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Analogy Watch: Teachers, Not Superintendents, at Front Line in Education

Pat Powers gets it wrong—I could fill pages with posts starting with those words. But what fun would that be?

Still, in his Joe Graves flog-prep, Powers throws up another fallacy in his discussion of whether the Mitchell school superintendent ought to run for the Legislature:

Teachers teach, but administrators are the ones who have to try to get the job done with the limited resources they’re given. Why not give someone on the front line a seat at the table? [Pat Powers, "Mitchell Daily Republic Discourages Public Service," Dakota War College, 2013.09.17]

Front line? If that analogy applies, and we're talking about the war against ignorance, superintendents are the generals, and teachers are the soldiers. Teachers are on the front line in education. Teachers get the job done.

If we apply the analogy to the war against education waged by our legislators, our teachers are on the front lines shoulder to shoulder with administrators. Teachers offer the front-line expertise on the direct impacts of policy on their classroom practice; administrators offer front-line expertise on the impacts of policy on their budgeting and management activities. (I commit my own fallacy here, assuming that the Legislature is willing to listen to expertise from our education professionals).

The idea that Superintendent Joe Graves sits in an office on the front line of education makes full sense only in a policy sense, not in the sense of directly and daily delivering value to children. And while the Mitchell Daily Republic doesn't go there, when we see how bad he is on policy, the Mitchell paper and the rest of us should discourage Graves from joining the front line at the Legislature.


  1. Donald Pay 2013.09.17

    Good administrators serve the students and the teachers. It shouldn't ever be the other way around.

  2. Owen Reitzel 2013.09.17

    PP I'm afraid as usual doesn't have a clue.
    I read the Mitchell Daily Republic's editorial and I have to agree with them that Graves (and really any superintendent) has to keep his full attention on his school district and not run for office. He's getting paid well to do his job and being gone for that length could hurt the district.
    Yes teachers have been in the legislature but there are many teachers and there is only one superintendent.

    Here's the editorial.

  3. grudznick 2013.09.17

    Bashing the general is what gets soldiers put in the brig. When the general says dig you say "what color?"

  4. John 2013.09.17

    DP is spot on. The duty of the superintendent is to serve the students and the teachers. Sometimes, rarely, that translates to holding individual students and / or teachers up to the duties and obligations of their positions or professions. Yet the majority of the effort and time is to provide coaching, training, resources, and enforcement of standards to improve the performance of both.

  5. twuecker 2013.09.17

    "Teachers teach," eh? Such insight from our blogospheric colleague ...

    I wonder what PP would say to applying his own question ("Why not give someone on the front line a seat at the table?") in a setting other than shilling for a political candidate.

    Using Cory's analysis, let's drum up a(nother) Mitchell teacher to run for the Legislature.

    Or, let's even grant that Graves is on the front line (for the sake of argument only). Why does it take getting elected to the Legislature to have a seat at the table in the first place? Couldn't the Legislature follow PP's call for bringing in the "front lines" and simply do a better job listening to the teachers, administrators, etc. that are already sharing their insights? The table on policy creation need not be closed to only those who cast the final vote.

  6. caheidelberger Post author | 2013.09.17

    Pat and the GOP certainly don't want front-line teachers and administrators at the table when those front-liners oppose the GOP'S policies.

  7. grudznick 2013.09.17

    Teachers should be following the lead of those smarter administrators who have been there before them. Supers are superior to teachers. Supers set direction. Supers are the generals. Rebelling against them is what gets front line sailors slapped down in chains below deck. Or run out of town on a rail. I'm just sayin...

  8. caheidelberger Post author | 2013.09.18

    The preceding comment is mindless drivel spoken by someone trying to goad me with affectation.

  9. Douglas Wiken 2013.09.18

    Latest salary info for Winner school system suggests that administrative expenses amount to $57 per student. That seems a bit inefficient to me. I suspect we have a lot more administrators than school systems actually need.

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