The education system in America is on the precipice of disaster. Teachers are quitting, students are struggling, and parents are concerned. Inadequate pay, working conditions, and disrespectful students send educators out the door with no one to replace them. Simultaneously, conservative parents feel they have no voice in the education of their children.
More than a teacher
It’s no secret the United States is facing a teacher shortage. More than half of the educators recently surveyed by the National Education Association shared they will likely leave the industry sooner than they initially planned. In June of 2020, only 28% of educators held that stance. While the nation has battled this trend for years, it has never been so widespread or abrupt as since the beginning of the coronavirus plague.
The COVID-19 pandemic and its accompanying regulations intensified pre-existing issues. Kids were locked in their homes, unable to socialize with friends, fearful of catching COVID, and learning through a screen. Before 2020, educators demanded schools provide more social workers and counselors, but two years and one pandemic later, nothing has improved, they say. Although staying at home and teaching virtually was easier on teachers at the time, the children suffered. Now the pandemic shutdowns are over, and teachers – many of whom have long complained they don’t get adequately compensated for the work they put in – returned to class to find there’s more work for them than ever before. Beyond the classical teacher tasks of educating, disciplining, and basically babysitting, now many teachers are expected to be counselors and nurses as well. No matter how much one might enjoy teaching, everyone has a tipping point.
Besides taking on more than just teaching with no additional financial compensation, why else are teachers throwing in the towel? The students. Educators cite out-of-control student behavior, acts of violence, and verbal harassment with no staffing support to discipline students.
One teacher in Texas has decided to stick it out until she reaches her retirement age. However, she noted it only takes a few kids to create an unsafe space or disrupt the class. “You could see a student lingering in the hallway and tell him to get to class, and he’ll look at you and say, “Shut up, [expletive],” this anonymous educator shared. Now, she says, the staff doesn’t feel like they can reprimand the student – so they just try to ignore it.
So, how does this student learn to respect authorities and their peers? Many schools have implemented “restorative justice” as an alternative to traditional punishment. In 2015, that student would have been sent to the principal’s office to be reprimanded and, perhaps, given a Saturday detention. Today, restorative justice addresses offensive behavior by trying to fix relationships and repair any harm done. In 2022, that student would most likely be sat down to discuss why the school has specific rules and consequences for inappropriate behavior. Does this work? The results are unclear, and teachers have mixed feelings about it. The practice is implemented to combat the” school-to-prison pipeline” and offer the opportunity to educate kids on why an action is not allowed while also letting them ask questions.
Regardless, it puts more pressure on teachers. They have to take the verbal and sometimes physical beatings with limited backup and means of discipline.
Where Are the Conservatives?
The two most prominent teacher unions in the US, the American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association, analyzed their political contributions in the 2020 election cycle. At the AFT, 99% of union members donated to Democrats, 0.2% to Republicans, and the remaining 0.7% to “other.” At the NEA, 93.6% contributed to Democrats, 4.7% to Republicans, and 1.8% to “other.”
These numbers aren’t entirely indicative of the political spectrum of teachers because not all educators are in unions, and most don’t have enough money to make financial contributions to campaigns. The distribution is more likely to be 70/30 or 80/20, favoring Democrats. Obviously, this shouldn’t be a shock to anyone, but it could be concerning for parents in blue states.
With the push to implement Critical Race Theory, sex education at an earlier age, and an LGBTQ+ curriculum, some conservative parents are confused and concerned. What is this teacher going to tell my kid? Are they going to go off-book and teach my preschooler what sex is? Liberal and conservative news sources sell two polar opposite stories about the so-called “Don’t Say Gay” bill and Critical Race Theory, leaving parents puzzled about what their kid is learning at school.
Conservative parents are also concerned that their kids will be taught things that combat their family or religious values from a largely Democrat pool of teachers while leaving them no say in the matter. Of course, parents can pull their children from the public system and send them to a private school or homeschool – and many have – but it simply isn’t financially feasible for most. Without many if any allies in the system, parents have taken it upon themselves to protest progressive programs. This often turns school board meetings into uncomfortable confrontations and adds even more stress to the teachers caught between concerned citizens and activist administrations, whether they are, themselves, “woke” or not. Still, the powers that be seem more focused on pushing their controversial curricula than making sure they have teachers in place to implement them.