Challenging the Attacks on Educators and Education

Moral Injury and Professional Solidarity Thursday, October 25th

There has been a recent flurry of media reports about the national teacher shortage, but this problem is far more complex and longstanding than most reports explain. In our next USOS webinar series – Challenging the Latest Attacks on Education & Educators – we address the harsh and not-so-frequently publicized realities that exhaust our educators and force these most vital human resources out of the profession and from our public schools. The problems of moral injury, burnout, demoralization, and deprofessionalization – all of which are tied tightly to structural inequality and power – are among the themes we explore in this series. And, as always, we have asked a range of activists to share what we can do to challenge the misinformation and this latest series of attacks against our public schools. 

In the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, attacks on curriculum and Critical Race Theory, and book banning, teachers across the U.S. are still recovering from several of the most challenging years of their teaching career. Brianne Kramer, Clint Broadbent, and Denisha Jones’ study initially sought to identify rates of stress, burnout, and mental health amongst the teaching population, but they quickly uncovered much more. Our teachers are morally injured, and it has not simply stemmed from the pandemic and recent attacks on the profession. Moral injury is defined as a distressing psychological event that can occur when someone does something that violates their beliefs and goes against their moral expectations, creating feelings of guilt, shame, disgust, and anger (Shay, 2014). This concept has been more commonly used to discuss members of the armed forces and medical personnel. However, educational reforms and loss of autonomy have resulted in moral injury prior to the pandemic, and the uncertainties, constraints, and further loss of autonomy during and after the pandemic have increased these feelings of moral injury in teachers. Kramer, Broadbent, & Jones share the results of their research utilizing this definitional framework. Then, Cynthia McDermott and Jose A. Lovo share their story about The Progressive Teacher Network: a meeting place for practitioners to raise the level of discourse about the profession and provide support for each other. Through this network, they aim to change the messaging about teaching and teachers and to find kindred spirits with whom to share, question, rant, laugh, cry, and advance the network of progressive teachers.