Conservatives' Love of Police and Hate for Teachers Exposes an Embarrassing Hypocrisy

The conservative media is fond of offering solutions for "fixing" public education that they would never suggest for their local police department.
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Late last month a Virginia State Trooper was shot and killed in the line of duty. Unfortunately, rather than addressing this as the tragic and senseless event that it is, conservative media outlets like Fox News are attempting to paint this singular attack as an epidemic with headlines like "Va. trooper's killer reportedly hated cops, stoking new fears of anti-police climate." Police officers, like many other occupations, put their lives on the line on a daily basis, so the threat of death is nothing new for them; but for the conservative media, stoking fear has become a cottage industry.

Data show that the number of police officers killed in the line of duty is near historic lows. When taking into account population increase and the corresponding expansion of the police force in the US, the data show there has never been a safer time to be a police officer. In fact, you are more likely to die on the job if you work in the landscape or waste management industries. Beyond that, statistics show that targeted attacks on cops is nothing new with an average of 64 attacks per year between 1980 and 2014, with 2013 being the lowest over that 35 year span.

Despite this reality, the conservative media has spent the last few years attempting to set a new narrative to combat the outrage resulting from the 1,000 or so Americans that are killed by police every year. They claim that rhetoric surrounding some of the killings and the officers involved is putting police officers at risk.

The problem is that this stance seems very hypocritical when compared to how these same media outlets have handled the issues with other public sector jobs.

For example, over the past few years the conservative media have portrayed public school teachers as public enemy number one.

They claim that public school teachers make too much money; yet in many of the states that are used to illustrate this talking point, the police officers actually earn more, and they do so with lower education levels. It is estimated that only 25-30% of cops have four-year degrees. While the conservative media is happy to offer anecdotal evidence of individual teachers making well over $100,000 per year, you certainly won't hear them talking about the Boston police officer who took home $272,000 a few years back.

Another common complaint you'll hear from the conservative media is that it is impossible to fire bad teachers. Yet they ignore data from places like Philadelphia where an outside arbitrator reinstates 9 out of 10 officers fired by the police chief.

The conservative media is also very concerned that in some school districts former teachers or other individuals that are sympathetic to educators have been elected to the local school board, which means the teachers are negotiating their salary and benefits with a school board that includes some people that may not be completely impartial. Given that the vast majority of these board members have been elected by the community, it seems that the residents are not near as concerned about this issue. Having said that, if having a close relationship with the people in charge is an issue, then the conservative media should be outraged by the fact that police officers are practically immune from indictment, in part because of the cozy relationship they have with the prosecutor's office.

In addition to these double standards, the conservative media is fond of offering solutions for "fixing" public education that they would never suggest for their local police department. For instance, the conservative media loves the idea of paying teachers based on the results of their students, yet if you based police officer pay mainly on the amount of criminal activity that occurs in their precinct, there would be considerable push back. After all, how can you base the pay of all officers on the actions of others?

The conservative media also supports privatizing education because they believe the free market produces better results; however, no one seems to be talking about privatizing the police force to reduce crime or cut down on the number of unarmed citizens that are shot and killed. If the private sector is that superior, shouldn't we look at privatizing more public sector jobs than just teachers?

If an anti-police climate is a concern, then these hypocritical attacks on teachers should be an issue as well. Comments like those from Chris Christie, who called teachers unions "the single most destructive force in public education in America" that deserve a punch in the face, or John Kasich who would like to "break the back" of whiny teachers are clearly not establishing a pro-teacher climate. In fact, polls show that confidence in public education is near all-time lows and that rhetoric like this is clearly contributing. While these threats of violence might be in jest, it should be noted that the conservative media has created a climate of disrespect for teachers that has led to a record number of physical attacks on educators with over 200,000 attacks per year.

The reality is, the vast majority of police officers and teachers are good people who are great at what they do. Acting like one group can do no right while the other group can do no wrong is fantastic if your goal is fear mongering through misinformation, but it's probably the worst thing you can do if your goal is to be a fair and balanced news source.

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