Blame Teachers: The Emotional Reasons for Educational Reform (2015)

Steven P. Jones

Publisher Link

A volume in the series: Studies in the Philosophy of Education. Editor(s): John E. Petrovic, The University of Alabama.



There is a story going around about the public schools and the people who teach in them—a story about how awful our nation’s teachers are and why we should blame teachers for the poor state of our public schools. But is the story about teachers right or fair? Why do so many people point fingers at teachers and seem to resent them so much?

Blame Teachers: The Emotional Reasons for Educational Reform examines why many people blame teachers for what they understand to be the poor state of our schools. Blame comes easily to many people when they read about poor student performance and how “protected” teachers are by teachers’ unions and tenure policies. And with blame comes resentment, and with resentment comes demands for all kinds of educational reform—calls for more standardized testing, merit pay, charter schools, and all the rest. And we expect teachers to like and accept all the reforms being proposed.

Conceiving educational reform out of blame and resentment aimed at teachers does no good for teachers, students, or schools. Blame Teachers outlines many of the strange and unacceptable assumptions about teaching and the purposes of education contained in these educational reforms. Intended for teachers, teacher education students, policymakers and the larger public, Blame Teachers suggests much better and more productive conversations we can have with teachers—conversations much more likely to improve teaching and learning in classrooms. The book argues for conversations with teachers that don’t begin or end with blame and resentment.

In this lively, personal meditation on what it means to be a teacher, Steven Jones demonstrates how an emotional, unreasoned ‘blame game’ directed at teachers by educational reformers today is undercutting the future of the nation’s children. It is doing so by threatening to deprive them of teachers as contrasted with by‐the‐numbers technicians. Today’s reformers neglect the philosopher Spinoza’s time honored insight, that a person in the grip of emotion is “in human bondage” and simply cannot see the truth of things. Can educators themselves, in tandem with knowledgeable members of the public, transform the reformers’ dogmatic, harmful narrative about our teachers? Jones’ thoughtful study will surely help in this much‐needed effort.~ David T. Hansen, Weinberg Professor in the Historical and Philosophical Foundations of Education, Teachers College

Justifying Reforms and Changes to the Teaching Profession. Blame and Resentment. Blame, by Any Other Name. Those Who Can’t, Teach. Standards, Accountability, and the Value of Learning. Teachers: Guilty as Charged. Giving Students Good Reasons to Learn. Don’t Blame Teachers.