parents taught at colleges in Philadelphia. My own father was on the faculty at the University of Pennsylvania, though he didn’t teach; he ran one of the school’s libraries. Anyway, we lived in a place where schools and colleges were a big part of our lives. I’d guess nearly everybody in my class had a parent who taught or at least had friends whose parents were teachers. True, the were college teachers, but still, they taught. I wonder if that had something to do with the respect most of us had for our high school teachers.

  59. muntz September 14, 2012 at 9:30 pm | #

    So, I graduated with Corey, and we were in some of the same classes – though not all. (He took more AP classes than I did. And he likes school, and I don’t.) Still, I agree with him about the quality of the teachers he name-checked. I attended a fairly prestigious state university with a good reputation, yet was surprised that the quality of the teaching, with some notable exceptions, was much worse than much of what I got in high school. Most our best high school teachers were better than the vast majority of my college profs – more erudite, more thoughtful, more published(?)…. just….better than most of my college profs.

    The high school we attended was terrific. However, the middle school was Not Good. Maybe it is the age of the kids, or just me, but the teachers I had there stand out MORE than Damon or Corwin or Barlow or Stewart or Boyle in just how terrible they really were.

    I still love that the 7th grade social studies teacher told my folks I couldn’t read, write or speak, yet just a few year later, I was a National Merit Scholar.

    I LOVE my great teachers, but I still truly HATE the bad ones – the math teacher who took retirement in the middle of the school year, the stupid, angry woman described above. I ended up feeling abused, mistreated, misunderstood and damaged by the bad ones. I can imagine how I’d feel about the whole profession if all I had was lousy teachers.

    I really do not remember the type of scorn you described. But, I do remember pity – that these teachers – some actually owned houses in our very expensive town – just couldn’t afford the stuff we had. I remember my mom seeing one of our teachers on a bus one day in the summer. She felt really bad for the guy – that it was somehow pathetic he didn’t have a car.

    Still, I find it almost funny that conservatives who argue that money is the prime motivator don’t seem to think that paying teachers more will deliver better results. Hell, they think if my taxes go up $100, I’ll work $100 less….or something, yet paying teachers more won’t get better results. Now – I’m not arguing that it would, but if you could make as much teaching kindergarten as you could for structuring CDOs, I’m sure you’d get some different people involved – for better or worse.

    Thanks, Corey. Keep it up.

  60. jonnybutter September 15, 2012 at 9:26 am | #

    treating teaching as the peace corps…..That’s the spirit our teachers need, not union solidarity. And that’s what our citiies need. Charity. Not power. Never power. Not money. It’s not about the money dammit! At least, not about my money.

    Exactly! We have developed this weird puritanico-capitalist coyness about money in this country – most especially including Liberals in the ‘we’. You also see this ethos on the internet, wherein everything good must be free; if you charge money your love isn’t pure. Why did you become a musician if you wanted to make a living?!

    This is the other side of my libertarian/reactionary conversation cited above (i.e. a teacher doesn’t need to make a good living because their ‘compensation’ is partially their enjoyment or fulfillment). JC-C is so right that the idea that a teacher might have political power is just horrifying to this kind of liberal (and to conservatives of course). Doesn’t mammy take care of me because she *loves* me?

  61. George September 15, 2012 at 8:22 pm | #

    Hate? Are teachers being assaulted? Did mayor Emmanuel hire thugs to beat them up? Isn’t hate too strong a word. If I think a teacher is being paid $10,000 more than they should be, is that really hatred?

    “All of them simply had no other choice”…that paid a pension. Actually teachers chose teaching for one reason and one reason only. It is the best option they had available. That is why people chose their professions. That is why you chose yours.

    ” treated teachers as bumptious figures of ridicule” One of the discontents of having a government monopoly that requires payment of taxes by the parents and attendance by the children is that if one of the brats does not like it, they can’t leave, and the school can’t bar them from entry. That is just the way it is. Many people hold the food and the staff at McDonald’s in contempt, they don’t eat there, and if they did and insisted on voicing their opinion they would be asked to leave. That is why the person behind the counter at McD is treated, in face to face encounters, better than many public school teachers.

    BTW, if you want to see hatred of teachers investigate the 1968 teachers strike and specifically the poor working class area of Ocean Hill / Brownsville. Please explain that according to your theories.


    Compare “bumptious figures of ridicule” with an antisemitic attack why don’t you?

  62. DC September 16, 2012 at 1:30 pm | #

    Thanks for this post, Corey.

    I think some of this contempt for teachers’ unions comes out of a bizarre cultural construction that would see certain individual teachers as good, but teachers as a class as bad. (One needn’t look too far to see parallels with constructions of race in American society and elsewhere: there are always a few “good” black people that white middle class people don’t find too threatening or what have you, but they are always seen as the exception to the rule.)

    So, ironically, your citation of the two teachers who were so formative in laying the groundwork for your intellectual development would be cited by the naysayers as the exceptions that prove the rule: every once in a while, they would say, someone would rise above the inherent mediocrity of teachers as a class, and would provide people with a good education. It’s rarely acknowledged that the ubiquity of successful people who can point to having a good teacher in their formative years would indicate that teachers, as a class, are a more valuable part of society than the naysayers would have you believe.

    But it seems to me that, if there are accurate criticisms of the failure of public school teachers, maybe the solution is pretty much the opposite to what most privileged media voices would propose: Pay. Them. More.

    How do we imagine that we are ever going to build quality public schools if we disinvest in them, if we cut the salaries of those who are charged with teaching our students, if we hack away at their resources? And in comparison with other walks of life… why, exactly, do we pay investment bankers at a rate starting in the upper six figures, and pay teachers in the lower five figures? If we are indeed trusting our children’s education to schoolteachers, why do we suddenly turn around and cut their salaries… to punish them for their inadequate nurturing of said children?

    The reason, I suspect, lies behind the ideology that has facilitated disinvestment in *every* realm of the public sphere: because it is in the interest of an upper echelon to diminish the redistributive power of government, think tanks and pundits and conservative “intellectuals” have spent the last forty years inscribing in the public mind the circular argument that Corey alludes to above: because they’re losers, we don’t pay teachers well; because we don’t pay teachers well, they’re losers.

  63. Dene Karaus September 17, 2012 at 11:24 am | #

    Corey, you have it SO right. I had a similar experience in the Tenafly, NJ public schools during the sixties. The difference for me was that it was an earlier time – parents were not antagonistic toward teachers then – teachers were still held in great respect. The conservative movement began complaining during the “70’s that the upheaval of the 1960’s must have been created by the educators, who they saw accurately skewed liberal.

    Two comments, one from popular wisdom, one my own.

    1. “Reality has a liberal bias.”

    2. Academicians who search for truth in the real world with true intellectual honesty generally skew “left” due to the above point. Conservatives sometimes maintain that bias in the selection process results in left-wing faculties. They are completely off the mark. Intellectual honesty skews “left,” and frustratingly for them, there is nothing they can do about it except attempt to redefine “truth,” and they’re doing that all the time, with lies.

    Thank you for your book, your articles, and your blog.

    Dene Karaus

    On Wed, Sep 12, 2012 at 12:11 PM, Corey Rob

  64. Claude Horvath September 18, 2012 at 3:25 pm | #

    For my own part; no particular hostility to teachers unions. But this reminds me of the way the California nurses union muscled Schwarzenegger aside when he behaved badly.

  65. Claude Horvath September 18, 2012 at 4:00 pm | #

    And some lines from The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy seem, perhaps, to be somewhat relevant:

    DEEP THOUGHT: If I might make an observation…

    MAJIKTHISE: We’ll go on strike!

    VROOMFONDEL: That’s right. You’ll have a national philosopher’s strike on your hands.

    DEEP THOUGHT: Who will that inconvenience?

    MAJIKTHISE: Never you mind who it’ll inconvenience you box of black legging binary bits! It’ll hurt, buster! It’ll hurt!

  66. Wells Fargo Must Die September 21, 2012 at 2:54 pm | #

    The US is basically a authoritarian society. It believes strongly in authoritarianism. Truth be told, it would not be hard for Americans to accept a benevolent dictator if they felt their moral worldview would be upheld. You see this in the way the two parties have so easily acquiesced to the antics of Bush and Obama without question so long as their benevolent leader was in charge of their protection.

    Unions fight against authority which is anti-American. Americans submit to authority — not fight against it.

  67. abprosper September 21, 2012 at 3:34 pm | #

    I can tell you why as a Gen X person I don’t care much for teachers. Mine (and I attended several districts of varying sizes in several states) were at best mediocre. Many were just time card punchers.

    My teacher friends tell me things have gotten worse since.

    Granted weren’t the highly challenged teachers ( have some compassion for the Chicago ones) from rough districts but with kids from mostly intact families and for what its worth, almost all White. Even with modest sized classrooms they were simply unable to teach anyone with an IQ much above o below average anything worth knowing that ,even way before the public Internet ,they couldn’t get on their own.

    This combined with the fact that people are starting to realize that the US system is rigged and in no way meritocratic, its who you know and how connected and programmed you are not how capable you are makes people more than a little eager to hurt the system any way they can. .

    Attacking public schools funding is a way to do this.

    Anyway to close having seen the results of home schooling verus public schools , well its no contest. If you want to learn its DIY. How to get/buy the contacts the kids will need for the American Dream is another question but unless you are upper class, public schools won’t help anyway.

    Unless we can fix our society , families and eucational pedagogy (Ptussian models don’t fit our curreent needs) homeschooling will provide better learning for many people, not everyone can of course and many parents need schools if only to babysit but of you want to learn, its DIY.

  68. Ho Lee Shit September 21, 2012 at 6:02 pm | #

    WRONG! I hate teachers unions because my very best friend is a retired Chicago teacher. She retired at the age of 55 (after 30 years). She now gets a pension of $10,000 PER MONTH for the rest of her life- yes $120K a year. BTW, this is not unusual. My property taxes in IL on a 1200 sq foot house are $4,900 per year. That’s the reason I hate unions. Total bullshit if you ask me.

    • jonnybutter September 21, 2012 at 8:53 pm | #

      The average pension for an IL teacher is $43k. Since $43k is an average, a 120k pension is – at BEST – quite unusual. I also have a hard time believing that this is your ‘very best friend’ since you wouldn’t resent your very best friend like that. Of course it horsesh-t anyway, but just sayin’.

      The fact that your property taxes are $4900 per year is neither here nor there. Do IL schools rely too heavily on local property taxes? Absolutely yes. BTW, $4900 is not much compared to a lot of Chicago suburbs, believe me (try $9k or $12k or more per year). You also write off those taxes on your fed return if you itemize. You also write off the interest on your mortgage. If you don’t make enough to itemize, Lord Romney thinks *you* are a parasite. You might like to pretend that he’s talking about, er…other people. But he’s talking about you.

      If you don’t make enough money to make ends meet, did you ever consider taking a look at your boss, rather than reflexively blaming your ‘very best friend’ or the local gov? If my very best friend earned a nice pension after teaching children for a medium low salary for 30 years, I’d be happy for them.

      • Donald Pruden, Jr. a/k/a The Enemy Combatant September 26, 2012 at 5:19 pm | #

        Have you noticed, as I have, that the “teacher hataz” that comment here have some literally unbelievable story to justify their hatin’? And that such stories are as transparent as a dead jellyfish on the beach after a storm? I will say it, if others are too polite: Ho Lee Shit (and some others) is either lying or trolling. Or both.

  69. Doug September 21, 2012 at 6:04 pm | #

    “It’s a political problem. The problems are sociopolitical. The problems are unions. You plot the growth of the NEA [National Education Association] and the dropping of SAT scores, and they’re inversely proportional. The problems are unions in the schools. The problem is bureaucracy. I’m one of these people who believes the best thing we could ever do is go to the full voucher system.”

    -Steve Jobs

    • Socialist Sam June 22, 2013 at 11:04 pm | #

      Steve Jobs never worked as a teacher nor did he have any experience in examining the educational system. He was a slave holder, a plagiarist and an all-around monster. Maybe you should quit bowing at the words of any celebrity (thankfully now dead) who spouted an ignorant, self-serving piece of plutocratic rhetoric.

  70. JTFaraday September 22, 2012 at 10:35 am | #

    “Teaching” is feminized labor, even when men do it. This is more so the case in the US than in Europe for historical reasons. Then add that prototypical working class institution, the union, and you can pretty much stick a fork in it, even in good times.

  71. assurance vie September 26, 2012 at 9:42 pm | #

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  72. Gaurav Khanna September 27, 2012 at 1:41 am | #

    Corey — a very well-written article and I agree with most of your points. I too went to Horace Greeley (Class of 1990). Allan Damon was my American History teacher, my advisor when I was editor-in-chief of the Advocate, and also a hero of mine. People don’t always appreciate that intellectual curiosity is fostered at a young age — it doesn’t just magically appear in college. This is why teachers in K-12 serve such a crucial role.

    Well written article and I subscribed to you on FB. Looking forward to reading more of your posts.

  73. K.D. September 27, 2012 at 5:26 am | #

    It’s difficult for me to relate to the attitude so many in your Chappaqua community had (have?) for teachers. I had excellent public school teachers, but grew up on the other side of the river in NY, and that sort of elitism was likely not a part of the generally middle-class culture over there. I think I and most of my friends, many of whom went on to Ivy League schools (attended Yale myself), had a great deal of respect for our teachers, saw how passionate they were about teaching, how gifted they were. Our parents were hard-working, and many, like my own parents, left the city to provide a better life, at significant sacrifice, for their children, and this included a better education. So, while many in Chappaqua may have looked down on teachers, I think my classmates and I, and our parents, were quite grateful for all that our teachers did to help us succeed in life. I might also add that the teachers in our community earned more than the average local income.

    But Chappaqua is not America, and the public school education you were blessed with in Westchester, funded by the property taxes on those luxury homes, is likely far removed from the education the average American kid gets. As a mother who has been disappointed with the fact that my own son’s public school education hasn’t quite compared to the one I was fortunate to have been given years ago, I can appreciate the frustration some feel with the power of the teachers’ unions. And that frustration has absolutely nothing to do with a contempt for those who choose to go into the teaching profession. Outside of Chappaqua, and other similarly affluent communities, teaching is still a noble profession and one that pays relatively well.

  74. Nate September 27, 2012 at 4:01 pm | #

    It’s sad that so many teachers are good, but their chosen institution is awful. I love reading and learning, but my college experience left me with frustration and anxiety at every turn. Credits didn’t transfer, time to finish kept expanding, had to retake classes due to an administrative screw up, etc.

  75. Jim October 3, 2012 at 2:34 pm | #

    Without the union, the administration would walk all over the teachers. Evidence Chicago where the day and year were extended and the negotiated raise for that year was denied. Don’t think that would be the end of the demands. On the other hand, the teachers get power and they start sticking it to the administrators. It is a balance of power.

    Chicago was big enough to make a lot of noise knowing that 25,000 teachers could not be replaced. However, many other districts had similar demands placed on them and the union was helpless. Helpless because the number of teachers in the district was small enough that all the teachers could be replaced..

    So, let’s assume the teacher unions are gone. Following that would be all kinds of demands resulting in an even faster burn out rate (presently it is 5 years). Then the teacher shortage will come back and welcome to the 70’s.

    Then there is a choice. Pay lousy wages and get lousy teachers. Or, come up with another incentive program that will attract the best. The wheel keeps turning.

    I put in 38 years and retired from teaching. I still stay in contact with my peers. No doubt in my mind that teaching would not be my choice if I had to do it all over again.

    Remember AIG received 33 billion in TARP money and immediately 13 billion was spent on bonuses. They had to pay a bonus to keep the best people or they would change jobs. So how is teaching different?

    Do you shop for the cheapest open heart surgeon?

    Do you believe corporations would do the ethical thing if there were no laws?

    One thing I don’t understand. How did the strike place such a hardship on the parents? There is no hardship for summer vacation, institute days, spring break, etc. I think they protest too much.

  76. Bryan October 21, 2012 at 10:04 pm | #

    Way to go!!! Couldn’t be more right! I have traveled the world and almost all other countries hold their teachers high, it’s really sad!

  77. Lynne December 4, 2012 at 8:22 am | #

    You missed several reasons why people hate unions:
    1) unions offer job security for life – anathema to life itself where nothing is secure. Only unions and public sector work offer what should never be offered (security for life). Unions have a place but the undue influence is more destructive than helpful in the long run.
    2) the job security for life has two negative consequences: a) it is extremely difficult to fire workers (teachers) who do not do their job and b) it can take away motivation for change and innovation – especially in older teachers many of whom are just bidding their time for retirement (in my school district, which purchased “smart-boards” 3 years ago guess who still won’t learn the technology).
    That unions put their workers ahead of students and that unions demands are ever larger have dire consequences on the taxes of towns they work. Wages for public sector employees used to be lower than public sector wages; a compensation was benefits packages. Now public sector employees have wages that rival public sector employees with benefit that outstrip public sector benefits with none of the risks or responsibilities. All negatives do not apply to all teachers but it seems unreasonable to build a system means to reward all equally regardless of work. Now THAT is a motivation killer. In the future, the good (no great) teachers you had will become fewer and fewer with the stranglehold unions have on the profession of teaching. And it makes no sense for towns to cower at union demands as they go bankrupt.

    • HopeLB September 22, 2017 at 3:38 pm | #

      Why don’t we adopt the Finnish system here? Their teachers are venerated. They must graduate in the top of their class with a Masters in their particular subject, not in an education degree. The students do weekly science labs in groups of eight. The teachers are well paid but not extraordinarily so. The students have an hour and a half of outdoor recess no matter the Finnish wheather (Vitamin D!). It seems to me that it is our particular educational pathway to becoming employed in the teacher’s union that is the problem. Sometimes it seems the system was designed for the production of an easily manipulated citizenry lacking in analytic and critical thinking skills. That is, it looks as though it is “by design”, especially in light of the “Common Core” curriculum I have seen at my daughter’s school.

  78. Eric January 19, 2013 at 12:04 pm | #

    Its absolutely frustrating dealing hearing people who naturally do well academically question why people criticize teachers. They don’t see that students who take longer to comprehend material often get ignored by teachers or are often given quick memorization tricks to memorize material untill a test

  79. Eric January 19, 2013 at 12:11 pm | #

    Neither side, union or anti union, really care about the students. Its my side vs your side and the students like me who need extra attention from teachers get cast aside in favor of politics and jobs. Teachers are not helping children learn anymore unless you’re naturally gifted or very self motivated. Other than that you’re shoved through a system where the goal is to pass you, not make sure you are comprehending material

  80. Pension Reform January 23, 2013 at 11:57 am | #

    We hate them, because like my best friends wife, she retired at the age of 55 on a pension of $100K a year! Yep, Chicago. That my friend is BULLSHIT. I hate the sin, but love the sinner btw.

    • hb January 27, 2013 at 3:24 am | #

      Since the top of the CPS pay scale for teachers is $95K (and that’s with a PhD & many years of teaching in), I think you just made that up, “Pension Reform”.

      Maybe you better check out the salary schedule and come up with a more believable anti-teacher story.


  81. Lacushla February 8, 2014 at 5:10 pm | #

    Cory: Thank you for posting an article that completely confirms the suspicions I’ve had for years as a public school teacher. No, I am NOT paranoid. Neither am I a pathetic loser. (Though I am paid like one). I have two post-graduate degrees, I have been named to Who’s Who Among America’s Teachers not once, but three times, I have taught for 26 years, and I still only make $54,000 a year. What boggles my mind, however, is the disrespect and contempt I feel from the general public on a consistent basis. My upper middle class acquaintances (I can’t actually call them friends) and even my own family members look down on me because I don’t make as much money as they do. And the parents of most of the students I teach resent me because I make more money than they do. (I live in a rural area where the poverty level is high). They begrudge me my salary even though they never went to college or pursued an education past high school.
    The bottom line is that very few people could do what I do on a long-term basis, yet I have been denigrated, humiliated, and chastised for doing my best to educate my students. For many of my students, school is the only stability in their lives, the only source of love and attention, and the only balanced meal they will receive for the day. I have paid for basic supplies out of my own pocket (that both the district and the parents say they cannot afford) by putting them on my already maxed-out credit card. And yet I am the bad guy in this scenario? America, please tell me why teachers have become the whipping boys and scapegoats for all of society’s I’lls.

    • Myles Hoenig February 21, 2016 at 9:18 am | #

      Capitalism breeds contempt for anything and anyone that doesn’t show financial growth.
      We see it in how sports and other entertainment figures are idolized but how the sanitation collector or teacher is demonized in society.

  82. Jeanne Doyle February 19, 2016 at 5:16 pm | #

    I shared this with my local Democratic Committee website and this comment: We have two tenured professors in our family of 5, 1 college track coach and a special ed teacher. This is the best article I’ve read on what many Democrats really think about people who teach. One tenured professor, my husband worked for an American oil company. He was called Professor as a pejorative. As in if you were a teacher you were somehow not in the “real world.” Later on when working for a Dutch company he got a performance review that stated he would be an excellent Professor. He called his boss wanting to know what that was about. He assumed it was a pejorative. He was told that in Holland Professor was the most honorable field and that was the highest compliment they could pay him.

  83. Michael Fiorillo September 22, 2017 at 3:05 pm | #

    I’ve taught high school in the NYC public schools for over twenty years, a period of intense attacks on teachers, their unions, and public education in general. I’m very surprised and disappointed that Corey doesn’t mention the main reason for those attacks, which is that we are in the midst of a multi-decade attempted hostile takeover of public education, going back at least to the release of “A Nation at Risk” in 1983. Teacher unions are under attack because they are (or could be, since in practice union leadership has mostly collaborated with so-called education reform) the most powerful institutional barrier to privatizing – via charter schools, vouchers, etc. – the public schools, and allowing private interests to sink their fangs into the $600 billion-plus spent on K-12 education every year.

    There is an immense, weaponized academic/philanthropic/think tank/media industrial complex that has been pushing so-called reform propaganda – teachers suck, public schools are failing, charters are public schools that work miracles, etc. – for years, and liberals not just fallen for it, but been among its greatest enablers; look no further than Obama and his Race to the Top for proof of that.

    Very, very surprised and disappointed about the lack of awareness here of the qui bono behind so-called education reform, and the scapegoating and demonization of teachers.

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