One of the hottest issues on the education scene today is that of bullying in our schools. Across the nation, schools are searching for ways to reduce bullying and its always negative consequences. The most negative effect is that bullying is being cited as the cause of a number of violent episodes inside schools including mass shootings and deaths.
Who can argue with the need to stop the damage to human lives and their schools being caused by bullying? Unlike so many other educational initiatives, one cannot find a single voice opposing the need for anti-bullying programs in our schools.
A Google search for “anti-bullying” produced 41,700,000 results.
As just one example, a bill has been introduced in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives recently that would require all 501 school districts to establish and implement anti-bullying programs.
But, what about the bullying of educators in this country? Can the incessant anti-teacher rhetoric and actions by many politicians, corporate CEOs, and the media be considered as bullying of an entire professional class—teachers and school administrators?
To make the point, a Google search of the term “anti-teacher rhetoric” produced 6,840,000 results.
Let’s take a minute to identify the sources of most of the anti-teacher bullying rhetoric:
The foundations: Gates, Broad, Walton, among others. None of these are educational institutions at their core and, although they might employ educators on their staffs, their actions are based more on political and corporate perspectives and goals than a coherent educational philosophy regarding the purposes of schools in our nations, what they should teach, and how they are to be governed.
For example: The current U.S. Secretary of Education—Arne Duncan—although having been the CEO of the Chicago public schools prior to his current role, has no education training and experience.
Michele Rhee is the current darling of the political/corporate world and is often touted as the true voice of education reform. Google search for Michelle Rhee produced 1,370,000 results.
And, from where does Rhee gain her “reformer” gravitas?
Rhee earned a B.A from Cornell and a Masters in Public Policy from Harvard, neither of which were education degrees. She signed up for Teach for America and underwent a five-week training program to prepare her for the classroom. She then worked for three years as a teacher in the Baltimore, Maryland Schools. After her stint in the classroom, she formed The New Teacher Project, which trained and supplied teachers for urban schools, including Washington, DC. Then, in 2007, Rhee was hired as the chancellor of the District of Columbia Schools. Are these the qualifications to be an “education reformer?”
According to the MetLife Survey of the American Teacher, an annual report on the education profession, teacher satisfaction has dropped by 23 percent since 2008. Just 39 percent of teachers say they are very satisfied with their chosen profession, compared with 62 percent in 2008.
A chorus of politicians from the President on down through state governors and legislators and the CEOs of many of the nation’s major corporations have trumpeted the unsubstantiated “fact” that the quality of teachers—not poverty, not joblessness, not parent education, not socio-economic advantages and disadvantages—is the primary factor influencing student achievement in our schools. Those in the bully pulpit have sung this tune for so long that it is now nearly hegemonic—accepted without question.
So, who is going to step forward to organize an anti-bullying campaign to protect our teachers and their profession? It seems to me that this mission, should we accept it, is one for the collective body of educators in our nations to undertake.