Thanks, Public School Teachers?

By David Marshall Published on May 9, 2023

The other day, on May Day, actually, I heard noises outside. A mob of students from the public school a block away appeared at our front gate. Two girls opened the gate and …

Can you guess what happened next? After all, this is a conservative site. We all know the rules: left-wingers hate cops, right-wingers hate teachers, especially if they work in public schools and belong to a union. And the First of May, the communist holy day, when graveyards yawn and breathe out left-wing contagion upon the world!

So what might this be? A BLM rally? A protest against racism? Or, heaven forbid, Drag Queen Reading Hour on the road?

No, nothing like that! Two cute little girls politely handed me a bouquet of cosmos flowers and a yellow rose, and said, “Happy May Day!” The crowd of students and teachers below smiled and waved.

A Rose on May Day

So all right. I’m still a grouchy conservative, and I still firmly believe the world is going to Hades in a handbasket. But maybe it’s time for a conservative to say something nice about teachers who work in public schools.

Yes, most teachers lean left. Having subbed for 10 years in public schools in towns around here, I could give plenty of examples of anti-racist overkill. Students were taught pro-Muslim, poisonously anti-Christian propaganda — and awful history — from a World History textbook in the middle schools of this district.

Affirm the good things your children’s teachers are doing, if you can. You might even give a teacher a rose.

But conservatives, especially Christians, should give public schools and the people who work in them better treatment than police officers often get in Portland, Minneapolis, St. Louis, or Seattle. That for two reasons: A lot of what we say about the public schools is not true, as a generalization. And unfair generalizations voiced in shrill language are not near so winning as a rose on May Day.

In my experience, most teachers work hard. Yes, that includes liberal ones: Without them, I couldn’t say “most,” could I? Left-wing and anti-Western propaganda does find its way into the curriculum, and we need to fight that tooth and nail. But what is taught, in most classes most of the time, is straightforward math, music, literature, German, and other prosaic and unoffensive materials. (I used to hand such materials out to students when their teachers were out, after all.)

Here’s the Hard Truth, America

“So why are public school students doing so poorly?” you ask.

True, American mathematics is a year or two behind where it ought to be. Asians shake their heads at the laxity of math education in the United States. But I never met a student whose native language was English who could not read. No doubt there are many such children in the inner city and on Indian reservations. And certainly some students in high school appear to be going nowhere fast. But why?

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When electives become available in high school, students quickly stratify into haves and have-nots, like the Eloi and Morlocks in H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine: challenging classes for students heading to college, and lax classes for those with lesser or other ambitions. I do not envy teachers who have to deal with the latter, and for whom I often subbed. Sometimes I’ve wished I could unleash a fire hose on students making out in the halls. Had they no modesty, or the sense to make it through school without making their own babies?

Here’s the hard truth, America. Half your kids are not learning well. The main problem isn’t their teachers, or even the surfeit of admins and woke textbooks in school. (Bad as those latter problems have become.)

The Main Problem Is You

I’ve been nice to teachers. I’m about to get hard on someone. Sorry, but it’s true. The main problem is you.

You ran out on your spouse. You drink too much. The two of you are screaming at each other, so how is your little girl supposed to prioritize next Wednesday’s Spanish test? Or you had kids outside of wedlock, and now your “significant other” has become insignificant in your child’s life.

Is the teacher supposed to follow your kid home and unplug his devices and make him do homework, then get exercise, and learn how to treat girls respectfully and ignore all that crap on TikTok? (And online porn?)

Sorry, but messing up kids is mostly on America’s parents. Yes, there are a few reprobates and perverts here and there among the teaching staff, some young grads were brainwashed in counter-productive and hateful, intolerant nonsense, and some Lit teachers wouldn’t know a classic if the collected works of Charles Dickens and Jane Austen buried them in an earthquake.

So feel free to be proactive at school. Talk to your children’s teachers, and make sure they’re all sane. Ask teachers to explain their philosophies of education.

Just remember, few teachers took this gig because they hate kids or were looking for an easy path to fame and fortune. Maybe you’ve heard that education majors typically had low scores in college. That’s not my experience with them. Most teachers are bright enough, and some border on brilliant.

Females tend to gravitate to the younger ages, where students need more nurturing, while males prefer to teach older kids, whom they can challenge more intellectually. (With many exceptions both ways.)

Hats Off

So hats off (looking back) to Mrs. Morton, my high school Russian teacher from Berlin, whom we could sometimes distract by asking for war stories. She taught what six languages? I still quote the proverb that hung on her wall: “Learn a new language, gain a new soul.”

And to Mr. Greengo, our mad scientist chemistry teacher. And to Bill — , who turned history lectures into a living adventure.

And to Mr. Cully, my 6th grade teacher at Alki Elementary near the beach where Seattle was founded. I’d attended Christian schools until then, and I felt lost upon entering secular elementary school, with no connection to my fourth and fifth grade teachers. In 6th Grade, I was thrilled to finally have a man teacher. (Who was also a believer.)

One day, goaded by a friend, I stole a carton of milk from the school cafeteria with an inept, unpracticed hand, and was caught. “You’re a Christian,” he told me. “I’m very disappointed. You should be an example to your friend.” I felt deeply ashamed, and left my nascent life of crime for good.

Mr. Cully attended my aunt’s funeral a few years ago, a little stooped, but still standing tall.

So again, yes, perverse ideologies have creeped into the public schools, and must be resisted fervently. Yes, it is your responsibility before God to protect your lambs from all wolves that come to kill and devour. There may come a time to speak loudly in opposition at public forums. But do it politely and respectfully!

Do not fight creeping neo-Marxism by adopting your own Marxist vision of “class guilt,” forgetting the individual made in the image of God, for whom Christ died. Affirm the good things your children’s teachers are doing, if you can. You might even give a teacher a rose. (Or even an Amazon gift card, as the parents of some of my students did, which I always redeemed for books!)

Thanks to all public school teachers, and especially to those of the house of faith. I have offered some criticism of the content of what you teach. But I appreciate your hard work, and your genuine care (in most cases) for your charges.


David Marshall, an educator and writer, has a doctoral degree in Christian thought and Chinese tradition. His most recent book is The Case for Aslan: Evidence for Jesus in the Land of Narnia.

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