On the evening of September 6, CBS aired Davis Guggenheim’s latest tear-jerker hack job dedicated to public education: TEACH. While featuring four young and relatively inexperienced teachers, we were told much of the same nonsense we’ve been hearing for years, since the release of the anti-teacher and anti-public-education Waiting for Superman (another Guggenheim assault). The messages were clear and familiar:
- The path out of poverty is paved by good teachers.
- Hard work is done for the sake of a test score, which is what school is all about.
- College is the only thing that matters to poor kids, and should be the ultimate goal in life.
- The only things that can save poor kids are technology, charter schools, and new ways of training teachers.
Every once in a while, we’d see a popular celebrity pop into the picture, telling us a story about a great teacher that influenced him or her. It was reminiscent of the teacher celebration (rock concert) that was held before the release of Won’t Back Down-an odd honorarium to precede an anti-teacher film.
Sure, TEACH did offer some insight into the hard work and dedication that teachers show toward their students, but it also highlighted some practices that veteran and serious teachers don’t value, such as those in the list above. This was simply another point of propaganda for the reform movement. It wouldn’t surprise me if the four teachers portrayed in the show were Teach for America alumni, although I have no proof of that. What I can attest to is that teaching in a low-income school is challenging, indeed. I can also attest that those kids have much deeper concerns about their lives and their futures than simply scoring well on tests and getting into college.
And teachers have much more to worry about in their classrooms then simply getting them to attain those scores.
TEACH was another attempt by Guggenheim to please his supporters-Michelle Rhee, Bill Gates, Salman Khan, and even the American Federation of Teachers-and promote their agenda of evaluating teachers based on objective measures alone and ignoring the underlying problem responsible for failing schools: poverty.
Will we see a fair documentary made and promoted this way in the near future? Perhaps one that portrays the real struggles of poor and minority students, as well as their dedicated and caring teachers who also rally and fight the unfair practices being foisted upon them? Optimism doesn’t seem to be in abundance; simplicity and dodging the real issues continue to rule the day.
In the meantime, teachers will go back to work on Monday, knowing the realities and meeting the challenges as we know best. Guggenheim can’t even scratch the surface. Neither can his band of non-educator friends who have no idea what those realities and challenges are.