School & District Management Opinion

Naughty or Nice?

By Susan Graham — December 19, 2010 2 min read
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The Associated Press Stanford University Education Poll results have been checking their list and checking it twice. They want to know who the public thinks has been naughty or nice.

And so they asked:

How much blame do the following deserve for the problems facing this country's public schools?

And guess what they found out? In response to the poll, the general public placed blame in the following order:

  • Teachers 35%
  • Teacher Unions 45%
  • Students 46%
  • Local Administrators 53%
  • Federal Education Officials 59%
  • State Education Officials 65%
  • Parents 68%

It’s nice to know the general public knows what we knew all along---most teachers are not bad teachers and teacher unions are not composed of child hating ogres. It’s encouraging to find that most Americans realize that policymakers, not teachers, develop and enforce the framework of schools. Hopefully those citizens realize that policymakers are accountable to them, the electorate, and they have the power to make changes. And it’s interesting that people recognize teachers aren’t whining or trying to pass the buck when they say that ultimately parents are, as they should be, the most important influence on children. Does anyone really think that most people believe schools should be a greater influence on children than their own parents? And if we believe that children are self determining individuals, rather than passive objects to be educated, isn’t it logical that they are shareholders in the responsibility in their own educational experience -- and earn whatever blame and credit goes with that responsibility?

Now, let’s talk about who’s been naughty. Since the Associated Press is arguably one of the major powers in American media, how come the press continues to demonize teachers? Why, when teachers question policies made by local administrators and state and federal officials, are our motives, our expertise, and our experience almost automatically written off as self serving or whining? Why does the press pander to edu-celebrities who offer simplistic answers to complex problems, thrive on controversy, and seem more committed to their personal ambitions than to the needs of children?

While the poll results make me feel sort of vindicated, the truth is, the blame game isn’t very productive. We have a serious problem. Our schools need help. We are asking them to do too many things with too little in the way of resources and they are at risk of collapsing under the pressure. But we continue to invest our time and energy in pointing fingers and deciding who’s at fault. In the meantime, we seem to have forgotten that assigning blame isn’t the same as solving the problem.

So, in the spirit of season, and with a little goodwill toward all men, maybe we could all spend a little effort deciding who’s naughty and all try a little harder to be nice--for the kids’ sake.

Image: OriginalKidzBagTagz

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