I really think that those on the right wing of the political spectrum have an active disdain for teachers, that they think we work from 9 to 3 every day, that there's nothing else to it except figuring out how to spend those three months we get off a year.
I'm not blaming McCain for this - I actually liked the line about getting rid the bad teachers, although it leads to opening cans of worms that generally scare the hell out of me. I mean, I pretty much know who the bad teachers are at my school, or have been, and would love it if they weren't my colleagues anymore. But who determines that? Test scores? Busy administrators with unknown or questionable motives? I haven't heard a good system yet.
But it was the applause that most struck me - a wild, frenzied cheer for teachers to lose their jobs. I just keep trying to imagine if the line was about another profession, like firefighters, or police officers, or soldiers, if the applause would have been anywhere near the same. I mean, obviously you can't have bad soldiers on the ground, right - they endanger the lives of people and the safety of the nation. But any politician would be slammed for attacking them, or attacking police officers, or some other professions. And immediately thereafter McCain brings up the word "accountability," which is a euphemistic buzzword for standardized tests.
No Child Left Behind is a good-intentioned but deeply flawed policy. It's not just flawed because it's unfunded, although that is a major reason; the dumping of so much limited resources into creating, distributing, and scoring standardized tests is one reason, I'm sure, that I have few resources in my classroom (not enough textbooks to send home, technology only if I buy it myself, etc). It's also flawed because it encourages states to make their tests as rudimentary as possible in order to produce Adequate Yearly Progress, because it discourages creative thinking, and because focuses too much attention on the short list of tested courses (English 2, Biology, Government, and Algebra). But I've never quite heard it framed like McCain did tonight; heck, the climax of that portion of the speech was about getting rid of bad teachers. And, gosh, the crowd sure did love it!
Some people in this country really hate teachers.
As it is, though, I'm glad McCain is pouncing on the issue of education. It's been mostly ignored for the entire campaign, and Obama didn't mention it in his brilliant acceptance speech. I criticize No Child Left Behind up and down, but at least it entered education into the national discussion in ways it wasn't before or after. When McCain said that "education is the civil rights issue of this century," it was hard for me not to get goosebumps, because I totally agree with him. Hell, Jonathan Kozol would agree with him.
Of course, my answer for that is to create an amendment to the Constitution guaranteeing equal public education for all, not on more
I'm glad that McCain is talking about education, though. I disagree with most of his views about it, but if this issue enters the national conversation again, we might see some change. Writing this, I'm thinking to myself, "Geez, well, last time this happened, yes, people talked about it, but it brought us No Child Left Behind." But I guess I have great faith in an Obama Presidency on the issue of education, and welcome a focus on it in the election.