Education

Evil Republican Governors Want to Make It Easier to Fire Teachers for Mispronouncing Words

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"These new Republican governors are all trying to outreform one another," said Michael Petrilli, an education official under President George W. Bush.

The New York Times reports on a growing movement to get rid—or radically reshape—teacher tenure in many states, including Florida, Idaho, Indiana, Nevada and New Jersey. It's no coincidence that budgets are tight in those states and tenured teachers are pricey (without necessarily being better at their jobs than cheaper newbies.) 

Another (money-driven) reason for the timing of this pushback against tenure is that President Barack Obama's Race to the Top program (known to State of the Union watchers as "the most meaningful reform of our public schools in a generation") encouraged states to collect and publicize teacher performance data in order to be eligible for extra federal education dollars. That means principals and superintendents now have data on which to base decisions about firings and promotions that is more substantive than how many years a teacher has been employed. 

Asked to defend the need for special teacher tenure protections for a story that he knew was going to appear in The New York Times, here's the best National Education Association president Dennis Van Roekel could come up with:

He recalled that around 1980, when he was a union leader in Arizona, he had arranged to have a speech pathologist assess a teacher whom a principal was trying to fire because of a speech impediment. The pathologist determined that the teacher had a New York accent.

"She would say 'ideer,' instead of 'idea,' " Mr. Van Roekel said. "The principal thought that was a speech impediment. Without a fair dismissal law, that principal could have fired her arbitrarily, without citing any reason."

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  1. Without a fair dismissal law, that principal could have fired her arbitrarily, without citing any reason

    And the problem with that is?

    Besides, he’s got a reason. She’s teaching her kids to sound like idiots (and I had to consciously avoid adding the ‘r’ for 2 years before I stopped doing that).

    1. I’m glad to hear that the Queen of England and Ted Turner ‘sound like idiots’ (because of their intrusive ‘r’s’, presumably).
      Not that I’m defending teacher’s unions, against which I am currently a conscientious objector here at Wayne State. I just object to silly stereotyping.

      1. Not that I’m defending teacher’s unions, against which I am currently a conscientious objector here at Wayne State.

        2 questions:

        1) what’s your license plate number?
        2) you have a baseball bat I could borrow?

        1. You should meet some of my faculty union colleagues–in the words of the old joke–‘That’s not funny!’

      2. Saying that people who mispronounce words sound like idiots isn’t a stereotype. It’s an observation.

        The stereotype would be that people who mispronounce words are idiots.

        The anecdote is funny, because a speech impediment is a legitimate reason to be mispronouncing words. Being from New York is not.

        1. Saying that all Englishmen, New Englanders, Southerners, Australians, New Zealanders, and South Africans sound like idiots may not be stereotyping exactly, but it certainly is silly.
          What does it mean to say that a majority of speakers of a language ‘mispronounce’ it? Who made that decision? The minority who pronounce it another way? Why is their opinion more authoritative? And don’t talk to me about spelling unless you pronounce the ‘l’ in talk and the silent e’s in ‘like’ and ‘please’.

          1. Christopher Hitchens is very English and he doesn’t have a blooming consonants problem with his words.

            Stephen Hawking pronounces everything with a rather vicious precision as well (I kid! I kid!).

          2. What does it mean to say that a majority of speakers of a language ‘mispronounce’ it? Who made that decision?

            Phonics.

            There is no “i” in “team” and there is no “r” in “idea.”

          3. I am not certain which England, New England, South, Australia, New Zealand or South Africa you’re referring to, but I know people from all these places–lived in 2 myself, and have never heard ‘ideer’ as anything other than a mispronounced or misspoken form of ‘idea’. Across the upper Midwest(US), I’ve heard ‘ideal’ used in place of ‘idea’, but never ‘ideer’ as a widespread alternate pronunciation.

            1. The intrusive r is normal in many (probably most) of the dialects spoken by natives of the above-listed places, but it would not come into play if the person was just saying the word “idea.” They would have to follow it with another word that started with a vowel sound. E.g., for many speakers, “idea is” would sound like “idearis.”

              1. Nor shall we discuss a pronoun agreeing in number with their antecedent noun.

          4. If they can understand me but I can’t understand them, then they’re the ones with the speech impediment.

        2. What collectivist claptrap.

          Do you know else called for words to be pronounced the “right” way?

          1. ‘enry ‘iggens?

          2. The French?

  2. Dat’s a nice job yous got dehr. Be’s a shame if anyting wuz to happen to it becuz you ain’t speakin’ right.

    1. Are yous threatning me? G’thefuckouttaheeya.

  3. Whether an impediment or an accent, I think the guy would be protected in nearly any job* by either anti-handicap discrimination (speech impediment) or national origin discrimination (accent–although possibly a stretch if it’s a regional US accent).

    * Elisa Dolittle diction coach excepted.

    1. It doesn’t matter if an auto mechanic has a strong regional accent, any more than it matters if an English teacher can replace a transmission.

  4. Was I fired for misspelling potato?

    1. You and your boss were fired.

    2. Does this mean that my job is in danger because I have a problem with the objective case?

      1. Speak Austrian…the gun-clinging rubes don’t know objective case from a nut-case in Austrian Mr. President!

  5. Without a fair dismissal law, that principal could have fired her arbitrarily, without citing any reason.”

    I’m just spitballin’ here… but what if there was some sort of way a principal’s job could be at risk for firing otherwise good teachers for extremely minor things?

    1. Ooooh…so like the principal would be, like, accountable for his job performance ? Well how would that work ? It’s just unpossible.

  6. Another (money-driven) reason for the timing of this pushback against tenure is that President Barack Obama’s Race…

    Again with this? I thought we were done blaming every policy opposition on “that” president’s skin color.

  7. that principal could have fired her arbitrarily, without citing any reason

    Otherwise known as “employment at will”, the status enjoyed by nearly all (private sector) workers.

    So if the union tool thinks this is going to spark a wave of outrage, I think he’s in for a little surprise.

    1. if she was teachingan oxford grammer class, the firing may have been warranted

      1. If you were her student, then doubly so.

    2. Why shouldn’t teachers be at-will employees? I can kinda sorta see why professors get tenure, but, as a matter of public utility or policy, I can’t think of a damned reason to protect K-12 teacher jobs in this manner. Even leaving aside the whole question of having “public” teachers in the first place.

      Naturally, teachers, their unions, and the political party that is beholden to the teachers and their union have all sorts of reasons to prefer a tenure system.

      1. The rationale is, and I know quite a few teachers, is that they don’t want to held accountable if they draw the short end of the stick and get a classroom full of moron, malcontents and ne’er-do-wells and be fired because the students care more about everything in life but school and education. Since teachers have been pussified beyond recognition and prevented from administering discipline (including corporal punishment), they have to nowhere to go but the state. And it’s the teachers own fault for buying into Eriksen, Maslow and Rogers theories on child development. In short, they don’t want to fired because they can’t make an unwilling child learn.

        1. Luck of the draw. I tell my kids the same thing about bad teachers when they get them–weather the storm.

          Besides, that problem is one that all teachers face, and they’re generally going to get reviewed by people aware of that problem.

        2. In a free market, experience and success with difficult students would be a path to job opportunities and higher pay.

          1. Arm teachers with tasers and the right to use them under certain circumstances.

      2. I can kinda sorta see why professors get tenure

        I’m sure you’re trying to limit the debate here, but the only rational justification I’ve heard for tenure is that it allows professors to speak openly about controversial subjects. I’m fine with that, but tenure goes further to protect a professor from basic performance review, and the huge difference between being an associate vs assistant professor if anything enforces conformity of thought. If you want tenure, you had better not clash too strongly with the faculty who vote on your tenure, and certainly not the department head.

        I can only see a very narrow scope for tenure, which is that professors should not be fired for espousing controversial views (i.e. firing must be based on poor teaching, poor output, poor funding, etc.).

        1. Like I said, kinda sorta.

        2. Tenured professors who begin to underperform (or go crazy) are usually “asked” to retire.

  8. In every job I ever have had, my employer could have fired me arbitrariy, without citing any reason. That continues to be the case today.

  9. The best he can come up with is 30-year-old hearsay about one teacher who may have been working for an incompetent boss?
    Bzzzzzzzzzzt!

  10. What is this “race to the top” anyway? What does getting ahead have to do with race? I thought there were laws against discrimination.

  11. I know a few retired teachers, and they all bring up this “arbitrary and unfair dismissal” bullshit. Is this recited like a catechism at union meetings?

    I have “arbitrarily and unfairly” dismissed more employers than have dismissed me.

    Big fucking deal. If you’re actually *good* at what you do, it’s not very hard to get another job.

    1. I would go so far as to say I have capriciously and prejudicially dismissed employers I felt were nutters.

    2. “Is this recited like a catechism at union meetings?”

      Yes.

    3. Is there a fair way to fire someone arbitrarily?

      1. Certainly. Pick them out at random. Just like cars get pulled over by the cops at drunk driving checkpoints.

        1. It just seems to me that “arbitrary” implies that you think the decision was unfair.

      2. Are Thunderdome style cage matches arbitrary in this context?

      3. The decimations will continue until moral improves.

    4. Teaching to the Test! Teaching to the Test! Teaching to the Test!
      Rinse and repeat.

  12. No alt-text? Katherine, I am disappoint.

    1. I vote for T.I.L.F.

  13. Also, the other day I arbitrarily dismissed one product one product in favor of another. No hearing, no review, no justice…

  14. “He recalled that around 1980, when he was a union leader in Arizona, he had arranged to have a speech pathologist assess a teacher whom a principal was trying to fire because of a speech impediment. The pathologist determined that the teacher had a New York accent.”

    Well, that is a speech impediment, isn’t it?

  15. Amazing coincidence.

    I was miraculously transformed from a boy genius to an illiterate shithead when I was six, when I moved from a place where everyone spoke English to somewhere where some people say “ideer.” One of them was my reading teacher. So, for example, I couldn’t figure out what words she was saying during spelling tests, and I’d transcribe the nonsense phonetically and get almost everything wrong. She wasn’t smart enough to figure out what happened and fix it. She just got enraged at my effrontery.

    Looking at some other kids’ tests sometime later, I deduced that everyone else in class understood the nonsense she said as everyday words I knew how to spell?spoken in a secret code that I alone was excluded from. They all knew “ideer” was “idea,” somehow, and they couldn’t tell me how (because they were six, too). It was like some Invasion of the Body Snatchers shit. And it was great for my six-year-old psychological health.

    By the time I managed to explain what had suddenly gone wrong with my boy-genius-ness (after I fuckin’ flipped out during some reading-aloud thing where I was being forced to speak in the secret code) to someone who could deduce what the deal was and fix it for me by sending me to a different, English-speaking school, I was pretty much insane.

    Still am! Because of “ideer.”

    So hell yes fire that bitch. And boot her in the gash once for li’l ?, who once had so much promise.
    (True cool-story-bro.)

    1. We are not giving up on you yet. Unlike that loser posting under the e-mail address GABRIEL_CIOCIOLA@yahoo.com, a useless souls who should crawl in to a dumpster to await a just happenstance, you still have potential in this life.

  16. “So hell yes fire that bitch. And boot her in the gash once for li’l ?, who once had so much promise.”

    Funny how the lesser among us always have someone to blame for their lack of effort.

  17. Is there a fair way to fire someone arbitrarily?

    “Eeny, meeny, miny, Moe,

    Payroll’s too high,

    Somebody gots ta go.

    Y, O, You!”

    1. THAT’S RACIST!

  18. Teacher tenure is functionally equivalent to civil-service protection for other government employees, including cops. If ending teacher tenure is important, ending civil service protections is more so by a hundred-fold.

    A bad teacher not being fired means kids scoring lower on the SATs than they would otherwise. A bad cop not being fired means people end up shot, clubbed or jailed for no just cause.

    Teachers are easy to pick on politically. Cops – much harder. Guess which one is has become the focus of animus from our political masters?

    1. “If ending teacher tenure is important, ending civil service protections is more so by a hundred-fold.”

      Fine and dandy.

      There’s never been any legitimate reason for ANY job, profession or occupation to be any more exempt from “employment at will” than any other one.

    2. Teachers are easy to pick on politically.

      LMFAO. Teachers have two powerful nationwide unions (NEA and AFT) along with lesser cousin unions like the AFSA (American Federation of School Administrators).

      1. And the Fraternal Order of Police could trump them all any day of the week.

        1. 325,000 FOP members vs. 3.2 million NEA members.

          Damn, if only I wasn’t educated by the public school system, I could use math to figure out the numerical disparity here.

    3. Get lost, loser.

  19. I work with a lot of born-n-raised New Yorkers. Aside from the accent, each is an angry, churlish sociopath.
    Then again I work in broadcasting, and that describes most of us.

    1. I’ve been living in upstate New York for about 6 months and the last time I heard someone say ‘ideer’ was when I was in rural Vermont.

      1. Upstaters living in the Hudson Valley north of Newburgh speak with a Western New England accent.

        See: Atlas of North American English: The Northeast (New England to New York City)

        Those west of Amsterdam including those in the Southern Tier speak with an Inland North accent.

        see: Atlas of North American English: USA

        The maps are a bit off as people from The City have moved into Rockland, Orange, Westchester and Putnam counties.

    2. Hey! I am not “churlish”.

  20. He recalled that around 1980, when he was a union leader in Arizona, he had arranged to have a speech pathologist assess a teacher whom a principal was trying to fire because of a speech impediment. The pathologist determined that the teacher had a New York accent.

    Distinction without a difference.

  21. Men can attest the word impediment coming into Englih during the late 14th century from the Latin impedimentem meaning “hindrance,” in turn from from impedire meaning “impede,” literally “to shackle the feet.”

    Stuttering is a speech impediment as such affliction blocks the speaker and listener from understanding each other. In cases of emergency, stuttering could lead to serious, negative consequences.

    Speaking with an accent, however harrible, er, horrible a New Yawker, er, New Yorker accent sounds, is not a speech impediment.

    Those who hold such a false belief suffer from an intellect impediment.

  22. I had a TA in a college art history class who, due to her shall we say “urban african american” accent, pronounced Chartres (as in Chartres cathedral)- SHARR-TREZ.

    Sometimes an accent is a sign of idiocy if you can’t overcome it in the interest of sounding knowledgeable.

    1. What it be, Holmes? Word to your mother.

  23. Apropos of very little, I must share this anecdote from the estimable Editorial Anonymous:

    [T]here are limits to the amount of fun you can have with the language one publishes. For instance the manuscript that looked like it was supposed to rhyme; was laid out in stanzas… and yet didn’t. Was the writer attempting slant rhyme, I asked a fellow editor? “No, this rhymes,” she said, and read it back to me in a Brooklyn accent.

  24. America’s system of public instruction. The one area of human action that if Pol Pot’s Year Zero policies were applied there would be a vast improvement in outcomes.

  25. I knew a guy who was demoted two ranks by the Navy for mispronouncing “Negro” to someone under his command…

    The private sector would not have been so kind.

  26. So instead of having a speech impediment and thus being protected by disability law, she was just a New Yawker and could be fired without any problem!

    Good job, Mr. Unionpants! You proved she wasn’t deserving of any special employment protections!

  27. If you tools are gonna to be persnickety about English pronounciation, I recommend you switch to Spanish.

    You then might have an argument.

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