“Criticism of teachers is misogyny!” says teacher Nikki Suydam

Nikki Suydam is a humanities teacher (surprise, surprise) in Oregon who has just about had enough of everyone thinking that we can improve the quality of America’s teachers. I first came across Suydam’s piece because an 11th grade English teacher—a feminist—linked to it from the r/Education subreddit.

Again, this drives home my recurring point that, too often, the humanities are a feminist zoo.

Anyway, Suydam has written a piece for The Oregonian titled “The mindless misogyny of education reform” criticizing a columnist for wanting the world to have better teachers. Here’s how she starts out:

New York Times columnist Frank Bruni’s latest attack on public school teachers (“It’s time to address failures of underperforming teachers,” Oct. 30, Oregonian e-edition) is nothing new. The profession has been under assault for over a decade by self-proclaimed education reformers. It is also nothing new from a cultural-historical perspective.

Education reform movements will always be with us. It is something that will never end, ever. Our culture and the learning tools available to us are always changing. That’s nothing too controversial. But here’s where she starts shoving her head where the sun doesn’t shine, starting with her very next sentence:

Blaming women for society’s problems is as old as the story of Eve in the Garden of Eden, or Pandora and her box of woes, or every medieval witch hunt spurred on by crop failure or plague outbreak.  Contemporary education reformers have launched a similar witch hunt to root out “rotten apples” from a profession still more than 75 percent female.

So just because 75% of teachers are female, any criticism of the teaching profession is misogyny? Gee, I suppose if men are 95% of the politicians, that means that any criticism of politicians is misandry as well. I also suppose no invading army in history could ever be criticized if 95% of it were male—surely that would be misandry!

Get this: When men dominate a profession, it’s called male privilege. Any criticism against them is called social justiceBut when women dominate a profession, any criticism against them is called the oppression of women.

But maybe I’m just not understanding Suydam’s position correctly. Perhaps I’m jumping the gun here. Maybe if she elaborates a bit, my befuddled male mind will grow with the enlightenment she has to offer. So here’s why she believes the teaching profession is being unfairly singled out:

No similar reform movement targets doctors (65 percent male) for our nation’s spiraling obesity epidemic.

Yes because doctors—like teachers—spend seven to eight hours a day, five days a week, with the same patients and during what are aptly termed their patients’ formative years. They have the power to shame and praise their patients in a large group setting, in front of their peers, day in and day out, for what they perceive is normal or deviant behavior. Doctors also clearly have the power to punish adults the same way teachers do with children.

Apples to oranges much?

Also, ask a doctor how much he pays in insurance in case he gets sued for medical malpractice. Now ask a teacher how much she pays in insurance in case she gets sued for educational malpractice.

She continues:

Law enforcement officers (80 percent male) are not blamed for crime statistics.

Are you kidding me? It’s a widespread (and erroneous) belief that police can prevent crime simply by existing when in reality the best that they can do 99% of the time (until they gain the power to teleport anywhere instantly) is investigate crimes that have recently occurred. And police are blamed—often correctly, in my view—for misconduct and excessive force.

Nor are engineers (78 percent male) “held accountable” for the crumbling U.S. infrastructure.

Because, like our education system, our infrastructure ranks 14th among developed countries, right?

More insidious than the blame, however, is a national narrative that denies teachers a voice in the discussion.  The opinions of those with no teaching experience, no pedagogical knowledge, and no training in the cognitive development of children are consistently accepted as having more value than those of experts in the field. When promoting stories about public education, the media can be depended upon to consult and quote business executives, but rarely practicing teachers.

I have no doubt that this happens occasionally, but this is hardly proof of “misogyny.” The usual reason teachers do not comment is that teachers themselves—unlike the associations that represent them (which do comment)—don’t have time to be full-time advocates. Suydam herself even alludes to how elusive this alleged misogyny is, saying:

Still, there are no mustache-twirling villains behind this mindless misogyny.  There are only ordinary people who never stopped to question a national narrative that sends a very questionable message: that it is better to believe amateurs with context-less data, rather than the lying eyes, ears, and experience of experts.
One has to wonder if this is because most of those experts are women.

If by “one has to wonder,” you mean you assume, then yes.

We simply need more information than just “the majority of lower ed teachers are women” to credibly characterize any criticism of the teaching profession as misogyny, just as we would need more information than just “the majority of politicians are men” to credibly characterize any criticism of politicians as misandry. We need specific examples that demonstrate that these criticisms were motivated by notions of gender.

But Suydam doesn’t present any of this evidence. And she starts veering into some dangerous territory. Rather than fighting against misogyny that supposedly criticizes teachers because they are women, it seems Suydam’s real position is that teachers should be immune from criticism simply because they are women.

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