Bill Maher attacked teachers last year on his HBO show. He said teachers unions were "corrupt," tenure was bad and unions perpetuated a terrible education system by protecting "bad teachers" and moving them from school to school the way the Catholic Church moved pedophile priests.
Not exactly an endorsement of teachers.
But then, almost one year to the day that he attacked teachers and teachers unions, he said this last night on his show:
New Rule: Let's not fire the teachers when students don't learn - let's fire the parents. Last week President Obama defended the firing of every single teacher in a struggling high school in a poor Rhode Island neighborhood. And the kids were outraged. They said, "Why blame our teachers?" and "Who's President Obama?" I think it was Whitney Houston who said, "I believe that children are our future - teach them well and let them lead the way." And that's the last sound piece of educational advice this country has gotten - from a crack head in the '80's.
Yes, America has found its new boogeyman to blame for our crumbling educational system. It's just too easy to blame the teachers, what with their cushy teachers' lounges, their fat-cat salaries, and their absolute authority in deciding who gets a hall pass. We all remember high school - canning the entire faculty is a nationwide revenge fantasy. Take that, Mrs. Crabtree! And guess what? We're chewing gum and no, we didn't bring enough for everybody.
But isn't it convenient that once again it turns out that the problem isn't us, and the fix is something that doesn't require us to change our behavior or spend any money. It's so simple: Fire the bad teachers, hire good ones from some undisclosed location, and hey, while we're at it let's cut taxes more. It's the kind of comprehensive educational solution that could only come from a completely ignorant people.
Firing all the teachers may feel good - we're Americans, kicking people when they're down is what we do - but it's not really their fault. Now, undeniably, there are some bad teachers out there. They don't know the material, they don't make things interesting, they have sex with the same kid every day instead of spreading the love around... But every school has crappy teachers. Yale has crappy teachers - they must, they gave us George Bush.
According to all the studies, it doesn't matter what teachers do. Although everyone appreciates foreplay. What matters is what parents do. The number one predictor of a child's academic success is parental involvement. It doesn't even matter if your kid goes to private or public school. So save the twenty grand a year and treat yourself to a nice vacation away from the little bastards.
It's also been proven that just having books in the house makes a huge difference in a child's development. If your home is adorned with nothing but Hummel dolls, DVD's, and bleeding Jesuses, congratulations, you've just given your children the gift of Duh. Sarah Palin said recently she wrote on her hand because her father used to do it. I rest my case.
When there are no books in the house, and there are no parents in the house, you know who raises the kids? That's right, the television. Kids aren't keeping up with their studies; they're keeping up with the Kardashians. We're allowing the television, as babysitter, to turn us into a nation of slutty idiots. By the way, one sign your 9-year-old may be watching too much One Tree Hill: if she has an imaginary friend with benefits.
Last night Bill Maher got it right - teachers are not the problem with the system.
We are the scapegoats.
And by saying so, he echoed what Diane Ravitch wrote on Bridging Differences last week:
I absolutely do not agree that our schools are overrun with terrible teachers; part of the goal of my book is to discredit the current knee-jerk reaction of editorialists and public officials, who blame teachers for everything that goes wrong in the schools. Blaming the teachers lets everyone else off the hook: families, the media, the popular culture, policymakers, and students themselves. The overwhelming majority of our nation's teachers are doing the best they can under difficult circumstances, with not enough support from society, parents, or the media.
I dunno if this message will resonant with too many people in the media.
It seems like every time I turn on the TV and watch the news, I see "experts" on MSNBC or CNN or CNBC talking breathlessly about our "education crisis" and blaming teachers, teachers unions and teacher tenure for the problems in education.
And every time I look at a newspaper or magazine these days, I see "journalists" like Elizabeth Green or Evan Thomas rewriting Gates Foundation pamphlets about how bad teachers are and including liberal quotes from "education reformers" from foundations funded by Eli Broad and Michael Bloomberg and founded by Michelle Rhee to support their anti-teacher themes.
So I am not too optimistic that the tide has turned in the message war and people in the media will stop being reductionist about the problems with the public education system.
But it is good to hear somebody who slammed teachers just last year say this year that by scapegoating teachers, America is letting the real culprits off the hook - the culture, the parents, and the students themselves.