Even though most Americans can speak of a special teacher who helped change their lives, few appear to have much respect for the teaching profession.
U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona focused upon that topic during a seventeen-minute speech at a National Education Association (NEA) annual meeting on July 6, 2023.
As a retired public school history teacher, I was interested in reading what the Secretary said. After all, I spent almost half of my life in the broken system that he leads.
After a cheerleading session typical to such conclaves, Secretary Cardona reflected on a special teacher that changed his life. Linda Ransom, a high school art teacher, first suggested becoming a teacher to him. “Ms. Ransom saw something in me that I did not even see.”
The Secretary then told his audience. “You represent tens of millions of taps on the shoulder, just like the one I got from Ms. Ransom… You change lives!”
However, the Secretary claims “toxic disrespect” threatens the teaching profession. “You went from pandemic to persecution.” In his telling, the disrespect has six sources.
- Those willing to see teachers make less money than their peers in other professions.
- Those who want to “privatize” education by establishing and promoting school choice programs.
- Those who “attack the safety and belonging of LGBTQIA+ students and students of color, banning books and whitewashing our history.”
- Those who oppose affirmative action.
- Those who have gotten “millions in debt relief but throw a tantrum when we are trying to give teachers $10,000.”
- Those who “would rather ban books than ban assault weapons.”
As this litany drew to a close, he said, “I keep hearing about a teacher shortage issue. When are we going to talk about the national teacher respect issue?”
First, the issue is not teacher disrespect. It is system disrespect, and the system that Americans disrespect is the one he leads.
If the Secretary is so concerned about the teaching profession, let’s discuss why Americans disrespect the education system.
We disrespect a public school system that treats our faith and values as enemies. America’s public schools once celebrated Christmas and Easter. Now, they are shunted aside in favor of Black History, Hispanic Heritage, and Pride Months.
We disrespect a public school system that wastes our children’s time with critical race theory while ignoring that too many of them cannot read, do long division or understand the basics of civics. According to Education Next, more than 3,500 classrooms in the United States used 1619 Project materials, even though they contain misstatements, faulty analysis and outright fabrications about our nation’s past.
We disrespect a public school system that includes pornography in school libraries. The American Library Association says that it opposes “banning” books. This is untrue. It is quite willing to “ban” books that promote ideas that it opposes.
We disrespect a public school system that sees students as draftees into the army of social justice warriors. Many states and local school districts promote “action civics” that purports to teach children about becoming involved in government but funnels students into social actions that the left promotes.
We disrespect a public school system willing to force our daughters into restrooms and locker rooms with biological boys because the boy says he wants to be a girl today. Numerous cases exist in which “gender fluid” or “transsexual” boys assaulted girls in school restrooms. Yet “leaders” like Secretary Cardona insult parents who demand common-sense steps to end these attacks.
We disrespect a public school system that encourages children to hate the Western Christian Civilization from which those schools sprang. Education is one of the many beneficial effects of the Church and the culture that rose from it. Yet, far too many teachers and administrators act as though part of their job is to “vaccinate” students from their own culture.
We disrespect a public school system that tells students of color that they cannot succeed because all white people oppress them. Modern society offers many examples of those—including a former President of the United States—who have seen great success despite their ethnic heritage. Yet, many schools advocate ideas that further divide society into warring “tribes.” In so doing, they ensure that their students become angry revolutionaries rather than contributing members of a vibrant culture where all can prosper.
We disrespect a public school system that lets students wear indecent and provocative clothing yet is willing to expel students whose t-shirts express traditional Christian messages. According to the Catholic News Agency, students in Missouri, Virginia, Arkansas and Oregon were threatened by school administrators for refusing to change out of t-shirts that carried the morality-affirming message that “Virginity Rocks.” Yet lewd and revealing clothing can be seen in many schools where administrators take no effective action.
Most of all, we disrespect a public school system that disrespects us to such an extent that it thinks they know more than we do about our children and their needs. In 1925, the Supreme Court said, “The child is not the mere creature of the State; those who nurture him and direct his destiny have the right, coupled with the high duty, to recognize and prepare him for additional obligations.” Yet modern schools are more than willing to place themselves between students and parents on any number of issues.
All of these conditions do not exist in all schools. However, enough of them exist in enough schools to create the education crisis we see today.
Thus, Secretary Cardona is correct in that there exists disrespect—but not for the reasons he told the NEA teachers. He tickled their ears with half-truths and outright lies that they wanted to hear. Many, perhaps most, Americans do not respect the public school system of those who promote these ugly and harmful ideas. As taxpayers and parents, we employ teachers to help prepare our children to become responsible, virtuous and productive citizens of a great nation.
We disrespect those who want our children to be good little revolutionaries marching to a progressive tune.