MYTHS about Teachers

For Immediate Release Nicholas DiSabatino



“Through a series of disarming essays, the three authors, each a distinguished educator, endeavor to reset the dialogue swirling around education reform…The format works well and provides powerful ammunition for concerned parents, educators, and legislators working to bring about true and beneficial school improvements.”


“A methodical dismantling of the coordinated tenets of the free market assault on public education…A valuable compendium of responses to the shallow, classist hostility to public education.”

                                                                                       Kirkus Reviews

In “You Can’t Fire the Bad Ones!” educators William Ayers, Crystal Laura, and Rick Ayers debunk persistent misconceptions about teachers, teachers’ unions, school “choice,” standardized tests, and charter schools, while challenging readers to reevaluate their assumptions about the role of public education.

“We turn to teachers to shatter the myths about teaching from the bottom up, and from the inside out,” the authors write.  All students, they argue, deserve a well-resourced and fully functioning school staffed by thoughtful, intellectually grounded, “morally awake,” well-rested, and well-paid teachers who know their students and are committed to their growth and well-being.

Ayers, Laura, and Ayers provide “reality checks” on the most pernicious myths about teachers and public education, including:

  • “You Can’t Fire the Bad Ones!”

The authors analyze the notorious “rubber rooms” of New York City, and note that only 0.0005 percent of teachers are moved there.  “Tenure doesn’t so much help teachers keep their jobs, as it protects a teacher’s freedom to do an excellent job,” the authors write. The uproar over tenure and “bad teachers” serves as a smokescreen that deflects attention from the crisis of not properly training new teachers.

  • Teacher Activists Are Troublemakers”

“Good teaching unsettles the questions and invites authentic inquiry. And yes, that has an activist edge,” Ayers, Laura, and Ayers write when rebuking this myth. Teachers who embrace activism are both insiders and outsiders, they argue. “They must cultivate a state of alertness in order to speak the unwelcome truth—as they understand it—to power,” they write.

  • “Teachers’ Unions Are the Biggest Obstacles to Improving Education Today”

The dominance of this myth has more to do with its frequent repetition and its ferocious messengers than with any real evidence whatsoever, the authors note. This myth encourages a split between teachers and families by falsely casting teachers in opposition to the interests of children and communities, when in reality these interests overlap.

  • “Teachers Are Made More Visible and Accountable in Charter Schools, More Competitive Through Voucher Programs, and Irrelevant with the Advent of Teacher-Proof Cyber Schools”

The call for “choice” gestures toward freedom and democracy, compelling core values for most Americans, the authors write. The problem is that schools are public institutions designed to educate all students, regardless of background or circumstance. Market choice has the same impact in education as it does in any other market—it creates a few winners alongside many losers, and it favors those with recourses, capital, and connections. “It’s becoming increasingly difficult for charter and voucher supporters to claim that these reforms are in the interest of poor, Black, or Latinx children, or to peddle the fraudulent notion that their work promotes civil rights—too many of us can document how their choice plans actually violate them.”

Additional myths and misconceptions addressed include “Anyone Can Be a Teacher,” “Good Teaching Is Entirely Color-Blind,” “Teachers Need to Focus Less on the Arts, More on STEM,” and “Teachers Have It Easy.”  The notion that education is a commodity adds nothing of value to how we understand public education’s role in our society, the authors write. This metaphor misunderstands how children learn, misreads teaching and how teaching actually works, and is often rechristened by politicians, philanthropists, and pundits as “student reform.” 

“Teachers must be experts and generalists, psychologists and social workers, judges and gurus, and paradoxically and important, they must become astute and attentive students of their students,” write the authors.

About the Authors: 

William Ayers was a distinguished Professor of Education and Senior University Scholar at the University of Illinois at Chicago (retired), member of the executive committee of the Faculty Senate, and founder of both the Small Schools Workshop and the Center for Youth and Society. Ayers has written extensively about education. He is the author of To Teach: The Journey of a Teacher and Teaching Toward Freedom: Moral Commitment and Ethical Action in the Classroom

Crystal Laura is an assistant professor of education at Chicago State University (CSU) and co-director of CSU’s Center of Urban Research and Education, where she provides training to Chicago Public Schools teachers. She is the author of Being Bad: My Baby Brother and the School-to-Prison Pipeline

Rick Ayers is an Associate Professor of Education at the University of San Francisco in the Urban Education and Social Justice cohort, and USF coordinator of the San Francisco Teacher Residency. He is the author of An Empty Seat in Class: Teaching and Learning After the Death of a Student; Great Books for High School Kids; and Teaching the Taboo: Courage and Imagination in the Classroom.

“You Can’t Fire the Bad Ones!”

And 18 Other Myths about Teachers, Teachers’ Unions, and Public Education


William Ayers, Crystal Laura, and Rick Ayers

January 16th, 2018


ISBN: 978-080703666-2/ E-ISBN: 978-080703667-9


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