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Why Liberals Hate Teachers

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.

Editor's note: This piece is excerpted from Mike Gallagher’s "50 Things Liberals Love to Hate."

If they Chicago teachers strike proves just one thing, it is this; liberals hate teachers. If you would permit me, let me explain this seemingly counterintuitive statement.

Liberals spend a whole lot of time trying to convince us they love teachers, but dig even skin deep into the matter and it becomes evident that liberals hate teachers. To understand just how much they hate teachers, consider the circumstances of their workplace. And compare it with yours and mine.

Think, for a minute, about what it might take for you to be fired from your job.

I know, I know. It’s an unpleasant thought. With millions of Americans out of work, why bring it up?

Still: what would it take? Think about all of the things you could do at your place of work that would get you bounced out of there in a hurry – drunkenness, violence, acts of abuse, theft, or maybe just being really really bad at your job.

Now imagine, for a moment, that you’re a public school teacher and a member of one of the powerful teachers unions. Go through that list again. What would it take to get fired from that job?

Well, for starters, none of the above.

Public school teachers enjoy a huge amount of job security, thanks to their powerful unions and inflexible work rules. In New York City, for instance, bad teachers aren’t fired – and bad here means not just bad at the job, but bad in other ways, too, like physical and sexual abuse. No, when school officials want to get a teacher out of the classroom, they have to go through an arduous and multi-year process, involving hearings and appeals and lawyers and more hearings. All the while, the teacher draws full pay.

It’s easier, in most cases, just to look the other way.

In Southern California recently, a teacher who was under arrest for sexually abusing his students was still drawing his full salary.

All of these “protections” were put into place to provide public school teachers with the kind of job security and cushy work rules that United Auto Workers have enjoyed. Which is why the American education system looks a lot like Chrysler and GM: old, out of touch, delivering an inferior product, and dependent on government bailouts.

Liberals don’t care about that, of course. They’re not interested in education. They’re interested in the education system. And there’s a big difference.

Education means teaching kids how to do stuff, and how to think about stuff. Education is a pretty simple concept with a very clear way to measure results: you give some kind of an exam – maybe it’s one of those standardized tests all kids hate, maybe it’s some kind of essay, but whatever it is, it’ll measure the results and the kids will hate it. And then you look at what works and do more of that, notice the teachers who are getting great results and give them raises (and hire more just like them) and – pow! – education is achieved.

That’s not how liberals think. Liberals want to figure out a system which will diminish the importance of real results – like, say, evidence that a kid is learning anything – and replace it with a lot of other stupid, liberal criteria, like a teacher’s seniority (Who cares? Can they teach?) and a student’s race (Who cares? Can he spell?) and a multi-cultural, child-empowering curriculum (Who cares? Can the kids do simple math?).

You can’t improve what you can’t measure, and liberals have resisted any kind of meaningful measurement of success in the classroom for decades. Instead of focusing on the three R’s, liberals have thrown up a barrage of silly things designed to distract us all from their awful stewardship of the schools.

School systems now routinely have more administrators than classroom teachers. They have armies of counselors and therapists and nutritionists and “multi-cultural learning facilitators.” Schools insist that everything is under their purview – what your kids eat, what they believe, what they say on the playground. Because as long as the school system is doing everything, maybe you won’t notice that little Johnny can’t read. And that little Sally can’t make change for a dollar.

But despite all of the noise about “honoring” teachers and “supporting” education and it being “all for the children,” liberals – by their actions – reveal a very different truth.

A case in point: In August of 2010, the Los Angeles Times got their hands on internal data the LA Unified School District was assembling for seven years, tracking performance of their kids in math and English. The LA Times crunched those numbers to figure out which teachers were effective, and which weren’t – something the LA School district could do, but didn’t.

The LA Times focused on Broadous Elementary School, one of the poorest neighborhoods in the San Fernando Valley, populated with hard working Latino parents, most of whom never finished high school.

What did the study reveal? Well, for openers, that teachers matter. Highly effective teachers propelled student performance in less than a single year. The Times report noted that “there was a substantial gap at year’s end between students whose teachers ranked in the top 10% in effectiveness and the bottom 10%.”

It took a study to find that out?

Then the LA story went from the general to the very specific; we met two teachers from the same school, with the same kids, teaching the same subject, practically down the hall from one another.

One was Miguel Aguilar, a stocky 33 year old who grew up in the area. When the Times reporters showed up at his class - Room 26 - they saw students on their edge of their seats and engaged over ……….. a math problem!

It turns out Miguel doles out praise sparingly in his class – no gold stars for wrong answers – and he expects a lot from his kids. He expects results.

And the data revealed that Aguilar delivers. On average, students started the year in his class in the 34th percentile in math compared with all other district 5th graders, who finished in the 61st. Those gains, which he turned out each and every year, made him one of the most effective teachers in the school.

The Times then turned to Room 25 - Joe Smith’s classroom. He was teaching the same aged kids from the very same neighborhood the same subject. Everything was the same but the talent and expectations of the teacher.

And the results.

On average, students under Smith’s instruction lost – lost – 14 percentile points in math during a school year relative to his peers in the district. Overall, he ranked the least effective of the district’s teachers.

Told of the Times findings, Smith, 63 at the time, expressed mild surprise.

“Obviously, what I need to do is to look at what I’m doing and take some steps to make sure something changes,” he told an LA Times reporter.

Change? How about this for a change – you’re fired.

What was the local union leadership’s reaction to this LA Time expose? The leader of the 40,000 plus strong union called for a boycott of the paper.

Like I said, liberals - hate - teachers. Why else would they pay Joe Smith and Miguel Aguilar the same?

Why else would you pay the great teacher who drives student performance the same as the terrible teacher who could care less about the kids and their performance?

Why else would you set up a system where merit is not rewarded, and where mediocrity is not punished?

How on earth can that be seen as respect for teachers, setting up a system like that?

How in God’s name can that be called support, when bad teachers and good teachers are all lumped together, tainting the good ones by association, and sapping them of their zeal to teach?

I mean, think a minute about your job.

How hard would you work if you knew that almost nothing you could do could get you fired, and you knew that nothing anyone else did around you could get them fired?

How hard would you work if you had tenure? And all of your co-workers had tenure too?

The fact is, that isn’t a world most Americans live in. Most of us actually fear the words “you’re fired.” Most of us actually fear our bosses, want to impress our bosses, and are grateful to have bosses.

Most of us actually want to take care of our customers, and do a good job for our customers, because if we don’t, our customers will soon become our competitor’s customers. And we won’t have jobs.

All of which makes us much better employees. All of which would make teachers better teachers. Schools better schools. Students better students. And all of which will never happen. Because the teachers unions will never let it happen.

Which is why liberals hate teachers (and by proxy, of course, liberals hate students.)

Liberals hate teachers, and they don’t much care for students, but they love the school system. That’s because to liberals and their vassals of power – the unions, teachers have two big functions: as a money source, with their union dues delivering cash and manpower to liberal candidates for office; and as foot soldiers in the liberal takeover of the mind of the American student.

But that’s the thing about liberals; it’s always about them.

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