Upper Left Coast

Thoughts on politics, faith, sports and other random topics from a red state sympathizer in indigo-blue Portland, Oregon.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Don't blame us, we're just the teachers

From today's Willamette Week:
Outgoing Portland Association of Teachers President Jeff Miller doesn’t mince words in his essay for the May 9 union newsletter, The Advocate. Trying to explain why social and economic forces outside schools shape student achievement as much as what happens inside classrooms, Miller writes, “No one is fooled by the mantra that ‘all children can learn.’ Teachers know that some children learn less well than others because of poorer health or less-secure homes. Ignoring such truths leads only to teacher cynicism and disillusion.” Marta Guembes, a Latina advocate for students, called the remarks “upsetting” and “not OK.” Miller, whose term as head of the 3,000-member union ends next month, tells Murmurs that teachers have given him positive feedback for what he wrote about classroom instruction not accounting for why some students struggle. “Everyone who thinks about this honestly knows that,” Miller says.
I have no trouble accepting the idea that outside influences affect some students' ability to learn, but I have tremendous difficulty accepting -- from the head of the teacher's union, no less! -- excuses that point at every external factor without acknowledging that sometimes Johnny struggles in school because his teacher isn't up to par.

God forbid anyone should suggest that some teachers are unqualified and need to find a new career path. God forbid anyone should promote the idea that teachers receive continued employment based on the quality of their educational output. Anyone who does so should expect the wrath of the teacher's union upon their head because they dared to question the all-teachers-are-outstanding-and-aren't-paid-enough mantra or the motives of the union behind the mantra.

Hold on, education advocates -- I'm happy to acknowledge that the overwhelming majority of teachers are first-class, and they deserve our praise, our support and, yes, our tax dollars. But why is it OK for Jeff Miller to blame Johnny's home life and absolve all teachers of responsibility?

To paraphrase Mr. Miller, ignoring such truths leads only to parent cynicism and disillusion. Not to mention the unwillingness to support future funding requests.


  • At 5/29/2008 7:49 PM, Blogger OregonGuy said…

    I'm going to spout off.

    I visit your website on a nearly daily basis. I do so in part because some of your stated starting points are different than mine, and yet, in a lot of cases, we come to the same conclusions.

    I am less than satisfied with the level of competency on display within my local public schools. There is the occasional brilliant one that sneaks in now and then, but I'm afraid the old Bell Curve is more than the expression of some mythical definition of average. When it comes to teachers I'm afraid that this billetting is overwhelmingly filled by those without the necessary self-confidence or ability to strike out and lead their own life--or existence.

    Institutionalized at an early age, these educational recidivists are unable to view themselves as independent of the educational system. Add into the mix months of vacation time, short work days and union shop rules, and becoming an educator offers more in featherbedding and carefree security than any other possible profession.

    I have two weeks left as a public school dad. I'm looking forward to never having to deal with this group of half-wits and misfits again.



  • At 5/30/2008 5:25 PM, Blogger Ken said…

    Oregon guy -- I'm not prepared to damn the profession to that extent, but rant duly noted.

    And thanks for your visits & comments.

  • At 5/31/2008 10:11 AM, Blogger MAX Redline said…

    The Portland School District begins contract talks today with the union representing its 3,150 teachers, counselors and school psychologists.

    Issues include rising health care costs and in some cases, more instructional time for students.

    Translation: hold onto your wallet! Schools are going to need even more money, beyond the nearly $12000 per student they already get. This will be necessary to address health care and to hire additional part-time staff.

    Meanwhile, librarians are getting the axe, and school buildings have suffered from so many years of "deferred maintenance" that PPS sees a need in the near term for completely new construction.

  • At 6/11/2008 10:06 PM, Blogger The Vegas Art Guy said…

    I think that part of the reason for his statement is that teachers usually get all the blame for Johnny, who can't be bothered to come to class, and whose parents don't care enough to answer the phone. Was he correct in not taking any blame? Uh, no... Does this make his statement invalid? No.

    If you want good schools you need involved parents. It really is that simple.


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