Americans don’t want their own children to become school teachers. This is a sudden and troubling development and is one of the most important issues we must address if we are going to fix our schools and educate our children.
Last week, a disturbing poll about the state of the teaching profession was released.
One of the questions asked in the PDK “Poll of the Public’s Attitudes Toward the Public Schools” was, “Would you like a child of yours to become a public school teacher in your community?”
Only 37% answered yes.
To give this number some historical context, consider that when the same question was asked in 2018, 46% answered in the affirmative. In 1969, 75% positively responded.
So, what’s going on here? And what does it say about the current state of American education?
To discover what’s at work, it is important to note that in the exact same poll Americans’ rating of their community public schools reached an all-time high in the 48-year history of the poll. A whopping 54% would give their community schools a grade of an “A” or a “B.” This fascinating duality of a public that gives high marks to a profession they wouldn’t want their own children to enter presents a crystal-clear reality: the job has become both unpleasant and unappealing.
Only 29% of the respondents cited poor pay as a reason for wanting their progeny to avoid the profession. Instead, they cited “the difficulties, demands, and stress of the job,” “a lack of respect or being valued,” and “a variety of other shortcomings.”
In Ohio last week, teachers went on strike, not in the oddball ideological tradition of the Chicago Teachers Union, but because they simply wanted air-conditioning and better working conditions. When I travel and speak to teachers across the country, their complaints are about aberrant student behavior, poor working conditions, and disrespect from the public more often than paltry pensions or subpar pay.
Jake Miller, an award-winning teacher who quit the teaching profession last year, powerfully explained in an op-ed:
Maybe it was the in-service where my colleagues and I wanted time to catch up on emails, grading, parent phone calls, and other things lost in the substitute shortage shuffle. Instead, we were finger painting.
Maybe it was the day prior when I found 3 inches of urine flooding out of the boys’ bathroom.
Or the day when a student hurt themselves and, after reporting the situation, they didn’t get the help they needed and returned to class the next day.
Mr. Miller isn’t being dramatic or engaging in rhetorical bravado. He is telling the truth and we conservatives would be wise to listen.
Students are overdosing in bathrooms. Violence toward teachers has increased in recent years. The pernicious obsession with cell phones has robbed students of anything resembling a healthy attention span. Fellow citizens — and yes, I am sadly thinking of a great many of us conservatives — mistakenly equate all teachers with teachers unions and the broken-souled educators on Libs of TikTok.
We can scream about CRT and the 1619 Project (I have), but really, at the end of the day, I just want my students to be able to make eye contact, learn how to take lecture notes, understand why they can’t listen to music through earbuds when class is going on, and maybe gain a revitalized eagerness to learn in so doing.
Far too many of our students — especially the most at-risk — don’t sleep well. They don’t eat well. They don’t exercise. They don’t socialize. They are utterly stressed out and plagued with “anxiety.” They do not have adult exemplars in their lives. They live their lives untethered to the nourishing power of high expectations and real accountability. Violence and drug use surround them. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter how good a pitcher is if the rest of the team is off the field.
Of course, in an ideal world, schools would be palaces (with air conditioning). The most educated and talented people in America would enter the classroom because a democracy cannot survive if its citizens are not educated and imbued with the skills of reading, writing, and critical thought. Vacant teaching positions would garner multiple applications. Parents and teachers would work together instead of seeing each other as potential adversaries.
This is why Americans don’t want their children to teach. Not because it isn’t noble. Not because it isn’t important. Not because we want our children to take a vow of poverty. No, it’s because the long-term habit of our policymakers is to view schools as meccas of social intervention and as hubs of public policy triage for a broken society. And to a certain extent, that makes sense. All of the social pathologies and community dysfunction present themselves on a daily basis on the frontlines of the American school system.
Teachers don’t need a million-dollar salary. They need to know that when they send out a disruptive student, that student won’t be back in class 20 minutes later. They want air-conditioning. They want a computer that isn’t over 10 years old. They want to be able to abolish cell phones in their classrooms without mom and dad breathing down their necks.
This isn’t rocket science. It’s common sense. Sadly, common sense isn’t so common these days.
Jeremy S. Adams is the author of Hollowed Out: A Warning About America’s Next Generation, recently released in paperback. He has taught American civics for 24 years in Bakersfield, California and was the 2014 California Teacher of the Year (DAR). You can follow him on Twitter @JeremyAdams6.
The views expressed in this piece are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.