A CLIMATE OF FEAR IN EDUCATION THREATENS THE LIBERTY OF ALL AMERICANS
Potential for Retribution Deters Teachers from Speaking
The Unique Predicament of Teacher-Parents
It stands to reason that teachers who are also parents are in a unique position to see the issues plaguing our public schools from more than one perspective.
Accordingly, it makes good sense that those in positions of power in public education would be eager to hear how school teachers who also happen to be school parents view policy as it is applied, and equally eager to at least take some of those views into consideration during their often opaque decision making adventures.
I certainly don’t mean to discount the views shared by parents who are not teachers, or those of teachers who aren’t parents; I only mean that people who teach and parent simultaneously, and whose children attend school in the same public school system in which they teach, arguably possess a particular perspective that others who do not share their circumstance may not fully appreciate.
Teacher-parents are possibly the most muzzled of all stakeholders in matters that affect their children’s education. While parents who don’t teach can freely advocate for the rights of their kids and for their own rights as parents, teacher-parents simply cannot.
Legions of administrators and politicians will denounce my assertion. They will vigorously proclaim that teachers share the same rights of parenting that non teacher-parents have, but they will be lying. There are just too many ways for iniquitous administrators to squeeze a teacher who doesn’t conform to what are often morally corrupt and injurious policies.
In reality, we Florida teacher-parents are expected to just trust in the often elusive moral fiber of our administrators, because virtually all institutional protections afforded us over the last century have been stripped away by a malevolent legislature in Tallahassee that has, since Jeb Bush was governor, been bound and determined to destroy public education in Florida.
The crooks and cronies in Tallahassee correctly understood from the onset of their War on Public Education that in order to destroy public education, they must first destroy the teaching profession. They have shown themselves to be quite cunning and capable in that regard, and have succeeded in reducing our profession to its lowest point in living memory.
The Loss of Tenure All but Silences Teacher Dissent
Teacher tenure was originally conceived as protection from cronyism and nepotism in the administration and governance of public education, and as a way to hold the profession harmless from the ebb and flow of politically motivated initiatives and pernicious programs borne of motivations not rooted in the advancement of public schools. With tenure, teachers didn’t have to be so afraid to speak out against maladministration. We could feel somewhat secure in our roles as educators without fearing for our livelihoods.
It makes perfect sense that the enemies of public education would launch an all-front offensive against teacher tenure by painting it as a bulwark for terrible teachers and an obstacle to improvements in public education. Their tactics worked masterfully. Widespread public ignorance of the real problems plaguing public education made voters vulnerable to the education reform narrative, that if we could just get rid of all the terrible teachers, and with them those lackluster, money guzzling public schools, then education in Florida would blossom and our state would become a model for all to follow.
Florida’s Legislative Assault on Public Education Makes It a Laughingstock
Well, it hasn’t exactly worked out that way. Florida is fast becoming the global exemplar of how not to administer public education. In the past decade, the Republican-dominated Florida Legislature has passed bill after bill of malicious policy with no other intention but to remove teachers and their professional organizations from the debate and destroy the teaching profession. As a result, the entire Florida education enterprise is in disarray. Parents are fed up with being misled and are up in arms over mindless testing and intransigent politicians. Teachers are reaching their breaking points and exiting the profession in droves. A teacher shortage is growing in breadth and gravity. Judging from the baneful and bumbling behavior of our leaders in Tallahassee, these problems are likely to get much worse before we begin to see any sort of effort to repair our school system and recover our profession, if in fact, we ever do. By then, more than a generation of Florida’s youth will have been shortchanged by a shortsighted band of opportunists and profiteers who have hijacked public education in Florida.
What It Takes for a Teacher to Speak Out
As in any conflict where the stakes are extraordinarily high, it takes an uncommon sort of person to stand up and speak out when the mere act of doing so can cost so much. Florida teachers are scared to death of speaking out, because those in positions of power have so many ways to make teachers who do open their mouths wish they didn’t. Repercussions can come from many directions. Even if annual contract teachers can last through a school year of incessant harassment, when the last day of the year arrives, their contracts can simply be allowed to expire. Teachers on annual contracts are at the mercy of the very people who want them to remain silent. It’s the ugly truth about teaching in Florida that no one seems to be willing to talk about except behind closed doors and after checking the room for bugs. I’m not kidding. In order to speak out, a teacher must be willing to accept harassment as a condition of employment, up to and including termination for some nonsensical, manufactured offense.
When a Teacher Speaks Out, It’s a Big Deal
Big Shots get pissed. Bad things happen. Suddenly, the loudmouth teacher can’t seem to do anything right at work. Every little slip is documented and logged. The remaining days of a career, however many there might have been before the teacher decided to get uppity, are now numbered. That’s the way it is, now that the “accountability” obsessed “reformers” have established hegemony in Florida.
Enter the Marzano Method
The Marzano method of teacher evaluation will prove to be indispensable to the non-educator, hack bureaucrats running the education racket in Florida. The method transforms the process of evaluating a teacher into a very soft ball of craft clay, easily molded by the artist to look like anything. The sixty elements within the so-called “protocol” are indeed a virtual minefield through which teachers must pass, on an annual basis, in order to safeguard their livelihoods for one more year. Even tenured teachers can’t hold up to a withering, multi-year assault on their careers by malicious administrators who decide to use the subjective evaluation protocol as a weapon. Eventually, even the best teachers grow exhausted and leave. Of course, teachers on annual contracts don’t stand a chance whatsoever. This is why so many teachers don’t speak up, especially when it comes to issues on the ground, in the schools.
Restoring Union Power Is Imperative
In order to restore quality to millions of kids’ educations, the unions need to communicate the challenges our profession faces to the young teachers entering it. Every year, multitudes of older teachers happily walk out of what fast became a nightmare and thank their lucky stars that they made it to retirement. In the paradigm our crony politicians have worked so hard to establish, teachers will simply never last long enough to even consider retirement from a career in teaching.
Without strong unions, most teachers will never feel safe in speaking their minds about anything more specific than state policy. In order to preserve the local unions, many of which teeter on decertification because of attrition and lackluster recruitment, especially in so-called “right to work” states, young teachers need to be convinced to join. Our Forefathers’ call to union for the Colonies, Join or Die, is an apt metaphor, without a trace of hyperbole. It is utterly appropriate. Without unity, our profession will die, and in its place, a new occupation comprised of low-paid “education facilitators,” teaching from a corporate script, will sound the death knell of true liberal education in America, and ultimately, liberty itself.