It is no secret that left-wing teachers’ unions and activists harbor ill will toward conservative, free-market and pro-charter school figures. The Tennessee Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (TACTE) blasted Republican Gov. Bill Lee for not condemning remarks that mocked teachers from conservative figure Larry Arnn.
Arnn, who is the president of the conservative Hillsdale College in Michigan, spoke at a private event with Lee. He allegedly told the audience, “You don’t have to know anything” to earn an education degree, in addition to the claim that education departments train teachers to indoctrinate students. Arnn also said that public school teachers come from “the dumbest parts of the dumbest colleges.” The recording of Arrn’s remarks were from a hidden-camera video obtained by the local news outlet NewsChannel 5.
Lee was in attendance and did not respond to Arnn’s claims, which had TACTE up in arms. TACTE’s letter to Lee called on the governor to repudiate Arnn’s comments and defend teachers. The group wrote, “We urge you to speak out now in defense of teachers and professional educators” because Arnn’s comments “insult Tennesseans dedicated to teaching and learning, as well as thousands of students across the State attending programs with the goal of becoming professional educators.”
The letter didn’t mince words and said that Arnn’s comments “minimize a foundational principle of our democracy – the importance of education.” Arnn’s “divisive rhetoric,” the letter continued, “undercuts efforts to recruit individuals into the profession during a time when teachers are desperately needed.”
A common left-wing rallying cry is that conservatives are chipping away at democracy without providing evidence or substance to back up these claims.
But TACTE did not acknowledge that public schools, despite their large bureaucracy and funding amounts, struggle to raise test scores or aptitude, and fail to hold teachers accountable for lackluster instruction. Recruitment for teaching may struggle because the teachers’ unions set the entry-level pay at an artificially-low level and pay according to longevity in the profession, which discourages new hires.
Also, rhetoric from a conservative figure may not have as large of an impact on Tennessee’s teacher recruitment efforts as TACTE claimed.
Although TACTE was correct in pointing out that teacher retention rates are low, it failed to mention why teachers are choosing to quit post-pandemic. Many of the reasons are the stress from pandemic-related rules and restrictions, such as mask-wearing, testing protocols, or purposefully isolating students from others.
TACTE, according to its website, represents public, private, and independent education preparation providers in the state of Tennessee. All of its board members are employees of colleges and universities throughout Tennessee and therefore may have a vested interest against charter schools and non-public school options.