Dear Don Jr.

Dear Don Jr.,

Let me introduce myself to you, my name is Pat and I’ve been a teacher for almost 30 years. I couldn’t help but catch a little bit of your speech in El Paso where you referred to me and my colleagues as “losers.” (https://www.washingtonpost.com/education/2019/02/12/donald-trump-jr-you-dont-have-be-indoctrinated-by-these-loser-teachers-that-are-trying-sell-you-socialism/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.b73060dfc5dd) I have to admit that I was inclined to be angry about your assessment of my profession, but as a teacher I recognized that your lack of understanding comes from ignorance (as it often does).

I am guessing that, much like our Secretary of Education, you have spent very little time in public schools. Not having spent much time in our schools I am guessing that you get most of your information about them from the news that you consume. Fortunately, there is a term for most of what I am guessing you read about public schools, the term is…it’s right on the tip of my tongue…what do they call it? Oh yes, it’s called “fake news.” You have surely bought into the narrative that teachers are busy promoting our own special interests at the expense of what is good for kids. You believe that teachers unions have made it impossible for teachers to be fired, so we have no incentive to work hard. The narratives that you have chosen to believe have led to teaching becoming America’s most embattled profession. Author Dana Goldstein says this, “Today the ineffective tenured teacher has emerged as a feared character, a vampire type who sucks tax dollars into her bloated pension and health care plans, without much regard for the children under her care…the media repeats, ad nauseam, anecdotes about the most despicable examples of this type of person. …As a result, the public has gotten the message that public school teaching-especially urban teaching-is a broadly failed profession.” That’s the narrative you’ve been sold. If only it were true.

The late great Richard DuFour called this “The Phony Crisis” in his book “In Praise of American Educators.” Mr. DuFour pointed out that in recent years graduation rates have exceeded 80% for the first time in history.   According to Education Week the improved rates of graduation for Latino and African-American students exceeded the national average. The College Board has found that students are scoring at all time highs on the College Board Advanced Placement (AP) exams. Educational scholar Diane Ravitch points out that “NAEP (The National Assessment of Educational Progress) data show beyond question that test scores in reading and math have improved for almost every group of students over the past two decades. …Students know more and can do more in these two basic skills subjects now than they could twenty or forty years ago.”

The narrative that you are selling is that teachers don’t care about their students, and yet teachers spend more than $1.6 billion (about $500 per teacher) out of their own pockets to provide students with classroom supplies (Lenbach-Reyhle, 2014, Shepard, 2014). Gallup polls continually find that parents are satisfied with their local schools. Data would also tell us that students recognize that teachers care about their well-being, treat them fairly, and offer extra help when needed (The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, 2013). There’s lots of data to suggest that public schools and teachers are doing incredible work.

But, in the end, those are a lot of statistics.   What I think you, your father, and Ms. DeVos are missing is what is happening day to day in our public schools. There aren’t teachers “indoctrinating” students with any nefarious political agendas.   Instead there are teachers lifting young people up every day in so many different ways.   I have the great privilege of being in a lot of school buildings as part of my job these days and I’ll tell you a little bit about a recent day I had. I started out visiting a middle school where kids were at Jazz Band rehearsal at 6:45 am on a cold morning to get ready for an upcoming performance. They were working hard at getting better at improvisational jazz, one of our country’s most important art forms.   I then sat in on a high school Language Arts class where the students were having collaborative conversations about how their unique backgrounds influenced their perception of a classic novel. That afternoon I observed a Kindergarten class using project-based learning to make water move across a sandy surface. My day ended in a high school business class where students were developing a marketing plan for a local professional sports team. I’m in a lot of classrooms these days and I have to say that I’m not hearing a lot of socialist rhetoric. I see teachers and students working together to learn.

Here’s the thing Junior, you seem concerned that the teaching force is a bunch of socialist “losers” who are busy indoctrinating the youth of America.   It isn’t true, but even if it was, where is the army of better-qualified people willing to do this work? If you, or others who want to trash America’s teachers, really wanted to be a part of the solution, you would bring on this invisible army of great teachers who would solve the phony crisis you have articulated.   But, let’s be honest, that isn’t happening.   Highly qualified, hard-working, very smart people are going to continue to open our classrooms to ALL kids.   We are going to drive our 2003 Windstar vans to work each day and do what’s best for kids. We will take a group of learners with increasingly unique needs and we will help them grow.   We will make mistakes, we will get frustrated at times, and we will persevere as we face larger class sizes and diminishing resources.   While you and Ms. DeVos are busy polishing the silver spoons you were born with, we’ll keep working. Just know that our days as your punching bags are over.   We’re going to change the world by changing the narrative you are selling one student at a time.

Sincerely,

Patrick J. Kearney

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34 Comments

  1. I am grateful that my kids had an amazing educator like Patrick Kearney. Not only Pat, all of the educators they had in the Johnston School Diatrict. My children have never behaved as disrespectful as The Donald or Junior and they never will. Money does not make the Trumos better than everyone else.The Donald, Junior and the rest of his clan need to go back to the Trump Tower and let a decent human being run our country.

  2. Once again, Pat, you’ve spoken accurately and courageously for all the public school educators in Iowa and across the country. The reality is that neither Don Jr. nor Betsy could survive a truly productive month in our schools. It’s easier to sit back and try to deflect your own misgivings upon someone else. Can we say, “Robert Mueller?”

  3. He was talking about certain teachers, “not all” who likes to imply their political agenda into their regular classroom forum. It should not be allowed in our school system. They should be fired if caught using thier views instead of the normal classroom agenda!

  4. I know more than just a few teachers who are very disheartened by the president’s comments. This is rather a dedicated work force, which takes its work home with them, is always on call and ready to work overtime without financial compensation. Comments like Mr. Trump’s undermine the good work the teachers are doing, are dangerously inciting and are harmful for our country.

  5. I know more than just a few teachers who are very disheartened by the president’s comments. This is rather a dedicated work force, which takes its work home and is always on call. Teachers are ready to work overtime without financial compensation. Comments like Mr. Trump’s undermine the dedicated, good work the teachers are doing, are dangerously inciting and are harmful to and for our country.

  6. Thank-you for your excellent and accurate letter.
    I don’t mean to nitpick, but in the sentence “You believe that teachers unions have made it impossible for teachers to be fired…” you left out the apostrophe necessary to reflect the plural possessive form for “teachers’ unions”…

  7. Patrick wrote a great commentary. Not sure why several of you felt the need to criticize the grammar. We all make grammatical errors on Facebook. Not a big deal. You criticizing him, takes away from his argument instead of supporting him. Focus on the positive!!

  8. I’m married to an educator….I respect all teachers…it’s a thankless profession whose only reward is when they see their students succeed….with that being said I am also a republican. I think Donald Jrs words were taken out of context. I believe that was directed at the teachers at the collegiate level of which the majority are liberals (according to a Harris poll 85%) and also of which the majority push their liberal views and agendas onto kids who are at the ripe age to be led. I’d like to see politics taken out of the educational process. It’s one of the only forms of employment that they are free to say or do whatever they please politically including influencing young people. As a businessman you’re taught the things to never discuss is 1) religion 2) politics. It would be great if the same was said to these college professors. Let our children discover for themselves what their beliefs are not what their favorite professor pushes on them.

  9. My daughter in law is a very good teacher. She gets up extra early every morning preparing for class-loves her students and works hard every night after class-on her time-making sure her kids have a great next day. This past summer she went in well ahead of her starting date to prepare her class-spending her own money to do so. She is dedicated and underpaid for what she does.
    She recently learned that her position will be eliminated next year because of budget cuts. That not only means that she will be out of a job just as her oldest starts college-it also means the remaining teacher’s classes will be larger with more kids to manage.
    America and it’s politicians need to stop talking Education and start voting Education.
    Mr. Trump-Please ask your father to stop wasting America’s time on his made up crisis of the week and pay attention to what America truly needs: More respect and resources for America’s teachers, Healthcare reform and Infrastructure planning for the future.
    Let’s just try, for once, to accomplish something to KEEP America great.

  10. Awesome truth as my daughter not feeling her best health went to teach this morning. Why? She wanted to reconnect some learning after a long weekend. That is how teachers access their own circumstances, they first wonder what is going to be best for their students, not themselves. AND, that is what teachers really do.

  11. Pingback: I’m a Loser, Baby. So Why Don’t You Kill Me? | Teacher in a strange land

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