I’ll admit that I have no Earthly idea what university professors in colleges of education do all day.

That said, it seems like they have an abundance of time to maintain a public presence and to campaign against school reform and charter schools through articles, blog posts, social media, and in-person speeches.

Earlier this year Richard Whitmire tweeted a story that started me thinking about these prolific profs who seem like full-time internet anti-reformers. He should have labeled the tweet with a trigger warning for people like me; people who have read one too many articles describing school reform as the deviltry of the uber-wealthy (while ignoring the students suffering from institutional racism and academic malpractice).

The tweet led to a story about Steve Zimmer’s campaign to keep his seat on the Los Angeles school board (spoiler: he has since lost that seat to Nick Melvoin).

Here’s the tweet.

I followed the link and, golly, it lead to another university professor who wrote yet another flip piece about the flagitious intent of school reformers.

Here’s the opening paragraph:

Some of America’s most powerful corporate plutocrats want to take over the Los Angeles school system and Steve Zimmer, a former teacher and feisty school board member, is in their way. So they’ve hired Nick Melvoin to get rid of him. No, he’s not a hired assassin like the kind on The Sopranos. He’s a lawyer who the billionaires picked to defeat Zimmer.

The piece is all cheap ad hominem, buzzwords, and yes, the 80 millionth referencing of Diane Ravtich’s well-written but dreadfully reasoned book “The Death and Life of the Great American School System.”

Somewhere there is an internet blog generator that scrambles the same words into different patterns so university professors can appear to be writing new articles. Push a button and it scrolls through “billionaire,” “billionaires,” “billionaires boys club,” “privatization,” “plutocrat,” “corporate,” “corporation,” “market-driven,” “Walton,” “Walmart,” “Broad,” “Gates,” and “hedge fund” until a Tweetable blog post emerges.

My question: what do professors do all day (besides blog, tweet, travel, and speak against school reform)?

Here’s what I imagine they do:

7:00 am – Yoga poses

7:05 am – Check Twitter notifications

8:00 am – Make coffee. Polish the leather elbow patch on cardigan.

8:15 am – Read the Ravitch blog.

9:30 am – Read Valerie Strauss.

10:30 am – Daily conference call with Randi and Lilly for blog ideas.

11:30 am – Start writing anti-reform piece.

11:31 am – Check to see if there are any new entries for “privatization” in the thesaurus.

11:32 am – Call IT, the Netscape browser is freezing again. Damn you Windows XP!

11:33 am – Insert Simon & Garfunkel for inspiration. James Taylor CD keeps skipping.

12:00 pm – Eat leftover Thai from last night.

1:30 pm – Watch teaching assistant teacher.

1:40 pm – Looks like teaching assistant has this covered. Time for mediation.

1:50 pm – Sit in mediation room. Pray to Linda Darling-Hammond or Gloria Ladson-Billings.

3:30 pm – Argue with colleagues about geopolitical problems using a gender studies lens.

7:30 pm – Home. Netflix documentaries, and weed.

It’s possible I’m wrong about this schedule. I’m not an expert. My network is full of professors, but I admit I know almost nothing about the execution of their work.

I, therefore, turn to an actual expert. Enter anthropologist John Ziker. He studied how professors at one University spent their time.

This is graph below reflects how Ziker’s studied professors allocate their time on each day of the week. It might slightly more accurate than what I said above:

And, here’s a breakdown of specific professorial practices by percentage of time.

Ok, I might have it all wrong.

It looks like these professors have a lot to do. That said, I wonder where they find all the time to rail against school reform.

Maybe a future study can reveal how much time they spend teaching and succeeding with actual students in actual classrooms.


Chris Stewart is the Chief Executive Officer of Education Post, a media project of the Results in Education Foundation. He is a lifelong activist and 20-year supporter of nonprofit and education-related causes. Stewart has served as the director of outreach and external affairs for Education Post, the executive director of the African American Leadership Forum (AALF), and an elected member of the Minneapolis Public Schools Board of Education.


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