Live from Music Row, Friday morning on The Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy – broadcast on Nashville’s Talk Radio 98.3 and 1510 WLAC weekdays from 5:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. – host Leahy welcomed all-star panelist JC Bowman in studio to discuss school system failures, discipline, and teachers’ needs.
Leahy: I’ve got an article here I want to talk to you about JC. And I think you and I have a little different view on this. I am not particularly optimistic about whether or not K-12 public schools are salvageable. I think you probably would say they are. Do I have that right?
Bowman: I’m not giving up on them.
Leahy: Good point. Let’s get into this article. It’s written at The Epoch Times by a writer by the name of Jackson Elliot, and the headline is: School System Failing and No Longer There to Educate, Says Teacher. And he interviewed a 10th-grade former professor by the name of Dan Fisher. And let me just kind of throw out what Dan Fisher says about our public education system. I want to get your reaction. Are you ready?
Leahy: Okay, here it comes. This is not a curveball. This is a fastball coming right down the middle of the plate. By the way, listeners, JC is wearing his Atlanta Braves shirt today.
Bowman: I bought stock in it. When you buy stock, they give you an owner’s plaque. So I’m now an owner of the Atlanta Braves.
Leahy: You look like one. Okay, here it comes. Fastball right down the middle of the plate. “The goal of the education system today is no longer to educate. It’s to do everything but that.” This is what Dan Fisher told The Epoch Times. Fisher teaches 10th grade at a high school whose name he declined to publicize.
The classroom he is in today let him see a system in collapse, he says. Tenth graders, he says, can’t read. Most students don’t want to participate, and teachers care more about woke indoctrination than addressing those issues. This is what Dan Fisher says. Your thoughts on his condemnation of the K-12 public school system today?
Bowman: Number one, I’m going to take apart one piece of that. I do agree that a lot of kids who have been passed through the system cannot read. Keep in mind Florida, where he’s at. We did third-grade retention, and we did the reading. They should be on reading on grade level. So that was the goal.
Leahy: This guy, Dan Fisher, teaching 10th grade, former professor; he lives in Florida.
Bowman: And so we had already done third-grade retention as far as they could read on that. Number two, I do agree there’s disengagement in school, and maybe part of how the guy teaches. Maybe as a professor, maybe he’s boring.
Leahy: He may be a boring teacher.
Bowman: And he may not be engaged with it.
Leahy: But I know that you have teachers, K-12 public school teachers who are part of Professional Educators of Tennessee. Tell people what Professional Educators of Tennessee does.
Bowman: Yes. We’re a teachers association, full force. We’ve got benefits, professional learning member savings, discounts, and liability insurance.
Leahy: So if you’re a teacher and you don’t want to join the teachers union, but you want benefits, you can join professional educators.
Bowman: And I’m tired of hearing from the union. All they keep talking about, we’re the oldest and we’re the biggest and everything. I said, what was that car that they used to come up with? The old car that flooded, the Edsel. They’re the Etsel of cars.
Leahy: And by the way, just aside from your criticism of this fellow, Dan Fisher, you said maybe he’s a boring teacher. We know for a fact, of course, that none of the members of the Professional Educators of Tennessee are boring teachers. And they’re better.
Bowman: And they’re better looking. We don’t put our teachers in a position to flourish. I do take with the woke mob mentality. Are there woke mob people? Yes. Are all teachers woke mob? No. Most of my teachers call me.
They don’t like some of this. And I hear from some of the teachers on the left that don’t like this. But this is a curriculum that gets pushed down on them by people up above them.
Leahy: There’s a lot to that. Let me continue on this article because I got to get this teacher, Dan Fisher, in a room with you here, and I’ll be the referee as you duke it out.
Bowman: Oh, I’d love that.
Leahy: He says after school is fascinating. They’re not playing, they’re not running. They’re just on their phones. Like other education activists, Fisher said COVID-19 pandemic changes revealed the rotting conditions of America’s schools. Here’s a quote.
“They assumed that schools were the way things were when they went through, and they had no idea how much things have changed as far as curriculum and others. We’re asked at the 10th-grade level, and 11th-grade level, to help teach reading. Isn’t that kind of what K through eight is for?” This is what Fisher says.
Bowman: Now, I agree with that. On the other hand, to diss them for being on their phones is saying but that’s not the way the school is today. And I’m not a big phone advocate for putting technology in their hands, but they’re clearly there, and so it’s kind of like he’s badmouthing them for doing that, and then by the same token said, the school hasn’t changed.
Leahy: So what about the role of parents? He’s actually also not particularly complimentary about most parents. What Fisher says, and let’s think about this a moment. He says that the parents for the most, but the majority of parents are not engaged in tracking the education of their kids in K-12. Is that true?
Bowman: Yes, I think that he’s got a point, particularly in certain areas, and I would need to know where he was teaching at. But in our urban areas, unfortunately, that is very much true. In our rural areas, in a lot of the small school districts, they’re very deeply involved.
Leahy: Let me continue on this. Fisher says education disaster comes from two sources. Students feel apathetic and struggle with so many discipline issues that teachers can’t get them to learn. “They only want to come to class and spend the class period talking to their friends and sleeping.”
School systems, he says, also don’t cater to teachers’ needs. “The systems are geared around the district and the supervisors. The question is, what makes a teacher’s life easier, I don’t think ever gets asked.” Your thoughts on those?
Bowman: No, I think he’s right, and I think that’s exactly, and we keep pushing down everything. The number one issue for the last 10 years continues to creep up there, and it’s been in the top five, and it’s now stuck in the top one-third as teachers feel overworked. And why that? They’re not afraid to do the work, Michael.
The problem is that they’re asked to do more and more. If you add something like when COVID came and the schools that were in session and had kids in the classroom, were asked to keep their kids in their classroom. They lost their planning period.
So during their lunch period, they had to eat lunch with their kids. They couldn’t keep their planning period. They didn’t have that. And we keep pushing back. I’m going to take a shot at Senator Umberg here.
And I know we love Umberg, but one of the things about that he wants to raise class size, and they’re sitting here going, wait a minute. I can’t discipline 35 kids and you want me to have 45?
And so that’s the angle with that, that they’re feeling like nobody is listening to them. We brought it up in committee last week, and I know teachers have been invited to come in and actually speak, but they’re afraid to speak out. If they don’t speak out, they’re going to continue to be punching bags for policymakers and bureaucrats.
We need them to speak out, but we need them to speak out with a little bit of elegance, not like marching down and yelling and screaming. That gets nowhere. We need them to sit in a committee room and talk and share what’s really happening in their classroom. Discipline is a huge issue.
Listen to today’s show highlights, including this interview:
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Tune in weekdays from 5:00 – 8:00 a.m. to The Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy on Talk Radio 98.3 FM WLAC 1510. Listen online at iHeart Radio.
Photo “J. C. Bowman” by J. C. Bowman. Background Photo “Classroom” by Pixabay.