Consultant tells teachers their image is their problem
It’s their own fault if the public doesn’t believe or trust teachers, says a nationally known consultant.
Jamie Vollmer told more than 350 members of the Nevada State Education Association, gathered to launch a $250 million tax initiative to improve schools, that teachers are being battered from all sides despite the fact America’s schools are doing better than ever in history.
“Just when we need it most, America is showing signs of turning away,” he said.
But he told the crowd at Reno’s Peppermill Hotel/Casino the reasons are not that teachers aren’t teaching. He said the problem is they aren’t making their case to taxpayers and business leaders.
Vollmer said opponents often cite falling test scores. The problem with this argument is that today, nearly all students take those tests compared with less than half – the top half – who took the tests 30 years ago. That means today’s students are testing higher overall than those in the ’60s and ’70s, Vollmer said.
In an era when only 28 percent of taxpayers have children in public school, the enemies of education claim education is failing and appeal to seniors and businessmen with simplistic calls to “get back to basics” and return to how they did things in the good old days, Vollmer said.
“Polls show 80 percent of people support public education, but you’re facing very organized enemies,” said Vollmer, a former corporate executive and lawyer who now works to increase community support for schools.
“You need to stand up and say, ‘We have never done a better job,’ because your enemies are lying about it,” he said.
He used the “back to basics” push as an example, pointing out that the role of schools has been expanded by society and government far beyond reading, writing and arithmetic in the past 100 years.
Mandates range from health and nutrition to sex education, driver’s education to arts and music, alternative and at-risk education programs, special education to anti-smoking and anti-gang programs.
There is no appetite to reduce the role of schools to the three Rs by eliminating those functions but that too many, especially seniors, want to return to that idyllic past, Vollmer said.
“You know what everybody thinks school should look like? What it was when they went to school, that’s what,” he said.
Vollmer said that image isn’t reality but “nostesia” – a combination of nostalgia and amnesia.
He said the way to fix that is to get out and talk to the business community, seniors and others who think public schools are failing.
“Equal education opportunity for all, publicly funded, is an idea,” he said. “And its important resource is public trust.”
Teachers need to rebuild that public trust, he said.