The Boston Globe carries a cartoon strip called “Mallard Fillmore” which presents itself as a conservative alternative to Doonesbury. Except that “Mallard Fillmore” is neither clever nor funny. But it does give some idea of what’s on the minds of conservatives and this week it’s teacher bashing in its most mean-spirited form. This week’s strip is set up as series of examples of “teacher speak” and “translations.” Yesterday, the teacher speak was “I'm not going to make you memorize a bunch of dull, dry dates and places….” Translation: “I have no idea when or where anything happened.” Today is worse: Teacher speak: “Real communism has never been tried….” Translation: “I was stoned for most of the 20th century.” I’ve heard the accusation before that progressive educational practices are evidence that teachers are lazy, but this is the first time I’ve seen teachers libeled as “dope heads.” That the comic strip can get away with this is a measure of teachers’ low standing with even the readers of the Boston Globe.
And while teachers are being maligned in an unfunny, third-rate comic strip, a series of articles this week in Slate indicates that some educational reformers are gearing up to push hard for merit pay which is also based on the assumption that teachers need incentives to work harder. Teachers certainly deserve more pay, but the teachers I work with cannot possibly work harder.
My advice to teachers is to get ready for another round of serious teacher bashing as reformers get ready to push once again for market-based solutions to educational problems -- at the expense of teachers.