Thanks to the fake Ed reformers—for instance, Bill Gates, President Obama and his Secretary of Education Arne Duncan (there are many others)—teachers have become the 21st century’s whipping boys.
Are you familiar with the definition of “Whipping Boy”?
Merriam-Webster.com says, “Whipping boy: someone or something that often is blamed for problems caused by other people.”
In one of the internet forums I belong to, the following pull quote was posted in a discussion.
“Enrolling students of color in ‘rigorous’ academic programs that hold them to high academic standards is one way that educators attempt to close achievement gaps and disrupt the self-perpetuating nature of low expectations.” This quote was pulled from a fake Ed reformer website.
When I read it the first time, I smiled wryly and wanted to laugh but there were too many painful memories from the thirty years I worked as a classroom teacher.
I taught mostly students of color who lived in poverty and/or belonged to violent street gangs and no matter how rigorous the academic program, too many of these kids didn’t give a rat’s ass about what some distant autocrat or billionaire expected teachers to teach.
In fact, I was often criticized by parents and kids for demanding too much of my students. Some of these kids who refused to learn called me “mean” and one or two would ask what I’d do if “they jumped me.” Another excuse often used by some kids who did little to nothing was that I was “boring”, and because I was “boring”, they didn’t have to do the work.
However, that didn’t stop a “few” in every class from earning A’s and B’s and doing the quality of work I demanded of them.
It doesn’t matter how fantastic a teacher teaches, there is no way to force a kid to bring their book to class, pay attention, read anything, or do the work. For these kids, the results of standardized tests will always be dismal.
Those who don’t work, well, don’t—LEARN. And the ones who don’t learn (because they didn’t do the work not because the teacher didn’t teach) are the ones who get the lower standardized test scores that will get teachers fired and schools closed.
There was a term that some veteran teachers at the high school where I taught used to describe these students who refused to learn: “the walking dead”. One teacher who had been teaching for more than forty years used this term in a staff meeting and administration criticized him severely. Every teacher at the high school signed a petition in his defense because we all knew what he said was true.
In reality, teachers are the whipping boys for the parents who didn’t support them and the kids, “the walking dead”, who refuse to cooperate, read and study. Teachers are also the whipping boys for the fake Ed reformers.
The only thing that happens to the kids who wouldn’t cooperate is that they might not earn a high school diploma by age 17/18. About twenty percent don’t but as they mature and go out into the work world and learn the value of that high school degree, the number of adults in American who have earned a high school degree or its equivalent by age 24 reaches more than 90%—we won’t hear that from the fake Ed Reformers. There’s an old saying, “Better late than never,” but that isn’t stopping the fake Ed reformers from demanding that so-called failing teachers be fired and failing schools be closed.
The failure rate in my class was based on the work and not on tests. About 5% (on average) earned A’s, because they did most or all of the work, and 30% to 50% earned F’s for not working. Instead, some warmed a seat and a few caused a lot of trouble making it challenging for me to teach the 50% to 70% (it varied from class to class) who were willing to do some, most or all of the work.
I was one of those “whipping boys” for most of the thirty years I taught, but today I’m retired and angry, because I worked 60 to 100 hour weeks on average challenging my students to close that “achievement gap”.
Why is this happening? Why are teachers being used as whipping boys?
One answer may be: In a stock market prospectus uncovered by education author Jonathan Kozol, the Montgomery Securities group explains to Corporate America the lure of privatizing education. Kozol writes: “The education industry,” according to these analysts, “represents, in our opinion, the final frontier of a number of sectors once under public control” that have either voluntarily opened or, they note in pointed terms, have “been forced” to open up to private enterprise. Indeed, they write, “the education industry represents the largest market opportunity” since health-care services were privatized during the 1970’s…. From the point of view of private profit, one of these analysts enthusiastically observes, “The K–12 market is the Big Enchilada.” (IS Review.org)
How much money are we talking about? The annual appropriation for the entire Federal Department of Education in 2012 was $64.1 Billion and the total from the fifty states for public elementary and secondary schools amounted to $638 billion in 2009-10.
Imagine the profits to be gained by a parasitic Corporate America. All they have to do is sweep aside more than four million public school teachers, their retirement plans, and their labor unions. And the hell with those brats who won’t behave and do what the corporate stooges tell them. Maybe they’ll send those kids, “the walking dead”, to prisons or concentration camps to get them out of the way.
Lloyd Lofthouse is a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam Veteran,
who taught in the public schools for thirty years (1975 – 2005).
His first novel was the award winning historical fiction My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. His second novel was the award winning thriller Running with the Enemy. His short story A Night at the “Well of Purity” was named a finalist of the 2007 Chicago Literary Awards. His wife is Anchee Min, the international, best-selling, award winning author of Red Azalea, a New York Times Notable Book of the Year (1992).
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