Bad Teachers

edna-krabappel

OK folks, the teacher in me can’t resist this one. I have been struck by the parallels I see in two public discourses. Bear with me as outline them. We will then explore some critical questions together (at least as much critical thinking as I can muster during standardized testing week).

People are fat            .
Well I never!…of course you don’t mean me?                       
Well yes, just look at your BMI!
That is a very limited and unrealistic measure that doesn’t consider other health factors.
That sounds like an excuse. You are simply lazy and lack self-control.                                     
What about all the research on the impact of genetics? Of gut biomes? Of environmental factors?
What about the fact that healthy food is more expensive than junk?
Those sound like excuses. You simply eat too much and don’t exercise enough.
Well, I don’t completely agree, but I would like to loose weight.
Here is an expert program on diet and fitness that can help you loose weight. Thousand of people have bought this program.
But the people who designed that program were never overweight, and there is no evidence this program works. I have an idea of how I can work some exercise into my schedule…
Oh no, we can’t trust you to follow your own plan. Obese people drive up the cost of health care for all of us. You are the reason the heath insurance system is broken.
Wow, sounds like you really hate fat people.
Oh no, you have it all wrong! We are only trying to help; we want you to be healthy.
Feels more like we are being shamed.
Oh no, no one is shaming you. That is all in your head.
Really? What about all those media messages and those judgmental looks…?

Teachers are bad (and perpetuate systemic racism).
Well I never!…of course you don’t mean me?
Well yes, just look at those test scores! (Especially for students of color and poor students!)
That is a very limited measure that doesn’t consider other aspects of student growth.
That sounds like an excuse. You just refuse to hold students accountable for high standards.
What about all the research on the impacts of poverty and racial isolation?
What about all the policies and mandates that are out of our control?
Those sound like excuses. You simply want to maintain the status quo and like being able to put your needs before the needs of students.
Well, I don’t agree with you there, but I agree that we need to improve outcomes for disadvantaged students.
Here is an expertly designed program on accountability and high standards that can help you. Thousands of people have bought this program.
But those experts have never been teachers and there is no evidence this program works. I have a lot of great ideas based on my decades of first hand experience and connections to the community…
Oh no, we can’t trust you to follow your own plan. Poor and minority students are not being served in our schools and teachers are the reason.
Wow, sounds like you really hate teachers.
Oh no, you have it all wrong! We LOVE teachers. We are only trying to help; we want you to be better (and stop systemic racism).
Feels more like we are being bashed.
Oh no, no one is bashing you. That is all in your head.
Really? What about all those actions that speak louder than your words?

So dear readers, what can we take from exploring these two dialogs together? Can we take this analogy further? In what way is the comparison apt, in what ways is it not aligned?

We still have inequity in public schools for much the same reasons that we still have an obesity epidemic in our country—because the causes are complex, varied, and contextual. The education reform movement has ignored this fact and decided that there was only one problem and therefore only one solution. In some ways I can’t blame them. Obesity seems deceptively easy to fix too. People simply need to exercise more and eat less. This approach, of course, ignores all the many reasons why people eat too much and exercise too little or the fact that there are other variables complicating the data. Most importantly, fat shaming has not cured obesity any more than teacher shaming (and student shaming) has improved our schools or student outcomes.

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