Not "For the Children", Blaming the Children: A Unique Policy Approach

You usually hear politicians, like our governor, and those begging for more money for the school system make the case that it’s “for the children.” It’s become a cliche. Hey, I’m not blaming anyone … I’ve made the *“for the children” schpeel once or twice myself.

But the leader of an independent teacher organization in Georgia takes a whole different approach. At least when quoted in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution this week about Education Secretary Arne Duncan’s plan to turn around failing schools (H/T Eduwonk):

“Duncan apparently thinks that you can just demand and command improvement,” says Metro Association of Classroom Educators chairman John Trotter. “He wants to replace everyone … except the ones who matter, the children.”

Trotter says the children in failing schools are the main problem.

“They are unmotivated and lazy. Yes, there are many incompetent and idiotic and mean administrators who need to go,” Trotter says. “There are even some bad teachers, but these are really rare. The problem starts with the students. What is Duncan going to do with some so-called students who act like miscreants each day?” [emphases added]

Wow. Not exactly the most politically correct, or even the most effective, approach to make his case. No doubt there are some truly problem students out there.

However, to use a broad brush to blame educational shortcomings on kids and gloss over a very real problem with quality teaching gaps and shortages may bring attention to Trotter and his group. But it does very little (if anything) to guide school reformers toward productive solutions.

Are there effective opportunities to improve discipline for students, and accountable expectations for parents, without leaning on such simplistic over-generalizations? Yes.

* This post brought to you by the children, for the children.