America Prefers Teachers Who Offer Themselves as Tribute

As the coronavirus continues to take lives, the lives of teachers and school staff included, the good-educator-as-unflinching-martyr trope is being used to shame those of us who express concerns about IRL instruction. Last month, New York Times’ columnist David Brooks penned a screed that all but accused educators critical of their working conditions of laziness, stupidity, and cowardice.

Brooks seems to prefer stoic teachers ready to become ill and die and I imagine the columnist watching Stand and Deliver, nodding in approval at a scene set during a night school session. Escalante, who has taken on a second job as an English instructor, shuffles about a classroom, clutching at his chest while he leads adult students through a set of language drills. The students seem unaware of their teacher’s distress and Escalante excuses himself. Once he’s out of their sight, he loses his composure. He sweats and pants, wheezing as he struggles to make his way down a desolate flight of stairs. Crumpling to the floor, Escalante presses his face against the seemingly cold cement as he experiences a heart attack.

(I imagine Brooks leaping to his feet to give a standing ovation! “That’s the spirit!” he screams.)