When Did Teachers Become the Enemy?

by | Jun 3, 2022 | Politics | 2 comments

While we were told to wait for all the information to make a judgment about police actions in Uvalde, the police themselves were quick to share a (now disproven) story that the shooter gained access through a door propped open by a teacher. This attempt to blame a teacher for the public safety failures in Uvalde got a shocking amount of traction in the days that followed for something that was apparently wholesale fabricated. 

Whether it was covid or recent mass shootings, teachers have become the scapegoat for displaced anger. It ties to a long and ongoing narrative effort to undermine teachers and thereby public education. Just a few years ago, despite decades of effort from the right-wing to portray teachers as “union thugs” or worse, teachers continued to be one of the most trusted if undervalued public figures in American life. Across all demographics and ideologies people trusted teachers even when they were not happy with schools – now, like so much else there is a huge ideological divide in trust for teachers.

The pandemic and the frustration borne of it, created an opening that this long standing narrative from the right-wing to undercut teachers was only happy to fill. As teachers did what they always do – made the best with the resources available to them, they became the face of pandemic responses they too were adapting to as best they could. 

But maybe it’s time for reasonable people to take a step back and wonder that of all we’ve seen in the last two years, were teachers really the source of our problems? And now, in the wake of the latest tragedy, is it ok for a teacher to take the blame for a shooting over public safety officials – especially when the story wasn’t even true? There is a reason this was the knee-jerk response of local police looking to shirk blame, and there’s as troubling a reason it was able to get traction on social media.

Autocratic forces want to systematically undermine public institutions like our schools, that’s the reason they’ve vilified teachers as activists and now even predators. It will only escalate. It will do so, along every front of the culture wars as we’ve seen: it started with masks, it went to racial and LGBTQ+ issues, and now even mass shootings are teachers’ fault. It won’t stop until enough reasonable people stand up and say enough is enough. The person that spends most of their time educating our kids. The person that spends their own limited money on materials. The people who are in one of the highest risk of infection jobs during the pandemic. What are the forces portraying those people as the enemy seeking to gain in doing so?

Daniel Gilligan, PhD is President of Current NC Institute, a North Carolina based 501(c)3 dedicated to fighting disinformation and protecting voting rights.


  1. cocodog

    The turnover in the teaching profession can be attributed to several factors. Pay and benefits could be one. Teachers in NC are paid poorly as compared to their colleagues in other states. Problems created by the “Republican created charter” schools, where funds were taken away from real state schools an put into the pockets of charter school operators which resulted in the hiring of poorly trained and unlicensed administrators and teachers which are exempted from having to test how effective that teacher preformed resulted in kids being shoved back into the real public school after the charter failed years behind.

    Today, many teaching positions are held by “full time” substitutes not by choice but necessity.
    Teachers and administrators are asked to drive school buses, resulting long hours away from student planning and training to improve the learning process. It is a sad situation for school system that at one time was above average. All this is due to the personal greed of republican politicians who desire to throw business the way of a contributing charter school operator.

    Another factor is the loss of citizen staffed Board of Education for Charter Schools. Any attempt to bring members of community aboard looks more like a corporate stockholder meeting operated by the guy from corporate, rather than an elected individual from the local community.

    But this is how Republicans want the North Carolina Educational system to be.

  2. SuzieQue

    There are good and bad people in every occupation and in every walk of life. Some teachers are good. Some teachers are bad. When you generalize and stereotype anyone, you get the wrong answer.

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