In an alarming new trend, politicians and parents have started accusing teachers of being the problem when it comes to the country’s struggling education system. And with the controversial Senate confirmation of Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education, public education has been thrust under an even more intense spotlight, and the newly confirmed Secretary has done nothing to help the situation with her recent criticism of teachers at a D.C. school.

Unfortunately, it’s not surprising that teachers, and not parents,  have received the brunt of the blame, because the country in general seems to be struggling with finding the root cause of problems nowadays. So, let’s explore some reasons as to why parents are more to blame for the decreasing test scores, which according to the National Center For Education Statistics has seen a steady decrease in SAT scores over the last decade along with increasing behavioral issues.

Most teachers chose their career path based on their passion for helping children grow and enhancing their knowledge.  It certainly wasn’t for the opulent salary or the prospect of dealing with classroom requirements set by politicians with no, or minimal, education experience. Simply, they did it for the children’s well being, so making them the scapegoat is a total slap in the face. The problem is that teachers make convenient scapegoats in that parents have incentive to blame teachers for issues with their children rather than admitting to poor parenting. However, this logic of blaming teachers has one gaping fallacy, which was exposed by Jim Trelease, a prominent pro-reading and literacy educator and author. His book The Read-Aloud Handbook claimed that kids spend only 900 hours in a school and 7,800 hours at home. Now, the 7,800 hours includes time spent sleeping, so assuming an average of 7 hours of sleep per night, the adjusted hours spent at home while conscious would be 5,245 hours.  So, kids spend 15% of their waking hours at school compared to the 85% spent at home. So, why would should the teachers shoulder the blame here?  Teachers can only do so much in the time they have with the students, and as class sizes continue to rise due to growing teacher shortages across the country, their time with each student shrinks as a result.  Students are expected to complete homework and study outside of school hours, so if education is not valued or made a priority during the 5,245 hours students spend at home, the work done in school will be marginalized anyway.

Another popular misconception is that if a student fails to progress in school, the teacher must not be teaching.  Well as the time tested proverb goes, you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink.  The same applies in schools.  You can make your child go to school everyday, but if they refuse to pay attention in class, it doesn’t matter what the teacher does.  For those who say it is the teacher’s responsibility to ensure the student pays attention, I would pose the question as to how?  If you enact discipline, which is becoming more and more difficult, and give them in-school detention or suspend them, then they miss the teacher’s lessons, and if you force them to stay in class, they will inevitably become a distraction to other students who are attempting to learn.

In the end, the constant criticism of teachers is a race to the bottom which will further the growing teacher shortage. And what happens when schools don’t have enough qualified teachers to fill their schools?  Well, the short answer is the education system servicing your children will be staffed by unqualified people, because the qualified teachers will have realized their $35,000 annual salary isn’t worth all of the bull crap.

By all means though, keep up the criticism, and let’s see how it plays out.  Just don’t say you weren’t warned or have no idea how this could have happened, because it is quite predictable.

Title Image via “Dimension” by KT King is licensed under CC BY 2.0