Opinion: Teaching profession is misunderstood by many

(Editor’s note: The following is the first in a three-part series on the topic of teacher bashing.
This first installment will address the basis of some of the negative views.
The second installment will include comment on former President George Bush’s “national education summit,” in 1989.
The last installment will be an examination of what is happening in Wisconsin and Minnesota relative to teaching.)
Teachers are being attacked by a wave of “negative rhetoric,” as evident in many sources, including a March 31 Star Tribune article and the April 10 Star News letter to the editor that stated, “Unless you live under a rock, you know most teachers’ effectiveness drops after about nine years, but by then they are like a rock.” I have taught in Elk River for 38 years, and despite the assertion that my brain is merely an atrophied, calcified shell of its former self, I would like to address some of the misconceptions that contribute to the public’s misunderstanding of the teaching profession.
The foundation of the negative view of teaching began in 1983 with the publication of “A Nation at Risk,” a politically motivated, misleading federal report that captured the public’s attention with phrases like, “If an unfriendly foreign power had attempted to impose on America the mediocre educational performance that exists today, we might well have viewed it as an act of war.”
This influential document was basically a “head fake” perpetrated by the Reagan administration, which had used “get tough tactics” with great success toward Russia, and then unfortunately applied those same tactics to public education, attempting to link our poor economic standing to our K–12 school system, a relationship later proven to be entirely without merit, but useful as a way to make political points during the 1984 election.
In 1990 the Sandia Report, an actual scientific examination of the nation’s schools, refuted nearly every claim from “A Nation at Risk,” but the government would not publish it, thereby allowing “A Nation at Risk” to be the foundation of a manufactured crises based on erroneous claims, similar to the more recent, “… most teachers’ effectiveness drops after about nine years, but by then they are like a rock.”— Dr. Stephen Schroeder-Davis, Elk River
(Dr. Stephen Schroeder-Davis, a curriculum specialist and distance learning support staff member for the Elk River Area School District, is writing this series at the request of the Star News. It is written on behalf of himself and not on behalf of the school district.)

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