My second career was elementary and high school teaching and elementary and high school principal. As such, ‘I have made my bones,’ and from intimate knowledge have earned the right to evaluate the system.
Politicians drone on about the deplorable state of American education and people like President Bush 41 ask the question “Is our children learning?”
The answer is NO! At least they are not graduating with knowledge and understanding of the world we live in and a factual chain of math and scientific cause and effect; and most of all they lack the ability to apply logic and reason.
There are numerous causes for the inability of our schools to effectively educate our children to a twenty-first century adequacy. The major problem is that our system is the product of politicians and radical (mostly religious) groups with special agendas.
The ‘whipping boy’ for this failure is always the teachers.
As an educator, no longer serving at the pleasure of an elected school board let me give a view from inside a system designed for failure.
Let’s first look at teachers. Most teachers are better educated than you local bank president. All have Bachelor Degrees and many have Masters and Doctorates. All have passed strenuous certification tests and are required to continue their education in order to recertify at specific intervals.
Teaching was historically a female occupation, and as such was never looked on as a ‘legitimate’ profession. That mind set has carried over to today where teaching is still not considered as professional, but instead viewed as advanced child care. Teachers are not paid salaries accurately reflecting their level of education and are not given the respect received by other professions with lesser requirements and less responsibilities.
Part of this image is the fault of teachers. How often have I heard teachers state that they teach because they love children. What bull shit! You might love lions and tigers but that doesn’t qualify you as an animal trainer. Teachers should demand professional respect. They should state that they teach because they have developed a unique ability to impart information and because they have special training and background on certain subject matter. They should support their unions that constantly try to elevate teaching to a respected profession.
Teachers constantly have an uphill battle. They preside over classrooms that are overcrowded; they deal with unnecessary discipline problems from unruly students - some that are potentially dangerous; they lack support from principals who serve at the pleasure of parent and special interest school boards; they are required to teach curriculum that is scattered and loosely connected.
Most teachers are good teachers. There are some special teachers that can go beyond and are able to encourage logic and critical thinking skills (this of course is not valued in the south.) There are, in fact, very few ‘bad’ teachers. Most ineffective teachers become dissatisfied with teaching and move on to other (and often more lucrative) fields. There are, however, struggling teachers in impossible situations. They are basically good teachers, who lack support from their administration, and eventually burn out. Realizing the futility of their situation they develop a survival attitude. They are products of a system that can not succeed.
As a retired school principal I can tell you with authority that the teacher’s main goal is the success of their students. Our teachers morn the fact that their students are matriculating with an incomplete education. They hate the fact that they have to teach to testing standards. They know that if given the authority and autonomy to set their curriculum to the special demographics of their students they would be able to effectively improve understanding and knowledge retention. They are, however, hobbled by outside influences of non-educators and a bureaucracy and a public that is not teacher friendly.
The teachers are not the problem with the education inadequacy – they are the solution.