When Ann Coulter’s most recent book, Godless, came out, all anyone heard about it was her “attack” on the four women from New Jersey. But Coulter’s book, actually has very little to say about the Jersey Girls, and much to say about a number of other topics, including education.
In chapter 6: The Liberal Priesthood: Spare the Rod, Spoil the Teacher, Coulter takes on teacher indoctrination, pay, qualifications, and crime.
Coulter asserts that teachers are always presumed heroes, and are spoken of in “reverential terms,” but are busy “inculcating students in the precepts of the Socialist Party of America—as understood by retarded people.” She cites Jay Bennish, the high school teacher caught on tape comparing Bush to Hitler and saying the U.S. is the “single most violent nation on planet Earth,” as evidence. She also lists a number of schools busy banning Christian faith references, while forcing students to participate in activities of other faiths.
Changing gears, Coulter tackles the failure of government schools and the simultaneous plans by certain legislators to require, you guessed it, even more years of government school.
Coulter uses information from David Salisbury of the Center for Education Freedom at CATO Institute to illustrate the failure of public education. “Throughout the twentieth century, the scores of preschool age children on IQ and kindergarten readiness tests have climbed steadily upward….It’s not until they move up through grade school and on to high school that their performance declines,” said Salisbury.
Also according to Salisbury, American students do better than many other countries in international comparisons of reading, math and science during fourth grade international tests ranking 92nd percentile in science, 70th in reading and 58th in math. But by eighth grade, Americans are average, and by “twelfth—having received all the benefits of an American education—they are near the bottom.”
“Question,” Coulter writes, “Is student achievement inversely proportional to time spent in U.S. public schools, or is there a correlation between poor student achievement and time spent in U.S. public schools?”
“Unfazed by international comparisons showing that American children fall behind with each additional year of school, Democrats want to get our students started falling behind even sooner,” says Coulter, recalling John Kerry’s acceptance speech mentions of “investing” in pre-k programs and the standing ovation it earned him. Coulter also brought up Al Gore’s campaign for universal preschool in 2000.
“Remember how factories in the old Soviet Union stayed open year after year even though half the products they turned out were defective? U.S. public schools have become like that, which is why Democrats feel so much at home in the education business,” writes Coulter.
Then she attacked the central mantra of teachers—We are underpaid. Providing information from Richard Vedder of Ohio University who examined U.S. Department of Labor data, she writes that “Weekly pay for teachers in 2001 was about the same (within 10 percent) as for accountants, biological and life scientists, registered nurses, and editors and reporters, while teachers earned significantly more than social workers and artists.” In fact, the only group with higher weekly pay [of seven professions examined] were lawyers and judges.
But, Coulter argues, teachers also get summer vacations, professional days off, snow days and federal holidays off, concluding, “it appears that the only people who get better compensation than teachers for nine months’ work are professional baseball players.”
Vedder also calculated hourly wages, based on self-reported data compiled by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In this case, “Teachers earned more per hour than architects, civil engineers, mechanical engineers, statisticians, biological and life scientists, atmospheric and space scientists, registered nurses, physical therapists, university-level foreign-language teachers, librarians, technical writers, musicians, artists, and editors and reporters.”
Adding another element to her argument, Coulter explains that teachers also get “more generous pensions that other professional workers,” have health insurance plans many of which require no contributing payment by the teachers, and have “absolute job security.”
So it would seem that most teachers aren’t quite as “underpaid” as they claim to be, but if Coulter is correct, they are also likely to be poorly qualified.
Frederick Hess of the American Enterprise Institute is quoted, saying “Undergraduate education majors typically have lower SAT and ACT scores than other students.” “The lower the quality of the undergraduate institution a person attends, the more likely he or she is to wind up in the teaching profession,” he notes.
Coulter writes that in 2001, only 60 percent of education students could pass the basic teacher licensing exam in Virginia. How did Virginia respond? The state board of education lowered the requirements, Coulter writes.
According to Coulter, Massachusetts lowered the passing grade for a basic-skills test for teachers in 1998 when nearly two-thirds failed it.
It would also seem that not only are teachers overpaid and unqualified, in many instances, many are criminals.
“In addition to grand theft, disorderly conduct, weapons charges, and attempted murder, there were also 180 claims of sexual abuse by New York City public school teachers in 2005—all before May,” writes Coulter. She writes that professor Charol Shakeshaft analyzed data from an American Association of University Women Education Foundation survey and “estimates that between 1991-2000, roughtly 290,000 students were subjected to physical sexual abuse by teachers or other school personnel.”
While all of this seems bleak, Coulter does offer some solutions. Concluding the chapter, she writes, “There’s nothing the matter with teachers that a little less unionization and more competition couldn’t cure.” At a recent appearance in Washington, D.C. she also encouraged conservative women to enter four career fields if they really want to impact the world. Public education was one of the four.
Julia A. Seymour is a staff writer for Accuracy in Academia.