Saturday, January 14, 2012

Nonsense, Like Blaming Teachers

Blaming teachers for growing ignorance is like blaming doctors for rising obesity rates.

American obesity rates continue to grow at a scary pace. Fairly, few fault physicians for a fatter America. Despite this unhealthy trend, giving the healthcare system a free pass on the growing obesity epidemic makes sense. Physicians are not culpable for Americans increasingly sedentary habits and unhealthy diets.

The public should afford educators this same reasoning. American students continue to falter on international assessments. The public does not pretend that United States medical doctors are responsible for less healthy Americans, yet many radical reformers make-believe teachers are largely accountable for the growing struggles of American students.

The Center for DiseaseControl and Prevention (CDC) finds that “the causes of obesity in the United States are complex and numerous, and they occur at social, economic, environmental, and individual levels." This makes sense. 

Let us cut and paste this thinking. The causes of ignorance in the United States are complex and numerous, and they occur at social, economic, environmental, and individual levels. No single bullet or superman is going to tackle a complex issue like ineffective learning. 

Reformers must look at perceived problems in America’s learning habits from all these abovementioned levels. Genuine reform must examine larger issues--namely the rising poverty among our students (as recent studiesindicate). Solutions must be bigger and broader than concentrating on greater accountability of teachers.    
The CDC’s approach to America’s obesity epidemic is a model of how education reformers should proceed. Recognizing the widespread problems associated with obesity, the CDC lays out a community-based plan for “Making Health Easier.”  This plan has no time for nonsense, like blaming practitioners.

Likewise, education reformers should formulate comprehensive plans that address the extensive problems associated with ineffective learning. Education reformers should adapt the CDC motto and work on “Making Learning Easier.” 

This reform model will require quality resources, working with community-wide collaboration, partnerships with teachers, support networks for the needy, ongoing research, and a relentless PR program that promotes a culture of learning in homes, communities, and schools.  This plan has no time for nonsense, like blaming teachers.


  1. Take a look at Education Week for January 12, 2012. Most of the issue is on Accountability. Though I do not believe that blaming teachers is the right approach, I do believe that we have fallen short with regard to accountability. Doctors are help accountable for prescription errors, surgical deaths and a variety of other issues. Malpractice insurance is high for a reason. I believe some educators stopped asking the question "How do I know learning has taken place?" There are many areas of education that needs fixing and it is indeeed a complex issue, but we can not ignore the need for accountability.

  2. Steve, Well spoken. I could not agree more.

    I read an article recently that put part of your point in a businessman's terms: if your company makes blueberry ice cream, and you recive a shipment of blueberries that is less than perfect, you send it back.

    As educators, we love our students and care for them tremendously, but we would never, and could never, send them back, no matter how imperfect they are.

    Read the article, everyone... it is from the businessman's perspective and really helps us look at things in a more realistic light.

    Here it is:

  3. The blueberry analogy is very effective. It highlights one way that schools differ from manufacturing industries. That one way may be the most important reason for school problems in our particular society.

    But even if all our students came to us as perfect blueberries, they are human beings, and no organization can process human beings like ice cream.