The vilification of K-12 teachers is part and parcel of the growing misogyny we are witnessing in today's United States.
Last year, when teachers led the occupation of the Wisconsin state capitol, many pointed out the obvious: Attacks on teachers—and other public sector workers like nurses and social workers—are overwhelmingly attacks on women. When “reformers” from former D.C. superintendent Michelle Rhee to New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie portray teachers as incompetent, incapable of leadership, and selfish, they don’t need to specify women teachers for that to be the image in people’s minds—76 percent of U.S. teachers are women; at the elementary school level, it’s nearly 90 percent. As education blogger Sabrina Stevens Shupe wrote recently, “The predominantly female teaching profession [is] among the latest [targets] in a long tradition of projecting community/social anxieties onto ‘bad’ women—from ‘witches’ to bad mothers to feminists and beyond.”
The decimation of teachers’ unions and tenure structures seems aimed at forcing K-12 teaching back to the era before teaching became a profession, when young women—barely trained and constrained by regulations enforcing their clothing, living situations, and drinking—taught for a few years before they got married. Here are some requirements from a typical teachers contract in 1923: The teacher is “not to ride in a carriage or automobile with any man except her brother or father” and “not to dress in bright colors.” She is “to wear at least two petticoats” and “to sweep the classroom floor at least once daily.”[emphasis mine]
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