by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Many factors have contributed to the downfall of America’s schools. One rarely discussed issue is the disproportionate praise heaped on the teaching industry, which has led teachers to believe the scope of their influence ought to extend beyond the teaching of facts and figures. As a society, we have praised teachers to the extent that even mild criticism of the profession is met with a chorus of boos. “My sister is a teacher!”
When discussing widespread problems in the profession, instead of presenting an actual argument, those who reflexively defend the industry will often mention having friends or relatives who are teachers, as if this anecdotal tidbit is a meaningful response.
“Teachers are heroes” is practically an infallible dictum. It is unclear why teachers, by default, deserve the disproportionate praise our society gives them. Even suggesting that they might deserve merely the same amount of respect we give most other professions (the horror!) will be perceived by many as “an attack on teachers.”
The prevailing wisdom suggests it is particularly noble to be a teacher. Is it especially noble to teach fourth-grade social studies? Is it more noble than delivering packages? Is one of these industries more replaceable than the other? Kids can and are being educated by parents at home — a practice growing in popularity as our public (and in some cases, private) schools deteriorate into cesspools of leftist orthodoxy. Short of actually working for UPS or the like, parents cannot replace a nationwide package delivery system, suggesting that one of these professions is at least partially replaceable by parents.
Many educators see themselves as quasi-parents who are responsible for crafting our children’s values and beliefs. When we regard teachers as heroes, we should not be surprised when they believe their duties include having discussions normally reserved for parents.