Wednesday, August 15, 2012

America's Teachers! We're Dumb. And We Suck!

OKAY, AMERICAN PUBLIC SCHOOL TEACHERS: Raise your hand if you’ve heard the education experts moaning about all your failures.  

Raise your hand again if you’ve seen the charts and graphs they use to prove you’re failing. 

You know the statistics. The horrible graduation rates in many cities and states. Worst of all, you have the poor showing U. S. students make in international academic competitions. I mean come on!  

Who but you could possibly be to blame? 

Ask Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg of New York. That pompous ass will set you straight. If he could have his way, he said recently, he’d fire half the teachers in New York City and start from scratch. But the evil unions won’t allow it. 

In a speech at M. I. T. last November, he grumbled that the biggest problem in American education was stupid teachers. Well, okay, he wasn’t quite that blunt; but his meaning was just as clear. He said we were culled “from the bottom 20 percent [of our college classes] and not of the best schools.” 

Bloomberg did go to Johns Hopkins University, a prestigious school. He did make $22 billion in business. That means we have to listen to him because he knows everything about education. He just hasn’t spent a day in a classroom in his entire life. 

So:  how is Bloomberg doing, in his third term in office, after promising to make education reform the signature of his elected career? He thinks teachers are the biggest roadblock on the path to reform. But he might want to check statistics. According to researchers at Johns Hopkins University (there’s irony for you), 15% of American parents let their sons or daughters miss at least 10% of all school days and do it every year. 

Hey, stupid math teachers! I know you came from the bottom 20% and went to crappy colleges and universities. But check my figures. (Give me a second. I’m pretty dumb, too.) If a kid misses 18 days every year, grades K-12, then won’t that mean he or she missed classes 234 times. If one year equals...and we divide 234…doesn’t that mean, academically, these students should be 1.3 years behind, and not because of you? 

Raise your hands if you have telepathic powers, stupid teachers. Anyone? You mean you can’t teach kids who don’t come to school? 

WTF!! What’s wrong with you! 

Well, let me humbly offer this idea. Maybe we could notify Mayor Bloomberg. He’s a brilliant guy. He’ll get this. He’ll see the truth. Someone tell him that the same study found 200,000 kids in the New York City Schools missed 10% or more of every school year. 

For the love of god and learning, tell him, “Mayor, we need better doctors in this city quick! We must be culling them from the bottom 20%, and not from the best schools! There’s plague in Lower Manhattan! There’s a smallpox epidemic in the Bronx!” 

Come on stupid teachers. If U. S. kids finish 14th in reading, 17th in science, and 25th in math in the most recent international comparison (65 countries), we’ll, let's face the Ugly Facts. We’re Dumb.

And We Suck. 

Read ‘em and weep, numbskulls. Look at international rankings (left column) for 15-year-olds in reading! Aren’t you ashamed of yourselves? It’s a travesty and you are all to blame: 

READING (2010)

1. South Korea                                                (Singapore)

2. Finland                                                        (Italy)

3. Canada                                                        (Australia)

4. New Zealand                                               (Switzerland)

5. Japan                                                           (Japan)

6. Australia                                                     (Israel)

7. Netherlands                                                (Spain)

8. Belgium                                                      (Netherlands)

9. Norway                                                       (Sweden)

10. Estonia                                                      (Germany)

11. Switzerland                                               (Cyprus)

12. Poland                                                       (Austria)

13. Iceland                                                      (France)

14. UNITED STATES                                    (Canada)

15. Sweden                                                     (New Zealand)

16. Germany                                                   (Greece)

17. Ireland                                                       (Hong Kong)

18. France                                                       (Norway)

19. Denmark                                                   (Ireland)

20. United Kingdom                                       (Belgium)

NOW LOOK AT THE SECOND COLUMN. Be sure you have your hankie handy, because if America’s schools suck, our primary care offices and hospitals must be an abomination. According to Bloomberg News. Yep. Bloomberg Bleepin’ News. According to Bloomberg’s own publication, we don’t come anywhere close to the Top 20 when we rank the “The World’s Healthiest Countries.”

Doctors in Singapore are crushing our medical professionals. Our medical guys can’t even beat Cyprus! Check the full list. America’s health care system comes in on a stretcher, in 33rd place. We get beat by Cuba. We get beat by Slovenia. We get beat by Kuwait!!!  

(Then again, it could be worse. We could live in Swaziland, which finishes dead last, 145th in international rankings.) 

So:  there you have it. We use another simple list to “prove” another simple point. If U. S. students stink up rankings—and the only explanation is that teachers are to blame—at least we’re not pathetic losers like cardiologists and oncologists and transplant floor nurses.  

And if you’re ready for more bad news, let’s face another set of Ugly Facts:  In an annual report, titled F as in Fat,” state rankings for adult obesity were released today. Where do we find the worst dietitians? 

Mississippi, where the obesity rate is 34.9%. 

I’m just a dumb, retired teacher; but if you ask me, it looks like we need Congress to act and pronto. Let’s shape up lousy, lazy medical people. It’s time for Congress to pass a law and call it No Fat American Left Behind.

(Maybe No Fat American Behind Left Behind?) 

If we’re going to criticize teachers based on simplistic comparisons, let’s not forget all the dumb people clogging up the U. S. health care system.

What the heck? What's wrong with America's doctors and nurses?
(I'm joking, of course.)
Could it be that Mr. Bloomberg is an idiot?


  1. What about all those dumb teachers in Buffalo who are going to get rated on the scores of their no-show students.

  2. I'm a teacher who went to Johns Hopkins. Doesn't that mean people should be listening to ME?? ;)

    1. No, no. If you actually teach you can't talk about teaching. You have to be like the mayor, or Joel I. Klein, his old chancellor, or seven out of eight U. S. Secretaries of Education so far. You can't teach a day and you can still be an expert!

      As a retired teacher, I intend to start giving out advice to heart surgeons.

    2. I should have typed "nine" above. Arne makes nine.

    3. I teach a suburban high school in Washington, and I've been at it 40 years. Try this on for size. Last semester I had 167 students in 5 social studies classes. I kept track of my daily total absences and reached 1009 on the 41st day. By the end of the 90 day term, I was over 2200 and not counting anymore. My average daily absence rate was 26.5. My high was 42. My low was 18...

    4. Thanks for the perfect example: you're kids were missing almost 16% of all the education you might have tried to provide.

      I've said this before; but one of my favorite examples would be Mike, who skipped my class 106 days in a single year. I used to call homes and I called him mom several times.

      I don't think my "stupidity" was the dominant factor in that situation.

    5. I second that - I have a Secondary Math teaching license from the state of New York and I went to Yale. Mayor Bloomberg can go suck it as far as I'm concerned.

  3. Amen Mr. Viall. And both under government control. Jay

    1. Jay, any statistics about a "failing health care system" would predate Obamacare. In this case, my post has nothing to do with questions about government, however.

      It's about the stupidity of critics of America's teachers, who rely on simplistic evidence to support their main points.

    2. Actually Mr. Viall, the government has an AWFUL lot to say about what insurance companies have to cover. Limiting my choice, and increasing the price. The federal government should have no voice in either issue.
      And I very much agree that individual teachers, or groups of teachers have little control over th rules and regulations, and no control over their home life.


    3. By "their", I mean "students"

  4. Why would kids go to class, if their teachers are poor at their job?

    That doesn't exactly imply an incentive to encourage learning.

    I would define "teaching" as: "The communication of knowledge, from one person to another."

    A key point of that is "communication."

    Stephen Robbins, author of numerous books on management, defines communication as :

    " the transfer and understanding of meaning"

    That seems very simple, but makes two very important points:

    First, as a manager, (or as anybody for that matter) if 'what' you have said, or written, isn't heard or read; it hasn't been communicated.

    Likewise, if the receiver didn't understand it; no communication has taken place.

    If there is no understanding from the receiver, there has been no communication. And if there is no communication, there is no teaching.

    I had the benefit of going to both public and private schools growing up, as well as being tutored, and homeschooled.

    All four.

    My overwhelming experience in several different public k-12 schools, in both elementary, middle, and highschool levels, was that teachers simply didn't care to impart 'understanding' of subject matter to their students.

    What they promoted was "memorization."

    Memorization, of anything, is not the same as understanding it. Often, when tough questions were asked by students in the classroom, the teachers clearly, and embarrassingly, did not know the answer. Demonstrating a clear lack of understanding of the very subject they were teaching.

    This is a very important point:
    The teachers did not actually understand the subject that they were teaching, and/or if they did, they did not understand how to communicate that knowledge to other people so that they too could understand it.

    I can't tell you how many times in a classroom, a student had looked something up on the internet, found a better way of doing such and such, or a more complete understanding of the subject, and when pointing this out in class, the teacher got angry, defensive, huffy, and essentially told the kid to shut up and do it the teacher's way anyway.

    The result was that it clearly showed the entire class, that the "teacher" was not interested in understanding the subject matter, what they were interested in, was upholding their own job routine.

    After such exchanges, kids would start ditching class. After all, it became clear that the teacher didn't care about knowledge, or understanding, and only about preserving the status quo, however flawed.

    Kids who had different learning styles, such as Tactile Kinesthetic, or Visual, were often completely ignored by the teacher, and shunted inappropriately into special ed, or simply were forced to accept poor grades, simply because the teacher, or system had no clue how to teach anyone anything other than memorization and repetition out of a usually outdated mass textbook.

    Subjects sometimes got disproportionate amount of emphasis, such as entire school years studying the battles of the civil war, (without any of the underlying economic and social reasons for the war) and entire recent events of major importance, such as the Vietnam war were not taught at all.

    Children arn't stupid.

    They know when they ask a tough question, and the teacher doesn't know the answer, and is too insecure to say so, and so simply responds defensively and irrationally; that they are getting played.

    I failed middle school. I dropped out of highschool.

    I got my GED, and went to a respected business school.

    I got a 4.0 GPA.

    Public school k-12 teachers really do suck.

    The vast majority of them do.

    And poor teachers really do need to be fired, it shouldn't be a tenured system.

    The system itself is broken. That much is clear.

    But the teachers poor quality is very real.

    1. I'm sorry you had a very bad experience with your teachers. It doesn't follow, however, that the "vast majority" are bad. (I've certainly seem some who needed to be fired, though.)

      Oddly enough, when most parents are asked to rate the schools their children attend a large majority give the schools (and by implication the teachers) strong marks, I believe 71% A's or B's.

      (Right now, excuse me, but I'm too lazy to look that up.)

      I myself managed to finish 104th in my class of 197; but I have to admit I had a rather questionable attitude as a teen. Perhaps our teachers were working harder than we knew when we were young.

      My experience with my own four children and their teachers was very good. It would be impossible, of course, to deduce from that that the "vast majority" of public school teachers are doing great.

    2. And I had a great public education in grades 1 through 12 and then a fine college education, earning two degrees from the state university. Since my experience is just as valid as yours, I therefore declare that everyone should view public schools in the same positive way I do.

      See how silly that sounds? Obviously, your homeschooling experience didn't teach you much about not making sweeping generalizations based on limited anecdotal evidence. Public schools are not failing. Public schools in areas of high poverty and limited parental involvement are failing. Most rural and suburban schools are doing just fine..

    3. Love your comment. Thanks. I should have told Sara that one of my daughters got into Yale and another is getting a PhD at Tulane. Thank you public schools. (Maybe part of what we get out of schools is what we put in...).

  5. This complaining is the problem with teachers. Did you just realize what teaching was like? Face it, there are very few places for someone who excels in 3rd grade reading or 4th grade math to work other than a k12 school.

    Kids do suck, but having been in education for years, I have seen far too many teachers who show movies 4 of 5 days a week, give a's and b's to jocks who couldn't pass under any other circumstance, send kids to the labs while they work on their 6 month masters degree (which is virtually useless) but at least provides a pay increase for no added benefit to kids and teachers who wonder why the kids hate their class when they can take online courses that provide a better education in less time with less headaches and less interaction with people who resent seeing 18 year olds going off to college with larger scholarships then the teacher ever got.

    We all know there are some wonderful teachers out there, but there are also way too many of the bottom 20% who find out early on just how easy it is to get a degree in elementary education.

    TEACHERS: Make it easier to get rid of the bottom 20% of teachers who are worthless and the rest of you will be respected by everyone from the students to the administration.

    1. I disagree with you on several points. First, I don't think "kids do suck." I liked almost every student I ever met, including Mike who missed 106 days in one year, and the various kids on drugs, etc.

      I also find your tone typical of teacher-bashers: "the rest of you" "this complaining is the problem with teachers," "people who resent seeing 18 year olds going off to college," "how easy it is to get a degree in elementary ed."

      I think I have more faith in kids and teachers (most) than you do. Are there crappy teachers? Yep. And you describe their traits fairly well. But to make all teachers sound bad...or to use simplistic lists to prove that all teachers are bad...still, a stupid line of thought.

      So what if we fall behind Lichtenstein in math? (That's a different list for 2010.) We have more homeless kids in America than they have total population. We beat Germany in reading, and the German economy is rock solid. Japan beats us in reading and math every time they do these tests; and their economy has stagnated for 20 years. And we aren't losing jobs to Finland or Belgium. We're losing jobs to places like Bangladesh.

      And what about all those parents out there who don't even get their kids to school? Can we do something about that? (Or is it "complaining" in your eyes to bring it up?) A Johns Hopkins study found that 15% of parents let their kids stay home at least one day in every ten. I'm sure you'd find fault with any teacher that missed that often, right?

      My main point remains the same. It's incredibly easy to grasp. You can't prove much of anything with these kinds of lists.

      That's logic, not complaining.

    2. Some of us out here are high school Math and Physics teachers. Some of us out here have our Bachelor's from MIT in Biomaterials Engineering and a Masters from Yale - and still get mistaken constantly for - instantaneously it's ASSUMED upon seeing us, that we must be elementary school teachers!! That we "look too stupid for Math" or Physics. I went to the UK with a tentative offer to teach Maths based on a telephone interview and a review of my teaching license during which they were enthusiastic to hire me and couldn't wait for me to come over there -- and when I got there and the agency saw me in person, got told that they "didn't need any English teachers" and asked when I was going to leave the country! As in "we don't want YOUR kind teaching our kids Maths, go back where you came from." And there's still a chronic "Maths teacher shortage" everywhere I've gone and something like that has happened to me!!

      Yes, it's commonly known not only in the teaching profession but the entire WORLD that elementary teachers were people who "couldn't do Math." And forget about Physics. That's why I take it as an insult that even though I went to MIT I get treated like I look "too stupid for Math." Or that teaching English must be all I'm competent at doing. At first glance, so yes it IS racism.

  6. Ah, yes, how classic. The "it's not the teacher's fault that students aren't performing" cop-out. Oh, wait, I almost forgot---you weren't making excuses, you provided evidence!

    "15% of American parents let their sons or daughters miss at least 10% of all school days and do it every year."

    Wow! That means only 85% of parents make their sons or daughters attend around 90% of all school days. How are teachers supposed to get anything done with only 85 percent of students regularly attending class?

    Well, wait a minute, you insinuated that students are struggling because they aren't in class; so, by that logic, those who are in class shouldn't be struggling, right? Hmm, if this were even remotely true, there would not be any performance issues. Well, then, what could possibly be the issue? Who is there to blame?

    I think you get the idea.

    Now, onto your comparison to the medical field: do you honestly believe what you wrote? I surely hope not. I mean, by your logic, if 15% of students aren't coming to class regularly, then teachers get a pass. Well, guess what---100% of "students" don't show up to class for medical professionals. Why you might ask? Because there isn't a class. The two fields are NOTHING alike. Let me break this down further for you:

    Imagine a school system where students only came to class once. On this day, you were tasked with teaching them everything they needed to know for that year. How good do you think your results would be in this scenario?

    That's what I thought.

    This is what medical professionals are tasked with doing. They either briefly attempt to advise patients on a healthy life style or, more often, they only see patients after something has gone wrong.

    I feel teachers need to realize that, especially when compared to other professions, their performance goes largely unmonitored. And they are quick to take credit for high-achieving students, but slow to take any blame. For instance, if parents are to blame for students who are struggling, should they not also be credited for excelling students? If so, where do teachers fit into this equation?

    I'm not a teacher hater; I would just appreciate if teachers would accept more responsibility.

    1. You do realize, of course, that the comparison of doctors with teachers is an absurdity. Perhaps you have a humor-related deficiency.

      Let's see: teachers are at fault if kids miss 50 days of school. All you need is two good kids (5 days each) and one with 50, and you have about an average, as I said.

      How about the 1/10 kids born in Scioto County, here in Ohio, with drugs in their system. Yeah, I blame teachers for that. How about the guy who recently put his infant child in the freezer to stop it from crying. Yeah, bad teachers cause all the problems in society.

      I could go on; but you wouldn't get it. In fact, when you mention parents getting credit when kids excel...well, of course they do. How dense are you? Of course parents get credit and blame; just as teachers do. See how easy that is to follow.

      My post is about blaming teachers for everything.

      P. S.: I can show you a chart that proves our cops are the worst, too. (Most murders of any of the 34 industrialized nations.) That would be an absurdity. I can show you another chart that proves our dieticans are the worst (most obesity of the same 34 nations). That would be an absurdity, as well.

      Try to read the original post again. Maybe you will get it this time.

    2. Well, okay, we’re in agreement---the comparison of doctors with teachers is an “absurdity. “ However, I must ask, how does this “absurd” comparison demonstrate that teachers cannot be blamed for failing students? Is that also absurd? Is that, in your mind, similar to holding police accountable for murders? This is what I do not understand, and I don’t think it has to do with a deficiency (at least on my part, ☺).

      Oh, right, silly me. Teachers cannot be blamed because some kids miss 50 days of school, or come to school with drugs in their system. I understand how this complicates things and I’m not saying that teachers have an easy job. But I think asking for a perfect classroom is also absurd. Is a 90% drug-free classroom not good enough?

      I guess, for me, it comes down to this:

      Teaching isn’t easy---I get it. But, honestly, not much is and people need to perform nonetheless. So, if the drugs, absences, or anything else is too much for teachers, they need to find a new career. I mean, selling cars isn’t easy either, right? But does that mean I would get paid my commission without selling? (See, I have a sense of humor).

    3. Very fair response. I take back my harsh comments. My main point is only this: teachers cannot be faulted entirely for the failure of the schools. I really liked my students, almost without exception. That didn't mean I could really save every kid. Mike did miss 106 days in one year. Gabe was absent or tardy 107 times in another year. John missed 452 days in seven years in our district. (Gabe had drug problems, too.)

      It's also tough to run a good class if you have someone drug-addled acting up, or in one case, passing out and shitting their pants. (Not in my class, I'm happy to say.)

      Again, apologies if I insulted you. (I felt that was your purpose in your first response; so maybe I misread.) The final example I might cite is this. I read stories about "dropout factories" in which the blame for dropping out is somehow on teachers' shoulders. Oddly enough, I've never met a teacher yet who MADE a child drop out. Most kids who do, leave school at 16 or 17, with parent permission.

      It's a complex problem, in other words. The simple lists I cite don't do justice.

  7. Anonymous, it's late, so I may not say what I would like to say very eloquently, but here goes: I am a high school teacher. I graduated summa cum laude from a good college. I'm pretty smart. I have also wanted to be a teacher since kindergarten, when I came home and taught my toddler sister everything I learned in class. I love being a teacher, and I'm a very good one. Ask my students. And I did not expect to get filthy rich being a teacher. But I didn't expect to have access to teaching resources taken away from me every single year without fail, watch my already somewhat low salary (for someone with a comparable masters degree) stagnate, decreasing my spending power year after year, all while some feckless bureaucrats who have never taught a day in their life try to figure out how to get out of paying most of us a decent cost of living raise each year by inventing some make-believe numbers to try to judge my merit by. I am judged by what my students are predicted to get on a biology end of course exam, based on their 8th grade reading and math scores, which is statistically invalid. And yes, there can be correlation, but that does not mean it is statistically valid. Besides the fact that in 8th grade, most of the kids who would go on to be drug users, teen pregnancies, kids working full-time jobs, sexting and texting and surfing the internet until 2am instead of sleeping, or god forbid, doing some homework or studying, haven't really ramped up their careers as classic underachievers in 8th grade. By the time they get to me in 11th grade, many of them have decided that they just don't care about mitosis. It doesn't mean anything to them, since they are planning to work in their Dad's lawn care business, or be a professional NBA player, even though their work ethic won't get them a place on the high school team. And this is NOT complaining. I love my job, even when it is tough. This is speaking up about injustices and stupidity. I cannot tell you how many times my "predictive indicators" otherwise known as made up predictions of what my students will score on their biology exam, have said that the local drug dealer sitting in my biology class once a week whether he needs to or not, averaging a 12% because he's too stoned to bother and he's making mad cash right now, has been predicted to score about a 90% on the exam. I am shocked, to the core, when he doesn't manage to scrape above a 71% (dripping sarcasm, in case you missed the intonation). The saddest part is, if he had tried even a little, showed up even a few extra days, he probably could have gotten at least a B on the test, because he is not stupid. And where are his parents in all of this? Daddy is in prison, for drug dealing of all things, and his mother is an ineffectual victim to her teenage son's manipulations, working overtime to give his spending money (she's the only one that doesn't know how much money he's carrying in his pocket), but never asking him about his homework, even after I have called her at home several times. I'm not even blaming the kid, or even the parent, for the situation we are in. It just lacks common sense to tell me that my test scores are 100% my fault, but I will pay 100% of the penalty by having my contact non-renewed once they rip our tenure from us, or by not being offered the ridiculous $500 a year raise because my neighboring teacher's honors class got higher test scores than my basic class.

    1. Hang in their Eilene. Here in Ohio all we talked about my last few years was raising test scores. I taught social studies. In 2004 we totally revamped our curriculum to meet the "challenge" of No Child Left Behind. We had practice tests for two years, then scores started counting in 2006. I retired in 2008. The social studies subtest was given once more in 2009 and then killed. The State of Ohio killed it. Geez. What idiots come up with these ideas?

  8. All teachers:
    A. graduated high school
    B. graduated college
    C. went through student-teaching
    D. took and passed the Praxis exams
    E. Went through an interview, review, and selection process
    F. Were identified as the BEST candidate from those who applied at the time of hire
    G. Have to take additional and continuing professional development

    IF 50% of the teachers suck... whose fault is that? and HOW do you propose replacing them?

    1. Yep, maybe we should test parents! Ha, ha. No. But I do think we should have a rule. Anyone who criticizes public school teachers should have to teach for five years. And teachers get to decide what students they have in their classes.

      Let the fun begin.

    2. Really. I have a Math teaching license and everywhere I go it's assumed that I:

      Dropped out of high school
      Had babies out of wedlock
      Did drugs or have a prison record
      "Can you even DO Math"
      "Did you go to college AT ALL"

      ...but I'm licensed as a Secondary Math teacher according to the state of New York!!

    3. Wow, you are taking more flak than usual. I hope all of you younger teachers can hang in there, despite the unfair criticism.

  9. What killed the schools was the politically correct society taking over by the Fabians.

    But the real kicker was schools refused to adapt to technology until it was too late. First it was the television where in the 50s optimists thought we would all be using curriculum adapted to TV as an educatoin medium. Instead schools poo pooed the idea and by the time schools figured it out TV was saturated with commercialism and there was no way to fix it.

    Same with computers. All schools had were Apple IIs that did basic *beeps* and computers were mostly seen as a reward toy rather then tied into the teaching.

    Private schools were different and have always adapted technology in different ways that's best suited to their school.

    Schools are now getting into computers with *laptops* for every child but now we have sucky operating systems unlike Windows 98 and XP which were easy to understand and you could do most editing with a minimum amount of clicks.

  10. I taught myself more than any teacher ever taught me. In fact, a college professor of mine at John's Hopkins (irony?) once told me that I should not ever correct him since he was the professor and I was the student. Teachers don't give a crap about students anymore. The focus is on funding. They only get funding with test scores and attendance, so the focus is on regurgitation and making sure students are in a chair rather than actually having a concern of their development. Teachers suck.

    1. I'm always leery of individuals who take their own experience and consider it proof of everyone else's experience.

      "Teachers suck," would include roughly 4,000,000 men and women across the country. Unless you've dealt with each and every one, might want to take another course in logic.

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