One way the right wing is winning

This one is going to have immense long term effects. The United States is experiencing a teacher shortage.

The teacher shortage in America has hit crisis levels — and school officials everywhere are scrambling to ensure that, as students return to classrooms, someone will be there to educate them.

“I have never seen it this bad,” Dan Domenech, executive director of the School Superintendents Association, said of the teacher shortage. “Right now it’s number one on the list of issues that are concerning school districts … necessity is the mother of invention, and hard-pressed districts are going to have to come up with some solutions.”

You might be wondering why. As a teacher myself (albeit one insulated from the worst by a position in higher ed), I looked at the Washington Post’s explanation to see if it aligned with my own experience.

Why are America’s schools so short-staffed? Experts point to a confluence of factors including pandemic-induced teacher exhaustion, low pay and some educators’ sense that politicians and parents — and sometimes their own school board members — have little respect for their profession amid an escalating educational culture war that has seen many districts and states pass policies and laws restricting what teachers can say about U.S. history, race, racism, gender and sexual orientation, as well as LGBTQ issues.

✔ “pandemic-induced teacher exhaustion”: Yes, definitely. We’ve been overworked for the past few years, trying to adjust to radical changes in instruction. It’s been ugly. The administration hasn’t been particularly helpful, either, happily passing down dictates and expecting us to implement them.

✔ “low pay”: My institution is one of the lowest paying in the University of Minnesota system, and it still rankles that shortly after the pandemic started, they convened a meeting to discuss how best and most equitably to reduce our pay further. Hey, everyone, you need to work harder, and by the way, we want to cut your salary, and have brought in a couple of economists to discuss it. Not the most sensitive move to make.

✔ “politicians and parents … have little respect for their profession”: You bet. That’s not just pandemic-induced, either — we’ve been watching Republicans whittle away at our budget for decades, and the latest accusations that we’re all post-modern neo-Marxists or trying to smuggle in CRT or encouraging sexual fluidity don’t help. That’s all true, of course, but what’s wrong with that?

✔ “laws restricting what teachers can say”: Not much of a problem for me (higher ed, again), and Minnesota has generally been good about that, but I can see it all coming down the road right now. Elect Ron DeSantis to the presidency, and I’m either going to be fired or lined up with my peers before a firing squad.

I have to add another, though: the cavalier attitude of our administrators to the pandemic. They don’t care. They don’t have to go into classrooms, they sit in their marble-lined offices and pretend the pandemic is over. Nothing has convinced me more that I’m regarded as nothing but a cog in the machine, expendable and easily replaced. Except that maybe I’m not going to be so easily replaced.

Since I am in higher ed, we’ll probably get 50-100 applications for my position the instant I retire.


  1. Oggie: Mathom says

    Another turn-off for future teachers is the number of public schools that use lesson plans which are provided by for-profit companies and the teacher must, under threat of dismissal, follow the lesson plan to the letter. No more teachers show hearing the students discussing creation mythology and deciding to scrap the planned lessons and teach mythology for a week or so. No more teachers hearing their students discussing where our ancestors came from (Anglo, Hispanic and Native American students) and deciding to scrap the planned lessons and cover immigration for the week. No more psychology teachers who, after being the victim of a harmless (though annoying) practical joke, decides to cover humour, especially humour hitting up and down the power curve. Just a few of the many examples I can give of teachers seizing a teachable moment. Something that is becoming rarer and rarer as lesson plans become less flexible.

  2. birgerjohansson says

    While omricon generally is milder, there is a bell-curve aspect to the intensity, and since omricon is among the most transmissible diseases to exist there will be plenty of victims that get seriously sick.
    If the administrators are proven assholes, teachers should get the hell out, rather than become the tail end of the probability curve.

  3. microraptor says

    Conservatives have succeeded in destroying the US medical system and the US education system. Can’t help but wonder what their next target will be.

  4. Oggie: Mathom says


    Conservatives have succeeded in destroying the US medical system and the US education system. Can’t help but wonder what their next target will be.


  5. Ted Lawry says

    @4,@5 medical system, educational system, political system. Sounds like we need to TAKE OUR COUNTRY BACK! Could be a slogan?

  6. whywhywhy says

    #6 We need to take our country forward. There are better solutions and ways of building a society than anything implemented in the past in the US.

  7. birgerjohansson says

    The destruction of the schools shape them in the manner of Russian schools: places to teach skills that are deemed useful by the rulers, while simultanously teaching servility to the authorities.
    No extra creativity, that would be dangerous.

  8. says

    During my years as a curriculum writer, my biggest frustration was how little control the teachers we worked with had over their own teaching. It’s hard to try something new in education if it has to be squeezed in during like three or four days right before or after massive standardized tests.

  9. bcw bcw says

    And of course, now the Supreme Court is requiring school tax money be diverted to private religious schools. Betsy DeVos and other rich bastards like Peter Thiel don’t want public funding of education – you only get what your family can afford to pay for.

  10. Deep Myth says

    I don’t have experience with public education. But these “Teacher Shortage” articles remind me of working in the tech sector. There would be a spate of “Tech Worker Shortage” articles, and then there would be a push to authorize more visas for foreign workers, and wages would go down (or stop going up).

  11. Kagehi says

    Of course, insanely, your 4th bullet point PZ is almost a “two-sidism”. After all, the right is trying to tell teachers they can’t talk about history, sex, or anything else they don’t like, while the “left” is, by gosh, “forcing them to not talk about Jesus, or how evilution is bad!”

    All I can do on this point is just sigh and face palm, but you know dang well that school boards, and probably a few teachers, though by no means a significant number over all, of them would be in the anti-left camp.

  12. silvrhalide says

    “Since I am in higher ed, we’ll probably get 50-100 applications for my position the instant I retire.”


    When you retire, your job will be done by three resentful unpaid grad students and one adjunct.
    Because that’s what your tenured faculty position will be turned into.

  13. littlejohn says

    My extremely smart, very well-educated wife recently quit teaching high school for a part-time job as a receptionist at an accounting firm. The receptionist job, which only requires a high school diploma and basic filing skills, pays better. She is also shown greater respect and decency.
    I think a central problem, which I don’t think was mentioned – at least not specifically – is the widespread notion that teaching is easy, requires no particular skills, and anyone can do it. And given the wide acceptance of home-schooling, absolutely anyone IS doing it.
    We don’t make these preposterous assumptions about airline pilots or even auto mechanics. I wonder if the stereotype of teachers as female has something to do with it.