What do the parents have to lose?

In the stunning fantastic Disney+ Star Wars series Andor, the shadowy Luthen Rael finally reveals something about himself by telling a subordinate about what he was sacrificing. In response he gave the above speech which you can watch the amazing Stellen Skarsgaard deliver here. Luthen makes clear that far from being an arm-chair general, he fully expects to die for his rebellion.

Others, however, expect to receive deference without putting anything at risk. On Feb. 15, during a hearing in the Arizona legislature over a curriculum bill, an Arizona public school teacher said the quiet part out loud:

I have a master’s degree, and when I got certified I was told I had to have a master’s degree to be an Arizona certified teacher. We all have advanced degrees. What do the parents have? Are we vetting the backgrounds of our parents? Are we allowing the parents to choose the curriculum and the books that our children are going to read? I think that it is a mistake and I’m just speaking from the heart. The one line that I love is that ‘we must remember that the purpose of public education is not teach only what parents want their children to be taught, but what society needs them to be taught.’

Where to start? First off there is no requirement to get a master’s degree to become a certified teacher in Arizona. This is a good thing as research has found that while having an effective teacher is a big deal in terms of student outcomes, having a teacher with a master’s degree, not so much.

I think that having earned a couple of advanced degrees doesn’t qualify me for much, but it does qualify me to say that some of the biggest out of touch with reality nitwits of all time hold advanced degrees. Decades ago, William F. Buckley once stated he’d rather be governed by the first 100 names in the Boston phone book than the faculty of Harvard University. I couldn’t agree more.

The intervening years can only have strengthened this conviction to anyone paying even a small amount of attention, especially in education. “Experts” with “advanced degrees” after all trained generations of teachers to employ catastrophically flawed methods of reading instruction. Multiple teachers are quoted in Emily Hanford’s Sold a Story podcast explaining that they had made a terrible mistake deferring to “experts.”

Are we allowing the parents to choose the curriculum and the books that our children are going to read?” the speaker asked rhetorically. One literacy-crisis-mass-produced-by-idiots-with-advanced-degrees later, I’m inclined to say “why yes, actually, that sounds like a splendid idea. Hand me the dice.” A few times in my career I’ve needed to explain to a highly credentialed younger colleague that a graduate degree does not entitle one to deference. If your training was worth what you paid for it, then you need to show us rather than tell us about it.

What do the parents have? The testifying teacher likely will be paid and receive a pension whether students learn the knowledge and habits needed for success in life or not. The parents, on the other hand, have something very important – a great deal to lose. They have skin in the game- their family’s future. I’d also wager that they have a great deal more common sense per capita.

What do our highly degreed “betters” lose when they mismanage the curriculum of public schools? Nothing. What do parents sacrifice? Everything.


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BY Matthew Ladner

Matthew Ladner is executive editor of NextSteps. He has written numerous studies on school choice, charter schools and special education reform, and his articles have appeared in Education Next; the Catholic Education: A Journal of Inquiry and Practice; and the British Journal of Political Science. He is a graduate of the University of Texas at Austin and received a master's degree and a Ph.D. in political science from the University of Houston. He lives in Phoenix with his wife and three children.