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The Misleading Argument That Blames Teacher Tenure

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I try to help kids every day, but they're all different. I'd like them all to pass, but some of them don't. It's funny because I feel very bad for many of those who don't. Yet New York state assumes that I want to pass them all for no reason and thus does not allow me to grade their standardized tests.

On the other hand, I was once at a meeting where we brainstormed ways to pass everyone. It was ridiculous. It's somewhat understandable, because when you instigate a culture in which you close schools based on test scores, in which you send teachers out as wandering subs, Campbell's Law says corruption will ensue.

But Campbell Brown's Law is different. Campbell Brown's Law says whatever goes wrong in school is the fault of the tenured teachers. If you fail, it's because the teacher had tenure and therefore failed you. Absolutely everyone is a great parent, so that has nothing to do with how children behave. Campbell Brown's Law says parents have no influence whatsoever on their children. If parents have to work multiple jobs to make ends meet, that will have no effect. If they provide no supervision because they aren't around, that won't affect kids either.

Campbell Brown's Law says kids themselves are not responsible either. If they don't study, that isn't their fault. The teacher should have made them study. If they fail tests because they didn't study, the teacher should be fired. Under Campbell Brown's Law, the only obstacle to studying is if the teacher has tenure. This is unacceptable and it is therefore the reason that the parents work 200 hours a week. It's also the reason the kids didn't study. The kids figured they didn't have to study because their teachers had tenure.

Campbell Brown's Law is demonstrated in charter schools, where teachers don't have tenure. All kids excel in charter schools, except for those who don't. That explains why, in some charter schools, that all the students who graduate are accepted to four-year colleges. It's neither here nor there if two-thirds of the students who began ended up getting insufficient standardized test scores and getting dumped back into public schools. That's not the fault of the charter teachers, because they don't have tenure and are therefore blameless. Campbell Brown's Law says so.

In fact, as long as the teachers don't have tenure, the argument goes, it's OK for kids to fail in charter schools. And once again, all kids pass in charter schools, except for those who don't. That's why charter teachers, like students and parents, have no responsibility whatsoever. Also, under Campbell Brown's Law, the charter owners aren't responsible either, and may continue to collect their half-million dollar salaries. That's not part of the problem because it's important for charter school owners to hobnob with the well-to-do. You can't just waltz into an Eva Moskowitz gala fundraiser in some tux you rented from the Men's Wearhouse.

And you'd better watch out if you teach ESL, like me. If your kids don't speak English and arrived in the United States five minutes ago, that's your fault too. Of course if you're a charter, you almost certainly don't accept kids like that so you're blameless. It's not Eva Moskowitz's fault she doesn't take those kids because she, after all, is not a tenured teacher and therefore earns every cent of her 500K salary. She can expand as much as she likes because NY Governor Andrew Cuomo says so, and not only does he not have tenure, but he also fires anti-corruption committees at will just because he can.

In short, if you're a tenured teacher, you are an impediment to Excellence. The only way you can help children is by getting rid of your tenure, standing up straight and walking to Arne Duncan in Washington DC and saying, "Please sir, I want to be fired for any reason. Or for no reason. I want to take personal responsibility for all the ills of society. Neither you, society, poverty, parents, nor children themselves are responsible. I'm ready to be dismissed at the whim of Bill Gates or the Walmart family and I agree with you that Katrina was the bestest thing to happen to the New Orleans education system."

Me, I'm still a tenured teacher, and teaching teenagers can be trying sometimes. Still, none of them seem to entertain theories remotely outlandish as those of Arne Duncan or Campbell Brown.