Sunday, November 16, 2008

"Stupid in America": John Stossel's 20/20 report on failing American schools

When this special was being advertised in '06, I was excited to watch. Now that I have started blogging on this general topic, I wanted to review. I found it on YouTube and rewatched the entire thing last week. I posted a few comments on the YouTube discussion, but they limit your characters so ridiculously that I was barely able to say anything. This is what I had originally drafted to say. (I never type my original posts ... I'm an English teacher through and through -- everything gets a rough draft!)

It seems like a lot of people take personal offense at this special. Sure, the title on its surface is offensive. Sure, John Stossel is looking for the most controversial examples. Sure, the producers are going to pick the most dramatic examples.

I am speaking as a board certified teacher, this special brings up many important issues. The most important for our global economy is the fact that we are falling farther and father behind the other countries: Those statistics and test results are real and cannot be denied.

We cannot afford to ignore the fact that our students are falling farther and farther behind their counterparts across the globe. That are their future competition and our future as a country depends upon their success.

I agree that teacher's unions are a problem, but it is not true that all American teachers are bad. It IS true that probably half of the teacher's are lazy, unmotivated, and ineffective. Those teachers poison the system and the teacher's who try their hardest. There is a running joke among teachers. You have to sleep with a student or stab a student to get fired. Otherwise, you're free to do what you want as a teacher. That is pathetic and disgusting. Americans should not be satisfied with this system, but they are. No one seems to care.

Good teachers are crippled by a pathetic, ineffective system that is guided by administrators who don't care about quality teaching. They care about bureaucracy. All of the teachers that I know who have gone on to become administrators have done it for the MONEY and not because they want to be agents of change. Good teachers cannot be good teachers because of a system that does not meet the needs of all students.

Good teachers should be rewarded. Ineffective teachers should get help and a short trial period and should be fired if they don't improve. Bad teachers should be FIRED -- flat out fired.

There is one all-important point that is glossed over too quickly in this special. Tie teacher pay to performance. Pay teachers more. Fire teachers who suck. Make teaching a highly competitive occupation. Make teaching a job that more talented people aspire to.

The Florida teacher who says that competition isn't for public education is a moron.


  1. I totally agree with you. I can tell that you "care" as a teacher. In today's world, the problem is that teachers don't really "care" or their passion for teaching is gone because of the system. Just look at those teachers who almost knock the front door down as soon as the bell rings for dismissal. Look at those teachers who only wants software to give tests and grade the kids.

  2. I do care. A lot of teachers do care, but all of my experiences with administration so far in my career have demonstrated to me that caring doesn't get you anywhere. Administrators don't care and the very few who do care are bogged down by massive amounts of red tape and ridiculous meetings that never serve any purpose -- except to add to the bureaucracy of the whole system. It's such a mess!!