Teachers Are Too Big for Their Britches

I am a conservative, and like many people on the right, I have a problem with the leftist propensity for taking everything over. Leftists are against boundaries for the simple reason that they love to overstep them and meddle where they have no business getting involved. A case in point: In a recent local dispute between teachers and parents, a school spokesperson casually claimed that teachers were “co-parents” to the children who attended school. He seemed blissfully unaware that the courts have consistently recognized the primacy of parental authority in the rearing and education of children. Teachers were startled and offended by the public outrage that followed the spokesperson’s remark.

Teacher in Classroom with Young Students

Teachers have become toxically self-important at the expense of their hapless pupils. (image: clipartpal.com)

The shocking incident reminded me of something I heard on a radio news broadcast some years ago, a story that vividly reveals what is wrong with many of our teachers.

The piece reported that a young teacher had tragically fallen to her death while hiking in the mountains. Her fellow instructors at the school where she taught had decided they could not let her death go unremarked. That the accident distressed them is perfectly understandable, but note how they chose to deal with their feelings. They opted to involve the children at their school.

The teachers announced that they must tell the deceased young woman’s three to five year old pupils of her death. They then outlined plans to sit with the children while crying and showing grief. They also discussed the difficulties of explaining death to three-year-olds.

Note the wild boundary-ignoring assumptions in all of this:

  1. The assumption that the teachers, and not the children’s parents, have the right to decide whether the children should be told of their teacher’s death and have the concept of death explained to them.
  2. The assumption that the children must be told.
  3. The assumption that children of that age will be upset by the loss of a teacher and, furthermore, require instruction in how to grieve.

Assumption one reveals the unconscious arrogance and possessiveness of the surviving teachers. They obviously view the children as personal property. The inability to see the need for consultation with the parents shows an appalling degree of self-importance.

Assumption two is a clear case of wilful blindness. Small children could easily be put off with a white lie should they inquire after a replaced teacher. It’s not that the children must be told; it’s the case here that the teachers want to tell. Also relevant is the plain fact that a child of that age cannot really conceptualize the fact of death. So once again, we are faced with the selfishness and self-centredness of the teachers. The alleged need to tell masks the self-indulgent desire of the instructors to wallow in grief in front of their hapless young charges.

Assumption three once again lays bare a profound sense of self-importance. It is ridiculous to believe that teachers are valued so highly that their pupils will mourn deeply should they die. I doubt very much that three to five year old children would be acutely distressed by the disappearance of a teacher they see for a few hours on weekdays only. How long could a three-year-old have known the deceased instructor?

This story, as well as the one about co-parenting, exposes the exaggerated sense of importance that teachers have bestowed upon themselves. Undeniably, education is important. Teachers, however, are merely employees of the local school board hired to instruct the young. While it is true that some educators have a profound effect upon certain students, such situations are remarkably rare. Most pupils have wooden heads. All teachers are entirely replaceable. It is high time that, as a society, we took our teachers down a peg or two and restored a more humble appreciation of their rightful place in the scheme of things.

Author: Thomas Cotterill

I am a manic-depressive made philosophical by my long struggle with the disruptive mood disorder, during which I spent sixteen years living as a forest hermit. I write philosophical essays, fantasy, and science fiction. My attempt to integrate creativity, psychology, philosophy, and spirituality imbues everything I write. You will find hundreds of related essays and articles on my blog. I live quietly in British Columbia's scenic Fraser Valley, a beautiful place in which to wax philosophical.

9 thoughts on “Teachers Are Too Big for Their Britches”

  1. Wowzers, Thomas, I generally have to admire people who don’t mind being contentious even when I don’t agree with them, and for sure you don’t mind stating controversial views!

    Not sure you are right about how pupils not caring about the death of a teacher though- some three to five year olds are very attached to their teachers, I think also it depends if they’re a form teacher or not (not sure of the Canadian equivalent). I remember my daughter and her class mates were all very sad when their class teacher left the school – they didn’t forget her easily.

    Is the sort of view they expressed necessarily ‘left wing’ though? Isn’t it more of a ‘liberal’ ‘sharing information’ type thing?

  2. Lucinda, in Canada, three to five year olds are pre-schoolers who, until the recent introduction of full-time kindergarten for five year olds, attended school a very short time each day, or just a couple of times a week in the case of the younger ones.

    I don’t see the need to tell such young children that a teacher has died or been killed in an accident. As I am trying to point out, we are not talking here about a parent or some terribly important person in the child’s life. Why unnecessarily confuse and distress the children.

    In a case like this, I object to teachers unilaterally deciding to take the step of “sharing information” as you so bluntly put it. (This reminds me of the ongoing sex-education debate, but that does at least involve older children.) I believe that parents’ rights must be respected and there should be limits (boundaries!) to what teachers deal with in school.

    I don’t regard my views as being at all contentious. The behaviour of teachers really is becoming increasingly high-handed and improper. “Co-parents”? The attitude is simply outrageous.

    I characterize the behaviour of teachers as “leftist” because, in the public school system at least, the term “conservative teacher” has become an oxymoron. I do understand that only conservatives regard this universal tilt to the left as a problem.

  3. Lol, Thomas, you are in full fighting form! I’m afraid I was being a bit tongue in cheek using the term ‘sharing information, shades of ‘sharing the experience’. You might take comfort by one thing, though; I think there’s been a global shift to the right…
    On a jollier note, and somewhat off topic, I’ve been reading some of Pushkin’s prose,and was really impressed with his ‘Dubrovsky’. I’d love to hear your take on that, but you’re probably too busy, and it is so disappointing that he didn’t finish it. It’s interesting, as I hadn’t read it before, but it involves an aristocratic hero who having lost his family home through misfortune, becomes a brigand and falls for an innocent girl…

  4. I wish I could share your view that there has been a global shift to the right, Lucinda. In my experience, the ridiculous socialist promise of “something for nothing” is irresistible no matter how badly things go when they are in control. The current leftist ploy of blaming bankers for the results of decades of excessive social spending is working rather well. Don’t forget that a “balanced budget” means nothing if you are taxing the economy into the ground to cover huge expenditures.

    Here in British Columbia, we are one month away from an election that the New Democratic Party (NDP) is expected to win. They are all-out tax and spend socialists who ruined the province’s economy the last time they were in power. At the moment, the federal arm of the party is the official opposition in Ottawa for the first time ever. The Republican Party in America is regarded by many as “unelectable” as it stands and is changing some aspects of its conservative platform to attract more-liberal voters. I believe Mr. Cameron may be doing a little of the same in Britain.

    I just had a quick look at the three-line summary for Dubrovsky on Wikipedia. The fellow sounds like a Russian Robin Hood! I gather his “Maid Marian” did not requite his love and this was his undoing? You do turn up some interesting works, Lucinda.

  5. Lol, Thomas, this leftist conspiracy is all master minded by me as youhave previously asserted (one of my identities is Fu Manchu – if that’s how you spell it). Cameron may yet find himself in a time warp…

    Poor Dubrovsky! He does come across as a bit of an ‘Emile’ type. Maria Kirolevna’s actions are a bit puzzling; she does fall for Dubrovsky in the guise of her tutor, but when he is delayed and arrives to rescue her after her wedding (though the priest has ignored the fact that its forced, with the doors locked) she says it’s too late, she’s married now. But whether it’s this raid – or his having robbed one of the guests at Kirol Petarvich’s that leads to the bandit’s fortress in the forest being discovered isn’t clear. Fascinating story, particularly when you consider how Pushkin had to write it within the strict rules of the Tsar’s personal censorship…

  6. An interesting post, Thomas, and obviously rather a contentious one! I’m not a teacher myself, exactly, but working closely with teachers I’d say that in my experience those with a marked sense of self-importance are in the minority. Indeed, most teachers I have talked with have a rather broad streak of self-doubt: they constantly worry about how well they are doing and what the effects on their students of underperformance or overstepping the mark might be. They get it wrong, of course – they’re only human – but when they trip up it’s usually the result of an honest mistake rather than any malign intent.

    I doubt that many teachers would seriously question the primary authority of parents, either. Here in Italy, certainly, the parents are a constant presence in state schools, and can in fact walk into schools as and when they please and ask to speak to their childrens’ teachers. They also have the authority to remove their children from certain lessons, such as Religious Education, should they so choose. Naturally, there are always going to be disagreements about what exactly teachers should be teaching, and at what stage in a child’s development it should be taught; such disagreements tend to form the meat of most educational debates. But I truly don’t think that most teachers are too big for their britches; most, indeed, feel that they have great trouble filling their britches! 🙂

  7. I like the Fu Manchu image, Lucinda! I picture you in a long silk shirt twirling your false moustache while plotting international conquest :-). When it comes to politics, though, I’m not a believer in conspiracies on a grand scale. What I am talking about are the usual political maneuvers that bring praise where none has been earned and deflect blame where responsibility should be taken. All politicos get caught up in this sort of thing at one time or another. Left, right, or in the middle getting re-elected is everything.

    A good example of what I mean would be the Occupy Wall Street movement very publicly blaming the financiers for the global financial meltdown while failing to mention the US government’s heavy-handed manipulation of the sub-prime mortgage market – the misguided social-engineering policy that got the whole mess started.

  8. Mari, I’m not suggesting conspiracy or malign intent on the part of teachers, merely an overblown sense of their own importance and a growing propensity for overstepping their rightful role in the raising of our children. Many Canadian teachers hold extreme left-wing views and have no compunctions about passing their “enlightened” attitudes on to their students. For example, in a recent incident, teachers used their elementary school pupils to enhance the emotional impact of their own demonstrations against proposed oil pipelines.

    (I do agree that I have unjustly lumped all teachers together, though. I promise to be on the lookout for this in future.)

    Because there are more conservatives here, the struggle between left and right is far more intense in North America than in Europe.

    Italian parents seem to have considerably more power than they do here in Canada where teachers and school boards challenge and overthrow the rights of parents with increasing regularity. Consider this excerpt from an article about a Christian parent going to court to keep his child out of a controversial sex-education class:

    “Dalton McGuinty’s Ministry of Education [Ontario] has upheld the right of parents to withdraw their children from classes where instruction violates the family’s beliefs. But they have failed to enforce the policy.

    “The Toronto District School Board has a formal policy forbidding withdrawals from its radical pro-homosexual curriculum and even of notifying parents in advance. Board chair Chris Bolton has insisted exemptions will “not be condoned.”’ (From the website, Life Views: British Columbia Parents and Teachers for Life)

    This kind of thing is common across Canada and clearly indicates intent to replace parental authority with that of the school authorities where parents do not share the views of those authorities.

    The article ends with this: “The Parental Rights in Education Defense Fund is seeking donations to help fund the case.” I don’t think such a fund should be necessary. But then, I *am* a conservative.

  9. Mari, I was going to put this in my original reply, but it slipped my mind. I think it shows the heated political atmosphere that surrounds education in Canada and the way teachers see themselves as an important well-organized force in society.

    Teachers in Canada have powerful unions that sometimes choose (presumably on behalf of their members) to get involved in politics. We are in the throes of an election here, and the BC Teachers Federation is paying for television ads denouncing the current Liberal government’s level of education spending as inadequate and advocating instead the socialist New Democratic Party, which has promised to spend hundreds of millions of dollars more on education.

    Teachers have every right to promote their own interests, of course, but that they see no problem with more money coming their way at a time when the province is struggling with massive debt and huge annual deficits is revealing.

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