Will the real school bullies please stand up?

Parents, take note: Attacks on liberty in our schools - common Core and other global initiatives put a worm into this apple, producing students who do not think. Here's another worm: when teachers take a prey from among their own students. Not to mention a teacher who prostitutes herself to a corrupt seller of offices. Or an anti-bullying campaign that pulls a cruel humanitarian hoax by replacing one kind of bullying with another.
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School yard bullying has been an issue under schools’ microscopes since the Columbine tragedy struck at the heart of America. This has resulted in monumental amounts of bureaucratic paperwork that inundate our schools with forms and procedures. Hate crimes legislation has also been enacted in many states to defend the innocent victims of bullies. Often legislation of this type infringes upon our liberty of conscience but we “tolerate” it in the interest of protecting our children. In spite of well-intentioned legislation and extensive bullying procedures enacted by schools, one group of bullies has gone unnoticed.

The big adult bullies: teachers’ unions

While parents and school administrators do their best to protect children from school yard bullies, they often fail to recognize how they are being bullied themselves. Many state boards of education have procedures in place on how to deal school yard bullies but are at a loss at how to deal with teachers’ unions and tenure policies that bully public schools into submission. These polices usually have a negative effect on the quality of education our children receive. Schools are forced to keep teachers that they would fire in a New York minute if the unions didn’t protect them. Undoubtedly, sometimes that could be a good thing. Minor skirmishes and personality conflicts between teachers and administrators need not be feared by teachers. Unfortunately, the opposite is also true. Bad teachers need not fear being fired either.

Seal of the National Education Association, prize examples of the real school bullies

Logo of the National Education Association

The most recent and obvious occurrence of adult bullying is in the State of New York. In Buffalo, New York there are laws that require annual teacher evaluation reports. To the level-headed that law would seem to be both logical and credible. However, the teachers’ union is mounting serious objections and is challenging this law. In my humble opinion, they are nothing more than an organized group of bullies determined to play by their own rules. What reasonable objection can the union have to teachers being evaluated? This recent course of action should make it clear that these unions have little concern about the academic careers of students. Instead, their two main concerns seem to be protecting teachers – albeit unreasonably, and perpetuating a monstrous political power base.

As public schools across this nation continue to decline, the monopoly created by teachers’ unions should be microscopically examined. I fully understand that historically unions have served a good purpose. But in the case of teachers’ unions, the once noble purpose advocated by them now has fallen prey to ambitious tyrannical forces. Those forces compel conservatives to finance philosophies with which they disagree and candidates which they may abhor. The list of teachers’-union tyrannies also extend to curricula that inflict social philosophies upon students that may be at odds with their parents’ beliefs.

Very few of their objectives seem to deal with the quality of academics, and those they have promoted, i.e. classroom sizes and the needs for more money, have proven to be false choices. Today we have smaller class sizes and a school system that absorbs nearly 85% of local and state tax dollars nationwide. Smaller class sizes have increased the number of teachers needed and larger budgets have increased the monies we pour into our public schools. These things, however, have not increased the academic standards across the nation.

If it’s not bullying to force people to do things that run against their conscience if they want to keep their jobs, or to force the public to pay absurd amounts of money to promote programs that run counter to their conscience, then will someone please tell me what bullying is.

Chicken!

If you have ever wondered what has become of the grown up school yard bully, perhaps you need to look for him or her in your local teachers’ union. As my grandfather used to say, the wolf may lose his hair but never his habit. The big kid who bullied you in the school yard for your allowance or just for the fun of it may have changed his or her tactics but it’s bullying just the same. The way to fight a school yard bully and an adult bully is still the same: stand up to them and tell them to take a hike. We are no longer children that can be easily intimidates and frightened. We are adults who are supposed to know right from wrong and are supposed to be able to think our way through a problem. What’s the answer: stand up America and tell the teachers’ unions to strike if they want to, but if they do, we will just find another way to educate our kids (perhaps it’s high time we did). Let’s see who flinches first.

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RoseAnn Salanitri is a published author and Acquisition Editor for the New Jersey Family Policy Council. She is a community activist who has founded the Sussex County Tea Party in her home state and launched a recall movement against Senator Robert Menendez. RoseAnn is also the founder of Veritas Christian Academy, as well as co-founder of Creation Science Alive, and a national creation science speaker.

7 Responses to Will the real school bullies please stand up?

  1. DinsdaleP says:

    On this issue I’m in solid agreement with you, RoseAnn. Decades of poor policy and oversight have led to a state where systematic reform is difficult.

    It outrages me to see teachers retained in no-work positions on full salary & benefits after accusations of misconduct accompanied by evidence. I spent my first four years in a private school, and when I started grade 5 in a public elementary school because my parents couldn’t afford the tuition anymore, the impression I got at age 10 was that “this place is so lazy”.

    I could find the link if I searched a bit, but there was a great article in a paper like the NY Times where a large school building in upper Manhattan was divided into standard and charter schools. Same facility, same books and equipment, same neighborhood and student mix. Unsurprisingly, the students in the charter school started doing better, absenteeism dropped, and grades rose.

    What primarily differed was the latitude the charter school principal had in setting work rules and school policy. Teachers were evaluated and accountable, work rules allowed for after-school tutoring and support, and more (I say “primarily” because the parents became more engaged themselves when their kids went to the charter school. Parents getting more engaged will improve outcomes in any school.)

    As a parent I now dedicate significant time engaging with my kids’ teachers, as well as with the principals of the schools each attends. I’m fortunate to live in an area with great schools now, but I’ve experienced other suburban school districts first-hand that shared some of the dysfunction I experienced in NYC.

    What were the common traits of success and failure? First and foremost, strong principals who managed their schools the way good business managers run any operations – as leaders who set high standards in the interest of their customers. I’ve seen good leaders in business achieve great things with their teams despite corporate bureaucracies – they find a way to deliver by treating that as any other obstacle to overcome.

    Second, great leaders need staff committed to working together as a team rather than dividing into camps of “workers” and “management”. I don’t envy anyone assigned to work in a place with an entrenched culture of dysfunction, but we all have the ability to control how we do our jobs. People get more job satisfaction out of working in functional versus dysfunctional settings, so given the knowledge and support that change is possible, most people will respond positively.

    Third, all parties need the resources to succeed. That doesn’t mean bloated budgets and bureaucracies, but it does mean that the process for getting essential supplies into the hands of the teachers should be as streamlined as it would be in a business setting. Engaged parents also make a great difference here – our schools publish lists of supplies that would be helpful but are not in the budget, and the community responds well.

    There’s no question that tenure needs to be abolished at the grade-school level. It’s appropriate in a university setting so people can pursue independent research that challenges the status quo, but there is no justification for teachers of grades 1-12. It’s worth the risk of labor actions to deal with this once and for all. My kids’ current teachers are all great, and none of them object to being held to performance standards.

    Parents need to hold the school boards and their local governments accountable instead of just focusing on teachers. Voter turnout in school board elections is typically abysmal, and the people elected can do great harm or good until the next election. I’m appalled at the bloated salaries at the school district level, and in NJ in particular, 235 school administrators make more than the governor’s salary of $175,000/year. Do you have to pay a lot to attract top talent? Yes, but high salaries lead to high pensions, so these costs are locked into state budgets and borne by taxpayers long after the individuals leave.

    Finally, it has to be stated in fairness that institutional bloat and entrenched bureaucracies can happen in any setting, and schools can be good or bad regardless of whether they’re public or private. “Use vouchers” or “Privatize education” are not going to fix that. My direct experience is that I grew up in a part of NYC where many neighborhood kids went to the local Catholic School, which was a large institution that had been running for close to 100 years by then. Turns out that the nuns running the school were as entrenched a bureaucracy as any school union, and if you questioned the poor teaching performance of Sister “X”, it was you as a parishoner who was reprimanded for challenging their authority in how to run the school. So my parents enrolled us in a small Episcopal school run much like agile charter schools are today, and we did well until the tuition became unaffordable.

    The education my kids now get, technology aside, is better than I got in either of my elementary schools, so this is not about public-vs-private, or “can the government run a good school”. Any entity is capable of running a great school, but as the stakeholders we need to be engaged, demand accountability, and legislate away policies like grade-school tenure that serve no one but the underperforming.

  2. JT says:

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/05/08/rachel-ehmke-13-year-old-_n_1501143.html

    The real school bullies – a 13-year-old hangs herself. But, of course, the real problem is the evil unions. Much easier to face a non-existent problem, right?

    What would Ayn do about bullying?

    • Terry A. Hurlbut says:

      Recognize the right of any student to defend himself or herself against such treatment. Somebody hits you, you hit back.

      As to this case: a whale of a lot more is going on, to bring a 13-year-old girl to such despare with just something that her classmates said. Maybe some of the lessons she’s getting, or not getting, have a little bit to do with it.

      • rpeh says:

        Good grief, Terry! I’ve known for some time you aren’t a real Christian but where on EARTH do you claim to get biblical inspiration for that post????

        • Terry A. Hurlbut says:

          You mean I am not the sort of pseudo-Christian that so soured Ayn Rand on Christianity that she chucked it all and refused to consider that maybe—just maybe—she had been the victim of a vicious intellectual fraud.

  3. rpeh says:

    My problem with Christianity is that I don’t believe in any kind of creator. The message of love, forgiveness and helping is something that has never failed to appeal to me. My brother-in-law is a preacher in a Scottish church and has dismissed your version of Christianity as having “nothing to do with Christ’s message”.

    He’s quite right.

    Your message is based on hatred, jealousy, and paranoia. In your world-view, the Good Samaritan was a Socialist who was encouraging people to rely on the goodwill of others. In your world-view, the sermon on the mount was a shameless Socialist food program that stole custom from legitimate food sellers. In your world-view, slaughtering the fatted calf wasn’t a celebration of love and reconciliation, it was an appalling waste of resources for no material gain.

    You are no Christian.

    Your only hope is that I’m right and your God doesn’t exist, because if He does you’re going to hell for perverting His message.

    • Terry A. Hurlbut says:

      Ms. Salanitri and I will take our chances with our understanding of Scripture, where you have just struck out.

      You’re taking your own chances by denying an afterlife, and they are a lot worse for you than you can possibly imagine.

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