Want Fries With That
The reality of teaching school, a reality most would not be able to imagine, is that we teachers do remarkable things on a daily basis.
The reality of teaching school, a reality most would not be able to imagine, is that we teachers do remarkable things on a daily basis. It is nothing to watch a teacher turn a classroom of reluctant teenagers into avid fans of the most mundane literature you can imagine, using a couple of markers and a whiteboard. This is our gift and often times our curse.
We make do, you give us a dollar to teach a child for a week and we make that dollar provide for four weeks. However, imagine what we could do with ten, twenty, or one hundred dollars. Americans have become disenfranchised with the model of modern education, mostly due to bad information or disinformation, and this disenfranchisement has become focused on teachers. Teachers are not the problem, they are the solution.
As the mega-structures of educational corporations circle the schools and systems we entrust our kids to it is time to point the right finger at the right culprits. I have seen problems with certain teachers, certain tests, certain structures, but the ultimate blame lies on the American Public.
Before you turn away and begin scrolling the internet for your next funny cat post, take a moment to read why I say we are all to blame for the current problems in education. In our desire to have the best of everything we have neglected the most important commodity we have; our children. More money is spent at McDonald’s, Burger King, and Walmart every year than the entire budget of the United States Education System. Let that sink in.
Few years back the Federal government spent 883 Billion Dollars on the entirety of the US Educational System. The Big Three brought in a total annual profit of 887 Billion. We spent more on Big Macs, fries, and fish sandwiches than the entire federal school lunch and breakfast system spending few years back. So when we blame teachers and administrators for a poor educational performance we are being duplicitous. Instead, we should look to ourselves and the way our world works.
Teachers make an annual salary that is less than most assistant managers at Walmart, a notoriously attacked employer who most can see has some less than desirable hiring practices. Yet we fail to see the problem with this.
Most Americans pay little attention to the amounts of money they spend at Walmart and other fast and easy outlets, yet when a teacher sends home a request for money to fund classroom resources the outrage in the response is never dignified. I shudder to think what would happen to an employer if he hired college graduates and thrust them into as high needs an area as teachers go into and paid them less than $28,000 to start.
We as a populace have a poor understanding of what this is doing to our future generations. I would argue self-imposed isolation from not just the facts, but the very nature of the damage we inflict on our students every day.
For example, most children are fed lunch at schools for a cost less than a happy meal, yet nutritionally they are served less than the nutritional value of a happy meal. Let that ruminate. We spend less than a happy meal on one of the most important meals of the day for our children. Yet they are expected to sit in a classroom with thirty other starving children and compete on an international testing stage for eight hours a day.
The true discrepancies in the institutions most important to our children are the fault of an uncaring and uninformed public. With this ignorance and disregard comes public policy, guided the same way. What do you pay for an airline ticket? That amount is only a portion of the cost of operating a major airline. However, the federal government continues to prop up lower ticket costs with governmental bailouts in the trillions of dollars. Not only is air travel seen as an important commodity, but so much that you do not even bear the full cost of a flight by purchasing a ticket. Instead, you pay a portion and then the American taxpayer pays the larger portion. The Hughes foundation reported, in 2012, that for every dollar the American traveler pays for a ticket the Federal Government pays Five dollars.
Over the federal budgets of 2012 and 2013 nearly 2.6 trillion dollars were dispersed to airline corporations to buttress bad management and poor planning. How poorly is it run? In 2013 a review by the Federal Aviation Administration decided that nearly half of all pilots were under-qualified to operate commercial airliners.
How did they respond? They issued a federal mandate that 75 percent of pilots be proficient by the 2023 review cycle. A net change of 25 percent in ten years. However, new teacher training standards issued in few years back gives the entire teaching profession only two years to meet arbitrary and highly suspect testing mandates.
And what of testing? Standardized tests are one-time snapshots of a system that is making progress every day with each student. Compare that to Federal safety and health standards that require fast-food restaurants be inspected for Occupational Safety Hazards once every five years, and if they do not meet the standards provides a lengthy and often drawn out six-year remediation window to correct these faults.
The problems with the federal education policy are myriad, but at its center are two truths. We as a populace have forgotten to care about the schools; both financially and participatory. How do we fix this? Write our congressman, tell him to better fund education at the school level.
Push big industry publishers out of our schools and back into their roles as a provider and contractor. Remove the overarching hurdles to funding and allow teachers to do what they have always done, teach. We do this by watching where our money goes, voting judiciously, and being vocal that Education is the most important expenditure we can make as a country.
Grover Welch is a ninth grade English teacher at Newport, Arkansas. He has a MSE in Reading from Arkansas State University.