Are teachers conservative by nature?

If Republicans showed respect for teachers, they’d discover people with “conservative values” who might enter the “big tent” writes Colleen Hyland, a New York teacher, in The Weekly Standard.  by nature.

Conservative values go hand in hand with teaching. Teachers see the evidence every day that stable families produce well-adjusted kids who succeed in the classroom. Many teachers are people of faith. Most of us are proud Americans who say the pledge every day with our students and mean it. We teach kids how to show respect and use proper manners by modeling them ourselves. We stress personal accountability.

Teachers are receptive to the idea of limited government and local control, Hyland writes. “Layer upon layer of government bureaucracy” forces teachers to  “spend too much of their day with redundant paperwork, wrestling with standards that are overly complex and often contradictory.”

Get the Department of Education off our backs. . . . Speak about deregulating our classrooms and we are all ears.

Of course Republicans would have to “talk about teachers as if you actually like them,” Hyland writes. Treat them with respect.

Whether it’s coming from administrators or politicians, teachers resent -top-down demands that belittle their expertise and ignore their experience. Give teachers credit for what we do as professionals. We are facing a collapsing American culture that is at odds with education in general. It is that same collapsing culture that unites conservatives in support of traditional -values. Despite voting consistently for liberal candidates who actively court their votes, most teachers I know lead fairly traditional lives that respect faith, family, country, and community.

While some teachers are “entrenched liberals,” others feel “the only respect they receive comes from the Democratic party,” Hyland writes. “They would welcome an invitation into the big tent of the GOP.”

Does she have a point?


About Joanne



    I think she should start campaining to stop political donations by unions, if she’s serious about this. Mind you, as teachers’ unions direct 95% of their funds to Democratic candidates, I’d suggest asking Democratic politicians to tackle the paperwork problem.

  2. Yeah, what Cranberry said.

  3. From looking at the bumperstickers on the cars parked in front of the schools I drive by, I doubt it.

    Of course, I’m also in urban Oregon…

    (The bitter clinger with the “IMPEACH” sticker half-covered by an NPR-affiliate sticker is, shall we say, probably not looking for an excuse to vote Republican.)

  4. I’m pretty sure that surveys show that 30% of teachers are Republicans. But a good chunk of Dem teachers are old school Dems, not progressives.

  5. Mike in Texas says:

    Yes, teachers are conservative.

  6. lightly seasoned says:

    Yes, we’re a personally conservative bunch. That’s not the same as being Republican, though.

  7. My frustration with the article was how she assigned certain values to the conservative side… I am fairly liberal, but I highly value hard work, personal responsibility & accountability, service to community & good citizenship. I don’t associate those values as “conservative” values… the vast majority of my liberal friends also subscribe to those very same values.

    • Liberals in general are quite incoherent–supporting policies designed to undercut values they say they have. Lefties are more coherent, and they set the agenda for the Democrat party.

  8. Ms. Hyland is dismissing the primary issue that will always keep public school teachers and conservatives on opposite sides: public schools are funded by taxpayers. In other words, the problem is the money, not the mission.

    If public school teachers want to be on the same (political) side as conservatives, they can start by demanding an end to any federal role in education. I’m sure they’d appreciate fewer regulations, but this means giving up federal funding, too. If that’s too big a first step, they could try supporting vouchers. Guaranteed funding for public schools has to end, and charter schools are the first step in the ‘school choice’ direction, not the last.

    The overarching theme in Ms. Hyland’s column is the same thing conservatives have heard for decades: more taxpayer funding, less control. Conservatives might support that at the local, or maybe even state, level, but never at the federal level. That’s the line public school teachers would have to cross to earn support from conservatives.

    In short, the issue isn’t that conservatives don’t value education, it’s that we value it too much to entrust it to the government. The ever-increasing regulations are merely the response to ever-increasing funding requirements, and should be thought of as ‘incentives’ to revert to more local funding and, therefore, control; in effect, conservatives, knowing a direct, continual battle against public school funding is a political loser, have resorted to strangling the beast, rather than starving it.

    • In its historical sense, “conservative” means a desire to stick with traditional systems. At this point (I’m glad to say), to be conservative about education means to be in favor of government support of education; to be in favor of universal K-12 education arranged so that all children have access to it. That is why teachers can be described as conservative even in the realm of education. It is the insistence that the system should be broken up, disrupted, turned over to experimental sub-systems, or charged with missions that it is not designed to meet, that is radical. We can argue about the details of how well the public educaiton system functions in particular instances, and there is certainly room for improvement. But teachers are well aware that if we break the educactional system up into tiny pieces, there will be many downsides and many, many more children who fall through the cracks.

      • They are falling through the cracks now; while they are in school. Refusing to enforce safe and orderly classrooms (concomitant refusal to expel/separate chronic disruptors and the dangerous),refusing to group kids according to academic level and need and choosing weak or flawed currricula and instructional methods means that those kids without significant home resources, to remediate, will fall through the cracks and stay there.

      • EB: The ‘room for improvement’ of which you speak is exactly what those regulations teachers despise (and rightly so) are trying to address, but, due to the centralized nature of the system, they’re the only way to do it (‘strangling the beast’ is usually a side-effect). As with any other venture, the control stays with the money. Every layer of funding you can remove (start with federal) will also remove regulations, in addition to making things more responsive and cheaper to operate. Further, the more responsive the system is, the more likely it will adapt to catch the kids who might otherwise fall through the cracks. The only ‘downside’ to this approach is that voluntarily eliminating a source of funding is antithetical to a government entity.

        If teachers really want to fix the current system, ending the federal role in it is a significant step. Try it, and see what happens; I guarantee they won’t find much opposition on the right end of the spectrum.

        • AndyO, if your contention about federal funding were categorically true, why would countries with highly centralized eduacational systems every show good results?

          • Richard Aubrey says:

            EB. Demographics. Disfunctional subcultures. Millions of kids for whom English is a second language. Tracking. When I worked with exchange students, many told me they were on the college track and not the tech/voc/comml track back in the old country.
            If we compare grades for the eighteen year olds, we get their elites vs. our groupings which include a bunch who are too dim to duck the truant officer.
            My wife and I are helping a couple of Nepali immigrants. They’re bright, they work hard, but they’re having a terrible time. They can’t even use a dictionary because they don’t know the words in the definition. They had “To Kill a Mockingbird” to read, so we got the movie and went through it with them, explaining all the things our students are expected to know. Took over three hours.
            It may only be a coincidence that the advent of the Dept of Ed was about the time the SAT had to be rejiggered. Downward.
            Also, as has been noted, we have the worst political class in our history and there’s no reason to think the Dept of Ed is immune from the ministrations of those clowns.

          • Mark Roulo says:

            Richard: “It may only be a coincidence that the advent of the Dept of Ed was about the time the SAT had to be rejiggered. Downward.”

            I’m all for bashing the Department of Education, but the federal Office of Education that became the Department of Education had been around since the 1860s. The Office of Education became the cabinet level Department of Education in 1980. The SAT scores were re-centered 15 years later, in 1995.

            Is a 15 year gap “about the time”? I wouldn’t describe it that way…

          • EB: We’re drifting off topic, but no solution is going to work everywhere. Are the countries you mention as large and diverse as the US? Centralization may work just fine when the vast majority have similar views, but this is the United States, where getting even 50% of the people to agree on anything is a challenge. In such an environment, centralization is doomed to failure; you don’t have to look any further than the political civil war that’s been occurring for decades to see it.

            The federal government adds nothing useful to education except money; centralization at that level isn’t working, here and now. If teachers want support from the political right, eliminating that is the most obvious place to start. The only alternative is to continue the battle at every level, and neither side likes how that’s going.

            You haven’t mentioned how moving ultimate control to the state level would harm public schools, aside from the decreased funding. This step isn’t radical, unless you’re what Ms. Hyland called an ‘entrenched liberal’. We have a high level of centralization right now, even if it’s less than in some incomparable countries. Since further centralization is going to be a hard sell and will be fought every step of the way, the only reason I can see to support such a course is an inherent belief in the virtues of central planning. Am I missing something?

  9. I’m beginning to think “liberal” and “conservative” have outlived their usefulness as labels. Not sure what I’d replace them with.

    I know a lot of old-school Democrats who feel like they’ve been left behind in the leftward rush of the party. The same, just reversed directions, with some of the Republicans I know.