Thursday, November 03, 2011

"That's Just Mean": Bullies at the Heritage Foundation

Usually, after a trying day with the children, checking in with the adult world has the effect of, if not cheering me up, then at least keeping me real. Reminding me that I do not have to base my self-worth on the evanescent opinions of 15-year-olds is, generally speaking, a healthy exercise. And, hey, there's politics and humor and literature out there in the adult world with which I can engage and remind myself that my work is to prepare my students to engage with those same things, so I have to keep myself fresh with that wider universe as well.

So after my last class, I'll often take a few minutes to read, say, the Times, Education Week, GothamSchools, Slate, Gawker (granted, not the best example of "adult media," but still), or similar. And again, this is usually a nice part of my day.


Because yesterday, just before I sat down with my colleagues to grade an exam that we gave jointly, I read Slate and found this odious little gem. You see, a study by the Heritage Foundation finds that not only are teachers overpaid (yes, you read that right!!!), but actually, we're paid far too much for the far lower quality of thoughts in our dull teacher brains. Teachers, so they say, "have lower cognitive abilities than those private sector workers with similar educational backgrounds."

Something about that really hits below the belt for me. First of all, how on Earth was this research finding compiled? Why, by noting that grade inflation is a problem in education programs. Now I'll grant you that one, I really will. My education courses in grad school were, as a rule, not as challenging as my undergrad liberal arts courses. But this stupid English teacher is smart enough to point out that a person's grades in an inflated degree program do not necessarily prove anything about his or her cognitive ability. I did very, very well in college. Very well to the tune of summa cum laude, if you must know. And I work with people who are also across-the-board high achievers. So just because people get high grades in education classes doesn't mean they wouldn't do well in other classes--and it also means that, rather than assume that teachers have "lower cognitive abilities" (and again, OUCH), education schools need to be more practical and rigorous, something with which I imagine many teachers who find themselves underprepared for the day-to-day challenges of teaching would agree.

Despairingly, I showed the article to my colleague, also an honors graduate of a prestigious university. "That's just mean," she remarked. "Why would they write something like that?"

Why indeed. It couldn't have anything to do with the fact that, as Kim Anderson of the NEA remarks, "The study is funded by the very same groups that are trying to eliminate the right of workers to have a voice in their workplace altogether."

No. That couldn't possibly be it.
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