In response to my Teachers of the Year Call for Changes to NCLB post, Bob—a reader who regularly leaves comments that challenge my thinking—-asked:

It’s still curious to hear teachers discuss careers, professionalism, power politics, including as it relates to schooling. At the same time, teachers ask those who may not agree with us to let us decide what we should do for (to?) them and for them to pay more money for our services. Hmmm. Setting aside Marxist logic, please clarify what’s going on here.

Bob’s question really pushed me this morning, particularly when he states, “Teachers ask those who may not agree with us to let us decide what we should do for (to?) them and for them to pay more money for our services.”

You see, I think educators sometimes come across as elitists—unwilling to listen to the thoughts and opinions of the populations that we serve.  We are ready to offer our ideas and expertise, but equally willing to resist the ideas and expertise of those that we see as “outsiders.”

Think about the general response of most teachers to No Child Left Behind and the movement towards holding schools accountable for student achievement in our country.  We kick and scream, listing a million reasons why this defining piece of legislation—authorized by officials democratically elected by a nation—-is failing schools and students.  Another example would be our stance on school choice:  Rarely do practicing educators have positive views about giving parents more direct control about where their children will learn.

Shouldn’t we be more receptive to the opinions of parents and the general public when it comes to education?  After all, they are our employers and customers wrapped into one.  If we were a private industry that failed to respond to the trends (demands?) of customers, we’d go out of business right quick, wouldn’t we?  Why should educators be allowed to shake-down the general public, unwilling to listen to criticism or to take direction from customers?

Here’s another thought—who are we to place ourselves ahead of parents and community leaders as “experts” about the needs of children?  Clearly when we put on our “mom and dad” hats, we wouldn’t set aside our own authority for making decisions about our children to “outsiders,” would we?  But isn’t that what millions of Americans are forced to do by our system of public education where “choice” and “voice” are limited at best and non-existant at worst?

Interesting, huh?

Where does the balance lie between teachers and taxpayers as “experts?”

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