Culling the Faculty… Part II

Yesterday, I posted without comment the text of a bill proposed by Iowa State Senator Mark Chelgren. The bill is so absurd that it had absolutely no chance of becoming law. I posted it to draw attention to the increasing legislative attacks on teachers throughout the country. I succeeded far beyond my expectations—over 3,000 Facebook “shares” and well above 10,000 views. Unfortunately, by singling out a bill in Iowa, I made it look like the crazies are there—and not everywhere.

The absolute nuttiness of the bill is the best defense against its ever becoming law. Iowa, though, has other protections. Katherine Tachau, President of the University of Iowa AAUP chapter, informs me that this dead-on-arrival bill was intercepted by the Iowa Senate Education Committee chair, a professor at Iowa State, who sent it to a subcommittee chaired by another ally of education. Tachau writes, “I’m inclined to think that this bill belongs to the large category of ill-informed bills on any number of subjects with no chance of passage with which the records of all legislatures are replete.” I agree.

That said, with the recent attempt to ban collective bargaining by faculty in Ohio, the punitive use of teacher evaluations in New York and other attacks on teachers in states across the country, we need to be vigilant. As unwise as the Iowa bill is, it is not alone. The entire teaching profession is under attack, not simply its unions but its very existence. Many people would like to get rid of teachers completely, replacing them with automation and digital possibilities. Others want to limit education to training, replacing learning with the earning of badges. All of them, for one reason or another, feel that teachers are causing more problems in this country than they are solving so have declared it open season on the profession.

We have only two ways of fighting back. First, we have to be so good at our jobs—and so clear in showing just how—that no one can fault us. Second, we have to fight back by bringing light to even the most ill-informed of the attempts to attack teachers, showing them for just what they are.

9 thoughts on “Culling the Faculty… Part II

  1. Pingback: Culling the Iowa Faculty | The Academe Blog

  2. I would add that we must also govern ourselves well, and just. Maybe that falls under the umbrella of doing our jobs well, but the act of teaching is so dependent on long-term creativity, high amounts of patience and tenacity, and continual professional development, that is easy for a good teacher to have a bad term and inflict permanent damage on the profession’s standing. By governing, I do not mean punishing or banishing, I mean supporting in the way government is meant to be a good thing for all who are part of the community.

    • Nothing … level of idiotic ideas one does generate is genetically determined. There is little to no hope for such people. However, once they come into a position of even minor power they are just dangerous for the community they have power over.

  3. Curious what level of excellence would result in no reactionary legislators attacking faculty. I appreciate the intention (as I interpret it) but I think the emphasis needs to be on the second part-advocacy and organizing. “Good at our jobs” doesn’t recognize the extent to which administrators are moving the goalposts on “job” and “good.”

  4. “First, we have to be so good at our jobs—and so clear in showing just how—that no one can fault us.”

    That’s just impossible, mostly because it assumes that people who don’t like/trust teachers are susceptible to logic, which clearly isn’t the case. It also fails to take into account confirmation bias and the fact that you can’t make people think. One thing we need is a good PR campaign from our various unions and organizations about what teachers do right and how we do it. The best of us make teaching look as easy as mowing the lawn, the way great athletes and artists make their work seem easy and simple. That’s the misconception that’s hurting us: “anyone can teach.”

    But more than a good PR campaign, we have to stop letting non-experts define our jobs for us. We need to take back our authority in our subjects and our methodology by challenging the experts in the open. No other profession suffers the kind of external evaluation pressures that we do. Doctors, lawyers, engineers all set their own professional standards and licensing. We should too.

  5. Pingback: Iowa Legislator Wants Game of Thrones Death Match for Academics | Eduhacker

  6. Pingback: The 25 Most Read Posts to the Academe Blog in 2015 | The Academe Blog

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