Blame it on the Cannon Fodder

Originally published by AMERICANSCAPEGOAT.COM

February 1, 2015

Disclaimer: The Scapegoat will vigorously support the immediate termination of every single bad teacher in America on the day that a system is put in place that will ensure that their replacements will all be good teachers.

Dallas, Texas (AS)- A recent need to retrieve a piece of information that was stored in my shuttered Facebook account prompted a brief journey into the online world that I had happily kept at a distance for over a year.  Like the dog that returns to its vomit, I gave in, surrendering myself to voyeuristic temptation before once again deactivating my account.

Not much had changed since my last visit.  Facebook is still the perfect dance floor for the attention seeker who is looking to hook up with any enabler eager to engage in the social media two-step.  In the early scrolling, it looked like it would be an easy night for the chaperones.  The skirts were modest and nobody was twerking.  The boy who posted grainy concert photos of a band that he should have outgrown a quarter century ago was publically affirmed for having done something cool.  The girls who shared snapshots of not quite nearly identical step-by-step acrylic paintings that were produced while following a tightly rehearsed script delivered by an art instructor who was too young to share their wine were praised for their talent and creativity.  It was a dull, yet polite affair until some knucklehead had to ruin the evening by dropping a turd in the punchbowl.

An all-knowing Facebook blowhard couldn’t let the night go by without drawing attention to himself.  He wasn’t looking for a dance partner.  His post was loaded with the kind of intentionally inflammatory statements that let everyone know that he came looking for a fight.  Taking great delight in his own cleverness, he amused himself with a series of cheap shots aimed at the failings of the public education system in Texas, merrily heaping an ample portion of the blame upon incompetent teachers.   When the inevitable challenges came, the Facebook blowhard took to moralizing and denounced teachers for being actively complicit supporters of the failure industrial complex.*  My fill of vomit had been reached.  It was time to deactivate my account.  I typed something like “apHvhjc8hpqinujm09j0m” in the little box that was provided to share my reasons for leaving.  The smiling faces of the people who Facebook promised would miss me were ignored as I made the final click to free myself from the shackles of the voluntary online prison.  Then, I took in a deep breath of human dignity.

The Facebook blowhard certainly isn’t alone in his criticism of teachers.  These days it is hard to escape the sound of the drumbeat that unceasingly calls a righteously incensed public to take action against this terrible foe.  Cries for an all-out war against this accused source of nearly all childhood and adolescent ignorance are echoed by those in seats of power.  The gears of a mighty war machine are turning and the wheels of change are in motion.  To the eyes of many, the only thing standing between the American public and a brighter, better educated tomorrow, is an entrenched mass of bad teachers propped up by their fat cat union bosses.  To those who hold this view, the only good and decent course of action is to plow straight through the wicked obstacle.  There isn’t even any reason to worry about the unavoidable harm that will come from the collateral damage because the righteousness of the cause absolves everyone of the need to consider any moral responsibilities.

This might be a good time to pause and reflect before we allow any more rash decisions to be made in the name of America’s children.  Bad teachers aren’t anything new.  During my lifetime, I’ve encountered many substandard teachers.  They instructed me at every level of my education, from primary school to the post bachelor’s education courses that I took to earn my teaching certificate.  (Yes, there will be bad teachers at the colleges that we are telling every child will be the Promised Land that they can look forward to entering after their years of wandering in the desert.)  I have also worked with bad teachers as an educator.  There is little that I would offer in their defense.  However, it is still ridiculous to claim that they are to account for the staggering levels of ignorance that are prevalent among young Americans today.

While it may be satisfying to vent a bit of gas now and again, lumping blame tends to oversimplify the nature of complex problems.  (If making sure that children turn out okay was such an easy feat to accomplish, society surely wouldn’t have reached an agreement that the task should require a minimum of eighteen calendar years to pull off successfully.)  Of course, even if one were to accept that bad teachers are the primary cause of most of the problems in our public schools, it would be blindingly obvious that a campaign of hostility against teachers wouldn’t be the most practical approach to take when trying to repair the damage.  Collectively speaking, you don’t blame foot soldiers for losing a war.  It’s a metaphor that should help put things in perspective.  When you think about it, it’s more than a bit silly to try to pin the blame for the widespread failures of government institutions on individuals who have no say in the decision making process.

If our desire is to win the war against childhood and adolescent ignorance, rather than simply looking to point an accusing finger, it would be prudent to take measures that lead to attracting quality individuals to the teaching profession.**  The systems that have already been put in place to hold the so-called bad teachers accountable for their failings have also been responsible for the resignations of many good teachers who have grown weary of the endless burdens that come from constantly being viewed as a suspect in some crime against children.  Morale is low, and the education profession is fast becoming viewed as a last refuge for desperate underemployed college graduates in an inhospitable economy.  This can’t be a good thing.


* The blowhard may have had a point in claiming that teachers can often be to blame for their complicity in supporting a failing system.  However, expecting every teacher in the country to come to this awareness and then fall on their swords like John Taylor Gatto isn’t a solution that anyone is kicking around right now.

** Just as bad teachers are not the primary cause for the failings of the American public school system, good teachers will not be a sufficient cure for its ills.