Terry H. Schwadron
Aug. 5, 2022
In so many ways, we’re reaping what we’ve sown.
Ignoring climate changes, we see growing environmental catastrophes slipping beyond our control.
At supermarkets and gas pumps, we wonder aloud at high prices while hearing about record corporate profits — and complaints about paying minimum taxes.
Whatever one’s political inclinations, there is no one who believes we have a coherent, intelligible system in place for immigration, health costs, airline travel, policing or justice.
The latest such arene is reflected ina report from The Washington Post which tells us that the teacher shortage we hear about every August is hitting crisis levels in America. School officials are scrambling just to have someone on the classroom. The Post reports that rural school districts in Texas are switching to four-day weeks this fall due to lack of staff, that Florida is asking veterans with no teaching background to enter classrooms and that Arizona is allowing college students to instruct children.
Why, you ask?
The reasons vary by district, of course, but you don’t have to look very hard to see underpaid teachers under never-ending pressure from overfilled classes, perceived and real security threats from shootings, and the wild campaigns to dictate what teachers can say in the classroom that has heated the culture wars.’
What Is Happening?
If we’re seeing people flee public school teaching jobs, maybe we should be asking ourselves about the newly legalized efforts to siphon funds from public schools to parochial religious institutions more than criticizing teacher unions for seeking cost-of-living increases.
Maybe we ought to be asking what demanding parental control of education that comports with politically inspired perceptions of acceptable descriptions of identity and mentions of race really means.
We want teachers to keep masks on kids or to keep disease away from those without masks; we demand that teacher simultaneously address those delivered to school after covid exposure and those kept home to tune in to Zoom — all because political concerns to skip public health measures for local economic reasons are seen a s trumping any need to protect the health of students, teachers or the families they infect in turn.
From what we know, as many teachers face parental anger over too much assigned homework as face similar ire over too little homework. Where exactly are those who storm the school board barricades to demand a scouring of textbooks for some mention of difference in our societal view of gender when it comes time to working with their students on reading?
We ask teachers to encourage students to think critically, and then criticize them if the questions are too critical. Meanwhile, we’re still judging educational success by standard test performance that has long and routinely been decried as ineffective measures of useful learning.
As The Post noted, it is hard to know how many U.S. classrooms are short of teachers for the 2022–2023 school year; no national database tracks the issue. But there are local reports from across the country detailing staffing gaps in the thousands that are much larger than in the past.
We’ve made public school teaching a contentious profession, and now we can reap those rewards.
What Do They Say?
Educators polled by The Post note teachers talk about pandemic-induced exhaustion, low pay, and the sense that politicians, parents and sometimes their own school board members have little respect for their profession amid an escalating educational culture wars.
Last week, The New York Times had interviews with kindergarten teachers on the gun training grounds, learning how to shoot to protect their students against bad guys. We’ve seen school districts and states pass policies and laws restricting what teachers can say about U.S. history, race, racism, gender and sexual orientation, as well as LGBTQ issues. Some districts have rules about whether teachers can keep pictures of partners on their desk if they are of the same sex as the teacher — as if the main role of schoolteachers is to “groom” kindergarteners for gender and sex conversations.
We have Republican governors in states like Virginia and Florida spending their time cracking down on school districts about the books on school library shelves rather than worrying about a generation growing up unable to read much more than a TikTok screen. Florida’s Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, calls press conferences to mock any attempt to make students feel more at ease with learning math than provided by rote learning.
After two years of covid interruptions, teachers and students are supposed to be focused on making up for declines in academic achievement forced by health interruptions, but instead, we’re seeing education used as a political weapon.
Teacher unions often are vilified for seeking pay increases, but school districts under pressure suddenly are offering multi-thousand-dollar bonuses to fill their vacancies as well as relocation and retention bonuses.
A new state law in Arizona, signed by Republican Gov. Doug Ducey last month, allows college students to take teaching jobs. Florida offers K-12 teaching jobs to military veterans who served for at least four years with no college degree required. Other districts are overfilling more classes or hiring online companies to teach over Zoom.
Put it together, and, as DeSantis would say, 2+2=4, no matter how people feel about it. Put another way, harass and demean teachers, and they will leave you a lot of vacancies.