I recently visited Sam Chaltain’s blog article for CNN: My View: When did teacher bashing become the new national pastime?He presents a safely-articulated discussion that compares statistics of baseball players to the bashing of teachers whose stats were posted online. What I appreciate about his point is that he poses a meaningful assertion: that a teacher stat cannot be reduced to a single number.
My goal, though, was to review the comments in reaction to his article. Like a tennis match, these commentators went back and forth, with some scoring on both sides. However, the arguments supporting teachers and their efforts and those opposing teachers and their role in teaching posed nothing new. These are the same points that arise repeatedly on blog after blog, and the reason for the repetition is probably because no one really deals with the numerous logical fallacies.
The primary fallacy that seems to arise whenever education or teachers, specifically, are discussed seems to fall into the category of Hasty Generalizations (from both sides). Here are some examples [sic and verbatim]:
- I have found [teachers] almost universally to be narcisists who need to be the smartest person in the room. In a room full of children they mistake knowledge for intellect. In their interactions with parents they presume far to much and accept zero input.
- Yet teachers still go above and beyond for students in general to help them learn.
- For the most part teachers are over paid and don't work as many hours as most working Americans ! ENOUGH SAID
- I work 9-10 hour days, then go home and grade papers for another 2 hours.
In this fallacy, non-teachers will argue that all teachers are a certain way (lazy) or do a certain thing (only work 25 hrs a week).
Teachers will respond with their own generalizations, usually about parents or students, or about other teachers. In the examples above, the generalization (either stated or implied) is that everyone feels as this teacher does about teaching or does what this teacher does (works 10 hr days), which is also a logical fallacy.
To get non-teachers off of their hasty-horse, you have to corral them. They are not spouting “truth” in this generalization because it’s a generalization and not true in all instances. Rather than immediately jumping to our own generalizations using personal, anecdotal evidence, we should first make sure the individual understands he/she has made a hasty generalization.
Some questions to pose might be:
So, are you saying that the majority of teachers are overpaid because they don’t work as many hours as most working Americans? Or are you saying that teachers are over-paid, in general? How many hours does a working American actually work on average? How many hours does a teacher work on average?
Hopefully, what will occur is that the individual moves to find evidence to back up his/her claim. Evidence that will mostly likely point in favor of educators. For example, a quick google for “average number of hours worked America” points one in the direction of this article in Real Time Economics: “U.S. Teachers’ Hours Among World’s Longest.”
Thus, with evidence in hand, that argument, myth really, is quickly dispelled. Whatever response the individual has to your questions, be prepared to provide unbiased research and evidence—data, statistics, and studies work best and are most difficult for opponents to argue. Using personal anecdotes about what you do in the classroom doesn’t work, unfortunately. Your opponent will simply say you are an exception to the generalization. It actually feeds into their fallacy to provide personal defense for a larger group.
Likewise, the “narcissist” avenger up there would be hard-pressed to back up his claims that "all teachers feel the need to be the smartest in the room." Probably, he’s working from personal experience, which is interesting, but it only proves that those individuals, based on his subjective experience, are narcissists.
Above all, don’t feel disheartened by these poor folks who spout out their fallacies like a sprinkler in summer-time. They are unable to think critically, and thus, once you’ve politely pointed out that their arguments/claims are in error, move on. They’re not worth your time.
Don’t fall into the trap that ALL parents or ALL people feel as they do. Otherwise, you’re making that same fallacy, and it will drag you down into despair. You'll feel demoralized, and victimized, and you shouldn't.
Don't give teacher-bashers the pleasure. Argue more effectively.