Teachers have unfairly been blamed for the decline of public education

The author, a Paradise resident, is a wildlife biologist with 50 years of field experience.

Teachers seem to be getting a bad rap these days. Whether the criticism comes from parents, administrators or, more often than not, politicians, teachers are the scapegoats for the decline of our public education system. I know this for a fact, as my daughter is a special-education teacher.

She has been for the past 20-plus years. Dealing with K-6 children, 10- to 12-hour days are the norm, and time on evenings and weekends is often necessary. In class, my daughter deals daily with some who are overly aggressive (she’s been severely bitten and kicked and struck on numerous occasions), unresponsive, and even those who require regular diaper-changing. But, she loves the children and believes she can make a difference for many of them so she suffers the indignities of the accusations from parents, administrators and politicians who are seeking someone else to blame for our failing education system.

I can’t help but look back at my education in public schools. While it’s true I had a couple mediocre teachers, usually ones who were simply inexperienced, the majority were good to excellent and I learned. Sometimes it took a bit more effort (I had to be chastised on occasion and spent a fair amount of time sitting in the corner or staying after school). But when this occurred, my parents, knowing my characteristics, didn’t blame the teacher for my failures, they blamed themselves and me and administered the appropriate corrective measures. My parents never expected the teachers to miraculously solve my behavioral problems—that was their job! Not so much today.

Today, many parents dump their children into the public school system having no foundation for social, intellectual or behavioral attributes and expect it is the teacher’s job to mold them into model citizens who excel in algebra and can tell the difference between a verb and adverb. Even those who suffer from severe behavioral or learning disabilities are expected to excel. But, if they don’t, it’s the teachers who bear the blame.

A few months ago, Gov. Jerry Brown signed a new law that limits suspensions for kids in kindergarden through third grade for “willful defiance” no matter the language they use nor how disruptive they may be to the rest of the class. This is insane!

Politicians, again dabbling in a field of which they know little or nothing, further worsen our once proud public learning institutions. Hey, senators, one size doesn’t fit all!