Every time you think something can’t possibly get worse, it does. Teachers are reviled on a daily basis by politicians in cities and states across the country as greedy, incompetent goof-offs in hot pursuit of fat salaries, excessive vacations, exorbitant perks and outsized pensions.
Though most of those very same politicians make more money, work less, receive far more privileges and larger pensions at the public’s expense than the average teacher. (And they have the teaching profession confused with investment banking.)
My former colleagues and I have been blamed for everything from the fiscal collapse of New York City and the economic fiasco in Wisconsin to the complete dumbing-down of America’s youth. Self-appointed experts at all levels of government and within the private sector regularly call for the layoff of veteran teachers – teachers who have dedicated their adult lives to what in practically every other country on the planet is considered a noble and honorable profession – in favor of hiring and retaining neophyte teachers, otherwise known as cheap labor. Is it any wonder that teachers are held in low regard by the American public in general and that the attrition rate within the profession is at an all-time high?
Yet, even a jaded, retired New York City public-school teacher like myself was astonished to see a trailer for the television show “Criminal Minds” on T.V. 10/55. In an attempt to provoke interest in an upcoming episode of the show, CAT scans of two different brains were displayed on a television screen as the narrator explained that one brain was that of a teacher, and the other was that of a serial killer. The narrator then went on to ask: “Can you tell which is which?”
That was it! I thought I’d have a stroke. As if teachers did not have enough trouble fending off false accusations of ineptitude by self-serving politicians. Do we really need to compare teachers to serial killers? Do we really need to associate in the public mind people who have the sacred obligation to care for and educate our nation’s children with mass murders? I do not think so.
In South Korea, for example, children are taught that it is a sign of disrespect even to step on a teacher’s shadow. And in Finland teachers are held in great regard as evidenced by the competitively high salaries they receive and the fact that there are more young people who choose to study education than there are seats in universities to accommodate them. In contrast, in the United States, teachers are made the object of public ridicule by comparing them to homicidal maniacs. Is it any wonder that student performance in the United States ranks among the lowest in the world among industrialized countries?
Sure, the comment promoting “Criminal Minds” was just a tag line. But it was in horrible taste and unspeakably offensive. And it represented a natural progression of the attacks of politicians such as Chris Christie – the Governor of New Jersey, and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg on the teaching profession as a whole. I wouldn’t be surprised if both those poor excuses for public servants tried to link the teaching profession to the nuclear meltdown in Japan if they thought they could gain a political advantage from doing so. At a time when Americans should be encouraged to praise and respect teachers, we’ve made laughing stocks of them.
Quite frankly, I would have preferred seeing CAT scans of three separate brains on the television screen – one of Mayor Bloomberg, one of Governor Christie and another of an arrogant, dictatorial, megalomaniac, followed by a narrator asking: “Which is which?” At the very least, it would have been an extremely difficult question to answer, and a lot more true to form.