Republicans At The Arizona Legislature Are Finding New Fronts In The War On Teachers

One time, a while ago, I was refereeing a high-school boys’ summer-league basketball game. My partner that day was Brian Peabody, a local high-school and college coaching legend whose exploits are so numerous and varied that he is high on the list of Greg Hansen’s Top 100 Tucson sports legends of all time. Brian and I were calling the game the way a summer-league game should be called, as though we were those bumper things that they put in the gutters at the bowling alley to help keep little kids’ ball on the lane. During the game, an especially Over-exuberant Parent (if you will pardon the redundancy) was criticizing the calls that we were making and the non-calls that we weren’t making.

As the game progressed through the first half, Obnoxious Parent (he had long since morphed) began chirping more and more, louder and louder. It finally got to the point where Brian went over and asked the guy what his problem was. Ridiculous Parent then launched into a litany of bad and/or missed calls he had witnessed. 

After a brief exchange, Brian handed the guy his whistle and shirt. I thought it was hilarious until I realized that I would have to make virtually every call the rest of the way. And so it went. The guy couldn’t get himself to put the whistle in his mouth, not for sanitary reasons, but for the fact that calling the game for real is exponentially harder than getting everything right from the stands. He didn’t make one call, not even the really obvious ones that happened right in front of him. 

With about 10 seconds left and Parent’s son’s team trailing by one, the son goes hard down the lane and gets absolutely massacred. I was about to call the foul, but I held back, partly because the play was happening right in front of my “partner” and partly because my prayers had been answered. In an instant, Loud Mouth Parent because Frozen Parent. His son’s team lost by one.

I thought about that when I read the latest Screw You To Teachers bills currently moving through the Arizona State Legislature. As part of a frenzied response to the thought that school kids might learn that slavery once existed in the United States, state legislatures all over the country, including ours right here in Arizona, are misusing the frightening term “Critical Race Theory” to help save small white children (and their large white parents) from hearing about the ugly truths that stained our past, currently infect our present, and will continue to shape our future if our chosen “response” is to try to ignore it.

It’s always insulting when lawmakers think that they’re better than teachers…at anything.

The (unfunny) funny thing about it is that probably not one out of 100 screaming Caucasians could come within an intellectual mile of providing an accurate definition of Critical Race Theory. Indeed, 20 years from now, if you google “Critical Race Theory,” the definition will be “an intentionally misleading and often racist rallying cry used in a cynical manner by worshippers of Donald Trump for strictly partisan political purposes.”

One bill, SB 1211, will require teachers to post all of their lesson plans and any materials they might use in instruction online so that parents can look it over and protest its use (utilizing anything up to, and including, legal action). Proponents of this nonsense keep using the phrase “educational transparency.” But this has always existed. For as long as I can remember (and that’s a long time), parents have been able to contact teachers about what’s going on in the classroom. Heck, a parent can go sit in on his/her kid’s classes to check things out. This is probably on the embarrassing side for the student, but it has always been an option. 

When my daughter was in high school, she had an AP History teacher who was assigning homework by the pound. A couple other parents and I went to see him, expressed our time concerns (our kids all had a full load of AP classes, plus sports) and the teacher was really cool about it. He came up with a creative response to our concerns. It’s really not that hard. You just have to find the time to do something other than show up at school board meetings in full venom mode.

Perhaps the nastiest part of this whole thing came when bill sponsor Nancy Barto said that forcing teachers to post all of their lesson plans online in advance would actually be a time-saving measure. Yes, weakness is strength, up is down, and spending more time somehow saves time.    

A 2019 Department of Education study showed that teachers put in almost 13 hours a week on their jobs outside of school, along with nearly 50 hours a week at school. Having been married to a teacher for decades, I can attest to those numbers, although they seem a bit low.

There’s really only one of two ways that this constant assault on teachers by the Arizona Legislature will end. Either positive trends in demographics will result in the election of lawmakers who value education over fearmongering or the final good teacher will quit to take on a job with better pay and more respect. Walmart is always hiring.   

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