A ‘teacher hater’ confesses

Conor Williams has a (sarcastic) “confession” to make on Talking Points Memo.

I am a “teacher hater.” I’m also bent on “undermining public education” in service of my “corporate overlords.”

Not really. But “that’s what my inbox tells me every time I write something about charter schools, Teach For America, or education politics in general.”

Williams writes about American public education for the New America Foundation. He “cares profoundly” about inequality and social mobility, he writes.

When people tell me that the “education reform” movement is a corporate enterprise run by wealthy adults who scorn teachers, I’m genuinely confused. I consider myself part of the education reform movement because I know the dire state of American public school instruction. I know the difference that great teaching can make—because it was so rare in my schooling. Those outstanding few were my heroes.

Inspired by “great educators,” he became a first-grade  teacher in Crown Heights, Brooklyn.

Of course, I often hear that I am not REALLY a former teacher, since I entered the classroom through Teach For America. During a school visit recently, an administrator snapped that my “teaching as internship experience” gave me no right to call myself a former teacher.

Williams left after two years because he was mugged outside the school, leaving physical and psychological scars.

He and his wife are sending their son to their neighborhood D.C. public school in the fall.

“While I’m open to the possibility that some of the education reforms that make sense to me may not actually work as well I hope, I’m tired of being told that I have no standing in these debates, or that I hate teachers, Williams writes. “You want to have a debate on the merits? Fine. But don’t accuse me of being disingenuous.”

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  1. Crimson Wife says:

    I don’t hate teachers. My grandmother, two of my aunts, father-in-law, mother-in-law, and sister-in-law are/were current or former school teachers. Most teachers are good people who are doing the best they can under very trying circumstances.

    I am not a fan of teachers’ unions nor traditional teacher credential programs run by colleges of education. My issues with those do not make me “anti-teacher”.

  2. The teachers’ union is trying to protect their racket. They are, by the way, not really about ed themselves. They share administrative space on K street with a fringe left lobbying firm.

  3. I’m a teacher and I support all sorts of reform, including charter and magnet schools and vouchers. Perhaps, what’s their explanation for me? I’m self-loathing? (Me?!)

  4. PhillipMarlowe says:

    As the Scarecrow sang, “If I only had a brain.”

    • Oh, don’t worry. No one expects any more from you then you do from yourself which, considering the quality of your posts, has got to be a relief.

      • PhillipMarlowe says:

        Love you too, allen.

        • What’s the matter? Feeling a bit inadequate when faced with someone who takes their professional responsibilities seriously? Yeah, I can see that.

  5. Richard Aubrey says:

    If he’s sending his kid to a D.C. public school, he can’t be hating on teachers.

    • Roger Sweeny says:

      As DC gentrifies, DC schools are getting better, especially in gentrified districts.

      There is now a positive feedback loop. Better schools lead to more affluent people moving in lead to better schools lead to more affluent people moving in, and so on. Of course, no one knows how much the schools are improving because the new parents are better able to force the schools to improve and how much the schools are improving because their kids are better students.

      Most proper people think it is overwhelmingly the first reason. Some disreputable people think the second is more powerful.

      • As I understand it, there are some decent elementary schools in gentrifying areas, but the only good MS and HS are in upper NW, which also has good elementary schools; that is the very affluent area of DC. At this time, there’s a big enrollment drop-off after ES, as parents either send kids to private MS-HS or move to the suburbs with good schools. Perhaps that will change. Most involved parents want their kids to go to MS-HS with classmates who share their academic and behavioral expectations for their kids, since the peer culture is increasingly influential at that age.

      • I think there’s a bit more to it then that richer folks are moving into the area. In order to have an effect those richer folks would have to elect school board members who will push the district in the direction of better schools.

        That’s a fight that, by itself, could take quite a while since the administration has no interest in good schools until the board makes it clear, over time and by canning recalcitrant administrative personnel, that heads attached to bodies not committed to better schools will roll. Nothing so focuses the mind, etc.

        Then there’s the teacher’s union which, absent some other threat, will fight to keep every teacher employed regardless of the board’s new direction or the teacher’s ability.

        What’s required to get all parties moving in the same direction is an existential threat that has credibility due to its longevity and its relentless increase.

        Charters in D.C. now enroll 43% of public education kids, with waiting lists having 22,000 kids on them, which means that quite a few teachers have been furloughed out of DCPS, even high seniority teachers. More will follow.

        Those who remain might pine for the good, old days but it must be getting pretty tough ignore the layoffs in the hopes that the public will once again lose interest in the public education system and everything will be as it once was.

        So the union, the board and the administration are doing what they can to stem the outflow of students by doing what was once unnecessary – running good schools. That means showing the door to teachers who are lousy at their jobs and, with the union’s tacit support, greasing their slide out the door. Principals and other non-teaching personnel are getting the same, gimlet-eyed treatment and for the same reason.