Please Quit Bashing Teachers

I have noticed that teacher bashing has become trendy. I expect that from neo-cons. They hate public employees; that is, unless the public employee is a soldier, police officer or prison guard (I think you have to have a gun to count).

What surprises me is the way the so-called progressive education community has taken up teacher-bashing as well. We are now called slave-drivers, prison guards and child-abusers. I know it looks like we're teaching fractions, but apparently our chief goal is to steal souls (yeah, that's right, we are now minions working for Satan).

The teacher-bashing went into hyper-drive after the Jeff Bliss video went viral. Notice how this doesn't seem to happen in other professions. When doctors are found acting unethically, people are quick to say, "This isn't true of most doctors" and point out the issue with this isolated incident. When a rogue official bets on games, the public does not turn against all referees. Go ahead and criticize a soldier. See what happens. You'll be called unpatriotic.

In the last six months, we have seen basketball coaches, doctors and soldiers being found doing far worse than sitting at a desk passing out a packet. In each case, people have responded by criticizing the individual while also saying loudly, "We realize that this isn't true of most people in this profession."

This might not seem like a big deal. However, the cumulative effect of this is a nagging sense that the public hates us. It's not something teachers think about all the time, but it certainly prevents teachers from being transparent and vulnerable about our own failures. Instead of paving the way toward humility, it sets us up for a false perfectionism.

I get it. Sometimes teachers engage in bad practices. I'm with you if you want to criticize packets or homework or lecturing for hours. But the first step toward change is starting with a dialogue. Bad teachers often care deeply about kids. They need paradigm shifts rather than shame.

Side Note: I find it interesting that Jeff Bliss never went personal in the video. He attacked her practices and vaguely alluded to the system. But the tweeters, bloggers and pundits have seized the viral rant as an opportunity to bash teachers as a whole rather than analyzing the system or criticizing the individual teacher. If the pundits want to learn from student voice, maybe they could take a cue from the video and criticize systems rather than teachers as a whole.

John Spencer

Professor. Maker. Speaker.
I want to see schools unleash the creative potential in all teachers to transform classrooms into bastions of creativity and wonder. Read more →
Email me at john@educationrethink.com for speaking inquiries on design thinking and creativity.


  1. This is a great post! did you see my coop post? I think you should post it there too. Good conversation to have!

    1. I'll check it out. I must have missed that post somehow.

  2. We have pack-ette schools inthis town that I have complained about for a long time. Every time one of my students would ck out to one of these schools, I would try to convince them to not go. Many would return and talk about how boring the pack-ette school was. Just recently one of the schools lost its approval.

    1. We have those schools here, too. And I use the term "school" loosely here.

  3. "Neo-cons... hate public employees; that is, unless the public employee is a soldier, police officer or prison guard (I think you have to have a gun to count)." Awesome!

    1. Following that logic, if we all listen to them and start carrying, maybe then they'll want to pay us more?

    2. So, maybe when they say, "We would like to arm teachers," it's an olive branch. Maybe the neo-cons really want to show us respect. We just need to be armed first.

  4. I think it went viral because it came from a student. The student had valid points, but yes, he made it personal as opposed to calling out the system. My question is, how many of our students feel this way and don't feel like they can or even should speak out.

    I haven't followed up with what others are posting since the video, so I really can't comment on what others are saying. But I think we all wish we had the courage to stand up, in front of our peers, in front of our "teachers" and speak our minds. All too often we don't. We sit quiet and wait for the bell to ring.

    What Jeff Bliss did walks a fine line of civil disobedience and disrespect. He was asked to leave but chose to stay just long enough to speak his mind (and ended up weakening his argument by staying about 10 seconds too long). I don't feel that it should lead to anything more than that. A young man speaking his mind. We all know teachers, educators, professors that have made us feel what Jeff Bliss did. It was sensationalized because that's what writes blogs, makes headlines, and gets people to react (instead of thinking for themselves and then acting sensibly).

  5. I watched the interview with Jeff (http://youtu.be/CBpDswLlW9U) and even he notes that not all teachers are bad. He also says he understands he walked a fine line and he admits that he already was disengaged with school in general. I hope these words of his go just as viral.


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