Podcast: Are teachers getting a bad rap?
Katherine Fortes, a pre-kindergarten teacher, protests Thursday against possible funding cuts in Miami, Florida, public schools.
March 3rd, 2011
08:11 PM ET

Podcast: Are teachers getting a bad rap?

From Wisconsin to New Jersey, many public school teachers feel they are too often criticized as lazy and overpaid.

So is there, as some suggest, a prolonged political attack on teachers?

Diane Ravitch told CNN that teachers, and the unions they belong to, are convenient political scapegoats.

“Teachers are being blamed for everything,” said Ravitch, a professor of Education at New York University. “They are being blamed for low test scores, they are being blamed for kids who don't speak English, teachers are being blamed for everything that happens that society should take some responsibility for.”

CNN education contributor Steve Perry said much of the educational problems stem from principals whom hire underachieving teachers.

“Too many administrators were probably halfway decent teachers … but they are really bad leaders,” Perry said.

He, like many others, also criticized teacher unions.

“Unions do more than reinforce bad teaching methods, they make it the standard,” Perry said. “You don't even have to be an average teacher, you just have to be a satisfactory teacher. That is disgusting!”

As we researched this CNN Radio podcast we found the public is discussing the roles of teachers, unions and money much more today than just a decade ago.

We invite you to listen to the podcast, and comment below with what you think.

Click here for the entire interview:

You can also listen to the CNN Radio Reports podcast on itunes or subscribe to the podcast here.

Filed under: Education
soundoff (42 Responses)
  1. CarolineSF

    Unions devote their resources to advocacy - yes, for the benefit of their members, but also for conditions that benefit society.

    Teachers' unions put resources into advocating for smaller class sizes and adequately funded schools. Those are things that benefit their own members, and that also benefit all children and thus all of society.

    By the same token, nurses' unions advocate for reasonable and safe staffing ratios that mean you (even those who hate unions) will get better, more personal care when you're in the hospital.

    It's a very shortsighted view to disparage the right of professionals to organize and bargain collectively, as it is to bash teachers specifically.

    One commenter's remark may sum up the situation: "Teachers, you knew you were going to be disrespected and under paid, so whats the problem?" Well, one of the problems is that that drives good people out of teaching, or keeps them out of the field to begin with. The solution is to stop disrespecting and underpaying teachers. Everyone agrees that Finland is the role model for high-achieving and successful schools. In Finland, teachers are highly respected and well paid. Why would we all agree on a successful role model and then decide to do the exact opposite?

    March 4, 2011 at 1:21 pm | Report abuse |
  2. frustrated teacher

    Unions are not the problem. Yes there are teachers that abuse the use of the union but that is few and far between. You can find abuse anywhere. Look at Wall Street. I think John Stewart did a little piece on this. The vast majority of people do not go into education for the pay and "time off". They are there because they want to educate students. As far as time off, teachers work well beyond the school day. I've been teaching for 12 years and I have yet to have a summer off. I coach and work a second job during the summer. Many teachers are in the same boat. My wife teaches and works at her dads restaurant during the summer.
    Here is the more important and larger issue...parents need to be held responsible and accountable for their children.

    March 4, 2011 at 2:49 pm | Report abuse |
  3. frustrated teacher

    Hey, want to look at crazy wages... look at our fine entertainment industry and professional athletes. I would love to just make the same as their signing bonuses. We currently have an individual that was making 2 mil per episode and is such a great role model. Yes they are talented but it's sad that we as a society think they are worth more than teachers, police or fire personnel!!!

    March 4, 2011 at 3:01 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Janis Barnes

    Teachers are getting a very bad rap. Opinions seem to go in trends, and this is the popular trend; to blast teachers. Teachers are imperative for our future.

    March 4, 2011 at 5:03 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Justamom

    I have three kids in high school and know teachers work HARD. Just because the "school day" is over doesn't mean the teacher's day is. They are answering emails and talking to parents, grading homework and trying to think creatively about how to reach the kid who isn't getting it, and encourage the kid who is.

    March 4, 2011 at 9:33 pm | Report abuse |
  6. 0920302117

    As a student now, especially a college student, I have been taught by so many teachers .There is no doubt that I can’t remember each of their faces or different teaching ways, however, there is someone who has left so deep impression on me that their manners can hardly fade away. From that my own experience, I admit that to be a teacher is a tough job and to be a good teacher is a challenging job. From this piece of news, many teachers see demands to cut their pay, benefits and say in how schools are run as attacks not just on their livelihoods, but on their value. Relatively ,in China ,to be a teacher is a more stable career as the government pay more attention on children’s nine year compulsory school system, and relevantly teachers receive a better treatment compared to other jobs. With the development of more opening environment, students become more and more active. Teachers should be equipped with all round of knowledge to get well prepared for students’ acid questions.
    Personally, I am a student major in English education. That means I will probably be a teacher in the future. I feel weighted as this is a noble profession and what is more, to be a teacher was my father’s pursuit when he was young. In my opinion, to play the teacher role well is to regard self as a connection, a connection that builds students and knowledge, interest together. I will keep on studying towards this goal. To be a good teacher and a confident teacher is not a miracle.

    March 5, 2011 at 4:19 am | Report abuse |
  7. Rick

    Gilroy school district in Gilroy, Ca. has a policy that no student is left behind. Which mean's, a student can get staight F's in junior high and still go onto high school with the graduating class. The student will not be participating in graduating ceremony, but will recieve a junior high school diploma. I know of two ninth graders in their first year of high school who can barely read and write. Yet they have attended elementary school through ninth grade in gilroy. Born in gilroy. I blame the parents and the school district equally. The students are the responsibility of the school during school hours. I think this policy must be changed.

    March 5, 2011 at 9:58 am | Report abuse |
  8. Bill Kilpatrick

    The level of ignorance displayed in these public excoriations of the teaching profession and of teaching unions reflects more than just a public misconception about what teachers do, what schools do and what unions do. It's a scripted effort to bruise up teachers, schools and unions for political reasons. This is what you do when you want to privatize education, take money away from schools and dismantle collective bargaining. It's malicious and calculated. It has nothing to do with any real ignorance over what teachers do. It's all part of a media blitz to support a political result.

    March 6, 2011 at 1:55 am | Report abuse |
  9. Teacher

    I am a public school teacher in a poor state, I work every weekday all day. I make 17,000 a year. No benefits, no paid vacations.

    March 6, 2011 at 2:01 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Ashera

    The Big Corporations just want everything privatized and that is the main issue here. Any/all politicians who are in the stewing pot with lobbyists for Privatizing any/all, should be voted right out of office. The meltdown was due to deregulations of everything, Banks, Tax Breaks, Loopholes, bonuses, Oil Companies, and the endless list of those who took America into it's THIRD WORLD STATUS! And, voters, guess who let them do it? Y O U !
    Also, as consumers we give them even more juice to continue their onslaught against the, idiotic taxpaying slave workers, to their graves. Therefore, just pick up your shovel, which you so willingly, received and start your own grave. By G@D, they will not pay for your funeral!

    March 6, 2011 at 3:23 pm | Report abuse |
  11. pat

    Blaming teachers is comparable to blaming physicians for the disease they are trying to cure. As political scapegoats, teachers are perfectly poised for the public backlash of ill performing educational administrations rooted in corrupt political schemes and political patronage.

    It suffers from obsolete hierarchies and inconsistent professional policies that continue to plague the industry to prevent optimum teacher performance despite desire to excel, and student failure despite their willingness to learn.

    Teaching is a captive public profession that offers little or no control by the professionals themselves to adequately fulfil their professional mission. At best teachers are pawns in a political system in which accountability is demanded but without support responsibility sufficient for them to accomplish their mission. America might be better served by a private educational system if the public one is so poorly managed so that all students may be served with professionalism adequate to the task by a body of teachers respected for their profession.

    July 18, 2011 at 8:41 am | Report abuse |
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