In the liberal education establishment, math and reading take a back seat to social justice.
Actor Matt Damon is a walking, talking public service reminder to immunize your children early and often against La-La-Land disease.
In Damon's world, all public school teachers are selfless angels. Government workers and Hollywood entertainers are impervious to economic incentives. And anyone who disagrees is a know-nothing, "corporate reformer" ingrate who hates education.
Last week, the liberal box-office star addressed a "Save Our Schools" march in Washington at the behest of his mother, a professor of early childhood education. He attacked standardized tests. He praised all the public school teachers who "empowered" him and unlocked his creative potential by rejecting "silly drill and kill nonsense." Speaking on behalf of "an army of regular people," Damon decried the demoralization of teachers by ruthless, results-oriented free marketeers whom he mocked as "simple-minded."
What Damon's superficial tirade lacked, however, was any real-world understanding of the deterioration of core curricular learning in America. Students can't master simple division or fractions because today's teachers — churned out through lowest common denominator grad schools and shielded from competition — have barely mastered those skills themselves. Un-educators have abandoned "drill and kill" computation for multicultural claptrap and fuzzy math, traded in grammar fundamentals for "creative spelling," and dropped standard civics for save-the-earth propaganda.
Consequence: bottom-basement U.S. student scores on global assessments over the past two decades. Blaming the tests is blaming the messenger. The liberal education establishment's response to its abject academic failures? Run away. This is why the Save Our Schools agenda championed by Damon calls for less curricular emphasis on math and reading — and more focus on social justice, funding and "equity" issues.
Out: Reading is fundamental.
In: Feeling is fundamental.
After his drippy pep talk absolving teachers of any responsibility for America's educational morass, Damon then lashed out at a young libertarian reporter who had the audacity to ask him about the negative impact of lifetime teacher tenure. "In acting there isn't job security, right?" Reason.tv's Michelle Fields asked Damon. "There is an incentive to work hard and be a better actor because you want to have a job. So why isn't it like that for teachers?"
It's elementary that people will work longer and harder if they know they will be rewarded. There's nothing anti-teacher about the question.
(And before teachers-unions goons go on the attack, I am the child of a public school teacher and the mother of two children in an excellent public charter school by choice.) But Damon's hinges came undone when confronted with the mild question.
"You think job insecurity makes me work hard?" he retorted. "That's like saying a teacher is going to get lazy when she has tenure." Gathering all the creative potential he could muster, Damon unleashed crude profanities on Fields. "A teacher wants to teach," Damon fumed with his mother next to him. "Why else would you take a sh**ty" salary and really long hours and do that job unless you really loved to do it?"
Never mind that most out-of-work Americans would find nothing "sh**ty" about earning an average $53,000 annual salary plus health and retirement benefits for a 180-day work year.
Damon went on to deride standard, mainstream behavioral economic principles as "intrinsically paternalistic" and "MBA-style thinking." And when the young reporter's cameraman pointed out that there are bad apples in the teaching profession as in any profession, Damon called him "sh**ty," too.
Tinseltown stars can afford to put emotion over logic, progressive fantasy over practical reality. The rest of us are stuck with the bill. And those whom bleeding-heart celebrities purport to care most about — the children — suffer the consequences of bad ideas.
Interminable teacher tenure in America's largest school districts, from New York to Chicago to Los Angeles, has produced a rotten corps of incompetent (at best) and dangerous (at worst) educators coddled by Big Labor. As the D.C.-based Center for Union Facts reports, "In many major cities, only one out of 1,000 teachers is fired for performance-related reasons. ... In 10 years, only about 47 out of 100,000 teachers were actually terminated from New Jersey's schools."
By contrast, as the educational documentary "Waiting for Superman" (produced by avowed liberal turned reformer Davis Guggenheim) pointed out, one out of every 57 doctors loses his or her license to practice medicine, and one out of every 97 lawyers loses their license to practice law.
In Los Angeles, it's not just meanie tea party terrorists making the case for abolishing teacher tenure. When the Los Angeles Times exposed how the city's tenure evaluation system rubber-stamped approvals and ignored actual performance, the district superintendent admitted: "Too many ineffective teachers are falling into tenured positions — the equivalent of jobs for life." USC education professor Julie Slayton acknowledged: "It's ridiculous and should be changed."
Pop quiz: Would multimillionaire Matt Damon apply the same warped employment practices and dumbed-down curricular standards to his own accountants that he champions for America's public school teachers? Film at 11.