‘I don’t believe the general public respects teachers as much as they did’

Over on the World Class Schools for Iowa blog, Linda Fandel of the Des Moines Register interviewed Chris Bern, new president of the Iowa State Education Association. At the end of the interview, Fandel asked Bern if teachers were treated with respect by students. Here is Bern’s reply:

Our students still have very much Midwest values, and most parents raise their children to respect their elders. Is it the same as it was 20 years ago? No, but then it’s not that way with the general public, either. The way people behave is different than it was 20 years ago with regard to each other. I don’t believe the general public respects teachers as much as they did [emphasis added].

Here are the first seven reader comments following the interview (click on the image for a larger version):


Yeah, I’d say he’s right…

9 Responses to “‘I don’t believe the general public respects teachers as much as they did’”

  1. Try literally hundreds of comments like this on my local paper for every single story about the teacher contracts. They’ve published at least one per week since negotiations started in earnest.

  2. Is this an indication that teachers get no respect or teachers’ unions? My state does not have a union, I work in an independent school, and I do feel appreciated. Not every day, it’s a tough job, but I’m speaking for those out there who do “get it” and try to support their local school systems. As teachers, we have to find allies where we can. Online networks like Twitter and blogging have helped me shore up myself to face the naysayers.

  3. I think the world has gotten larger and it is easier to hear voices outside of the norm more easily. Years ago if in a small town you had a person who acted outside of the norm for ‘respecting teachers’ he or she was a crackpot and dismissed. Now since the voice is repeated many times (since our population is larger and technology allows for voices to be heard from farther and farther away) people do not dismiss it as outside the norm. It has import since now it is many voices. In addition I have noticed people who respond in blog/comment format tend to have strong feelings, or I suppose they wouldn’t take the time to respond. Negativity is often the loudest. And since many people respond with anonymity they do not have to worry about things such as truth, common courtesy and credibility.
    There are forums and blogs I have stopped reading the comments because the respondents lash out with such anger and disdain for any opinion other than their own it serves no purpose. It is not dialogue – it is a monologue of hatred.

  4. I have to second Jennifer in saying that I felt that most of the venom was aimed at the unions, not the teachers. I’m not sure if that can be used as an accurate measure of respect for the teachers themselves. It may be important to make this distinction if there are to be meaningful and worthwhile conversations about teaching- I know that many teachers disagree with their local union’s stance on one or many issues, but they have no choice (at least in our jurisdiction)- if they want to practice their chosen profession, they must join the union.

  5. I wonder if anyone is getting the respect they had 20 years ago. Lawyers? I’d say no. Heard any lawyer jokes lately? Doctors? I suspect no, not at the rate the insurance companies second guess them. Parents in a nuclear family? Watch some evening TV.

    Everyone seems to have an opinion for a quick fix for schools. I like to think that is because what we do is so important.

    I worry that most of the people are thinking the schooling they got was good enough and we shouldn’t be putting anymore than that effort into our kids. That was then. This is now. And what we really should be worried about is the kid’s tomorrow.

    Yes, we need to improve instruction and that means raising teacher skill levels with training. We aren’t going to be able to fire and hire our way to a better school staff. That just isn’t practical. Who would come to a district that was having purges every year?

    Too bad training is frequently the first part of the budget slashed when times get tough.

    Brendan–good luck! Been there.

  6. My take is also the unions are the target here. There is some legitimacy in some of that, but I believe that good unions filled with effective teachers would rather not protect the ineffective teacher because they are all lumped together. Are all unions like this? No. Are some? Yes.

    It is probably fair to say that with the news coverage on the negatives, it seems more wide-spread than it has been in the past. Teachers sleeping with students, crazy and violent individuals, etc. tend to taint the general population of education (and any other area) because one incident is shared globally, and we don’t hear as much about the teachers, lawyers, doctors, that are making a difference. Sensationalized journalism can have a huge impact. That does not, however, mitigate the factual regression of Iowa among the states’ educational standing.

    In addition, I do think that respect for everyone (especially teachers and any other “white collar” position) is dropping. Maybe it is just our general disrespect of each other and lack of understanding on what people do…Hmmmm…Is this a result of technology maybe? Remember the focus of this site is frequently how we can USE technology, but is this easy-to-take-a-cheapshot-anonymously world making life less accountable. Check out the names of the complainers – don’t think there are any given names there… That is one of the reasons I like this site – real people that have real views typically.

    I also agree with Kari on the “crackpot” concept. Part of that may be that it is so much easier to criticize someone than to support them – so we hear from the dissenters more frequently. That is what usually stirs my pot – someone says something I don’t agree with or take issue with, and my fingers begin to fly on the keyboard, whether my brain has engaged or not.

  7. The attitude towards teachers, and education in general, in the US is a split personality. Politicans praise teachers in general but demonize the unions. They offer proposals to make it easier for kids to attend college but then ridicule anyone with enough education to be called an expert.

    Surveys going back decades show that the public believes schools are failing while a majority praise the one around the corner in their neighborhood. Maybe that’s the reason why the same majority objects loudly at any hint of increasing education spending.

    There are many causes for this dichotomy and I think those of us who call ourselves educators deserve our share of blame. But the reason I put at the top my list is the increasing lack of relevance in the K12 curriculum, especially high school.

  8. Kari is quite correct. I think teachers are generally accepted and respected. There are critical voices yet they are few. It is the media that amplifies their voices.

    Perhaps the respect is not as great as it was a generation or two ago yet I feel that is simply a reflection of the changing world in which we live.

    Teacher unions are criticised here in Australia as well. They are among the most powerful unions in the country actually.

    Cheers, John.

  9. Funny thing is, they still want their children to go to school. I hope their children have teachers that love them, so they don’t grow up blaming the education system when things go wrong.

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