Why do so many people seem to have so little faith in our teachers? Why do teachers matter? Tell us about a teacher who had a major positive impact on your life or the lives of your children.
Davis Guggenheim’s prophetic film, “Waiting for Superman,” correctly points out that Americans simultaneously revere teachers as heroes and understand them to be a significant cause of our nation’s educational failures.
We all can remember multiple teachers who inspired us to learn. We can also recall teachers who were lazy, mean, or dim-witted. This latter species is unfortunately too common in our public schools. In other settings, bad teachers are removed and replaced. In the Memphis City Schools, incompetent teachers are vigorously protected by a self-serving labor union: the Memphis Educational Association. The MEA attempts to cloak itself in rhetoric about the welfare of students, but in reality the union is primarily interested in protecting its own interests and those of its constituents. The MEA and its state affiliate, the Tennessee Education Association, have vigorously fought against critical educational reform strategies, including charter schools and tying teachers’ tenure or pay to student performance.
Unfortunately, teachers have lost a significant amount of their moral authority by pursuing their own economic and professional interests at the expense of children, especially poor children.
Teachers will regain that moral authority when they reject self-serving political hardball and agree to become an honest partner in solving our horrific educational problems.