School teachers’ out-to-lunch

Good news for school kids in North Carolina: their learning will be disrupted during most of the month of November—thanks to some teachers. Beginning on November 4 groups of malcontents will “walk-in” to schools wearing red T-shirts to protest against the new State Excellent Public Schools Act.

Many of these dishonorable people wanted to walk out on their jobs in a childish tantrum, but North Carolina law doesn’t allow public employees to strike. They’re not concerned with excellent schools; only excellent personal benefits, including job security subsidized by taxpayers.

One New Hanover County activist teacher, Lucas McLawhorn, quoted in a Wilmington StarNews story (with a headline promoting this irresponsible activity), said that the red shirts show “we’re hurting…We’re in the red financially”—leaving us to wonder about setting a bad example for the children. In addition to their disruptive tactics, are teachers living beyond their means? (link)

Other bad lessons the red-shirts send include disrespect for a law meant to improve our children’s education and being more responsible to parents and other taxpayers. This was necessary because of failures within the public school system (although many of them not the fault of teachers).

Further, these people are openly hostile toward their work, and self-serving. Mr. McLawhorn said, “We’re fed up.” “We’re mad.” Is this the attitude we would expect from a “professional” person? McLawhorn and others have a petition circulating to exempt their schools from the State tenure rule.

So, what’s all this fuss and anger about? The answer could be found in Civics 101, if it’s still taught in the modern curricula. Probably not, so others must fill gaps in public education.

The Fall issue of the politically conservative Civitas Review ( informs North Carolina citizens about the purpose and specifics of the 2013 legislative agenda by the State General Assembly. Legislators expanded educational opportunities and attempted some public school reforms.

Of course, any effort to reform government bureaucracies meets strong opposition by powerful status quo forces. Some sacred-oxen get gored. For example, the old system of guaranteed career status called “tenure” has been eliminated. The crony-pay based on academic credentials rather than teaching effectiveness has been ended.

Our State legislators included many educational improvements that should benefit students, parents, responsible administrators and good teachers. Local school boards will be able to hire teachers based on performance criteria. Schools will be graded on performance. They will be required to be more transparent in budgeting and informing the public. Merit pay will be available to teachers.

Meanwhile the people to whom we entrust our children’s education threaten to take annual and sick leave to thwart that responsibility. Celebrations will be held for National Education Week starting November 18: promoting the process and ignoring the poor results. Politicians have been invited to visit classrooms. “Townhall meetings, support rallies and spin-off groups” will add to distractions from teaching and learning. Then, Thanksgiving holidays will take a chunk out of public education. But much of government education doesn’t deserve thanks.

The question we ask: Who fundamentally cares about our children’s education? It’s natural for each of us to be self-interested, that motivates us to succeed in what we choose to do in life. But the clowns in red shirts are irresponsible, ignorant and self-centered. They are bad examples for students that rely on them for mature guidance and objective knowledge.

In my opinion these people are figuratively out-to-lunch. They don’t deserve tenure or merit pay; and they certainly shouldn’t be entrusted with teaching children— they should be fired.


About R. E. Smith Jr.

Mr. Smith writes essays and commentary on politics, American history, environment, higher education and culture. He's been published in print media and at blog sites for about 25 years. Smith's formal education includes B.S. and M.S. degrees from the State University of New York and Syracuse University. He has earned a 21-credit hour Certificate in Professional Writing from the University of North Carolina-Wilmington. Training/work experience: NYS Ranger School; U. S. Army, Corp of Engineers; soil scientist and forester with USDA; Assoc. Professor at SUNY; real estate agent; small business owner.
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