Bad teachers

Jeff vonKaenel

I grew up in a little town in Ohio, Vermillion, about 50 miles from Cleveland. In the early 1960s, there was an extremely popular television show called the The Fugitive, loosely based on the true story of a Cleveland physician, Sam Sheppard, charged with murdering his wife.

One day, my brother and sisters were glued to the television set when my dad, who was also a doctor, walked by and told us that he knew Sheppard. We were stunned. Our dad knew the Fugitive. We, of course, asked him if he thought that Sheppard had killed his wife.

My dad paused. And then he said, “I do not know if he killed his wife, but he sure killed a lot of people on the operating table.” I don’t know which shocked us more: that our dad knew the Fugitive, or that the medical profession was standing by while doctors killed people on the operating table.

Doctors, lawyers, police and now bankers are known to protect their own. This brings me to teachers. Teachers, and in particular, teachers’ unions, who protect bad teachers.

I had some great teachers. Wonderful, dedicated human beings who meant so much to me. I will be forever grateful to them. But I also had some stinkers: teachers without a lesson plan who took too many breaks. Teachers who did not care whether there was any real learning going on.

As a student, it sucked. It sucked to spend a school year with a teacher who did not care or whose personal problems were overwhelming. The kids all knew it. It shocked me then, and it shocks me now that we let this go on.

My son went to C.K. McClatchy High School. He had some great teachers. Really great teachers. But when Sacramento High School closed, some of those teachers moved to McClatchy High. You can debate whether or not Sac High should have been closed, but I can tell you, some of those teachers should not have been teaching.

I support higher teacher salaries. I support raising our taxes to provide more income for education. But I do not support messing over our children because there is no effective way to fire a bad teacher.

It is easy to blame the administrators or the principals. They clearly deserve some blame. But I cannot support the idea that incompetent teachers should be able to keep their jobs any more than I believe that incompetent surgeons should be allowed to keep operating.

Just as I think doctors have a responsibility to police their own, so do teachers. If Sam Sheppard truly was a bad doctor, then his peers shouldn’t have let him continue to operate. And when a teacher can’t teach, they should be fired. I resent the fact that the California Teachers Union has put the rights of some bad teachers ahead of the right of our students to have a good education.

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About the Author

Jeff vonKaenel
Jeff vonKaenel is the president, CEO and majority owner of the News & Review newspapers in Sacramento, Chico and Reno.