28 August 2009

The Value We Place on Teaching

A recent article from the Christian Science Monitor highlights American attitudes towards their public education system. I take specific note of a few ideas the article discusses.

First, it should come as no surprise that similar assessments apply to Congressional representatives as they do local public schools. Americans are more likely to think their local school (representative) is fairly decent, but that the education system as a whole nationally (Congress) is not. So, the question then becomes, how do we fix a national problem that doesn't seem to exist locally? The education system must be driven locally and must be held accountable to improve and not just be, as the article says, good. If we are to have the high expectations of teachers and the education system, we can't let it off the hook with "good". It isn't good.

Second, an overwhelming majority of American support pay raises and bonuses for teachers. I agree. But, along with that comes accountability, which teacher's unions have fought for decades. As a result, you have issues like Memphis City Schools recently outlawing the practice of failing a student because it may affect their self-esteem. Education is an objective practice. Either you're learning or you're not. The only way to determine that is through objective testing, because you certainly can't do it through a rough guess at how a 3rd grader is "feeling". You can't survey the emotions of elementary schoolkids to determine a teacher's "merit".

I've always said that in a just society, its members would place the highest value on the occupations of doctors/healthcare professionals, teachers, law enforcement/fire protection, and military. But who do we place at the top? Celebrities, athletes, congresspeople, and anyone who is determined to be notorious enough for time on TV. In order for us to justify paying teachers more, they MUST be qualified to teach the subjects they are entrusted with. They too, must be able to pass proficiency tests in order to receive merit raises or bonuses - you know, money that serves as a reward for excellence or going beyond expectations... But a blanket statement of paying teachers more isn't enough. If we paid teachers high wages, the field would be vastly more competitive and the best and brightest would be chartered with teaching our children. But that isn't how it works today...

Third, asking for more money for education is a political winner. After all, who can argue AGAINST funding education? But therein lies the final fallacy... the money that IS allocated is not well spent. It isn't even close. It's why the Republicans suggest that money should go back to taxpayers in the form of vouchers to send their kids to any school. But this too, ignores the problem and would create far more problems than it would solve. They're wrong on this one. They should demand accountability and become the champion of education. It's low-hanging political fruit!

We have too much time and money invested in public education to let it fail. It's time to step up and address the problems like adults for the good of our children and the future. It's time to demand the accountability that should accompany an article such as this. If people are interested in paying teachers more, then it should not just be a feel good venture. Let's get people who know what they are doing and actually care. Pay them competitively and give them the freedom to actually teach to produce learning instead of teaching to produce test scores. And to those of you who are in education today... it's time to lead, follow, or get out of the way because this is a battle you are not currently winning.

Americans from all walks of life have ALWAYS valued education and virtually every generation expects the next to be better off. However, we are seeing that fall away and future generations are not doing better. We are regressing. So, the real question now is are we going to continue to pay lip service to education and teaching, or are we going to put our money where our mouth is and demand accountability and significant improvements in results from our students, who are led by teachers who truly earn the money they deserve?


Anonymous said...

I agree that teachers should be paid a fare wage and as with any employment raises an bonuses go to the better employees. Again I see unions stopping progress. It is the dues they collect from the workers that go to politicians to halt the growth an issue. Teachers I've spoken to, all agree. It's the lower level, less abled teachers that knowing do a poor job that pull the best down to theirs because they can not or will not bother themselves to teach.
That and I feel the educational system as a whole is almost useless, its more a blame game. Parents need to take a larger part in education, but if they do, they are told that they are interfering. If the parents try to disaplin(sorry) their kids, the schools step in and stop them, granted extreme abuse aside. They then interfere. So far i see daycare in schools, not health class. Phs Ed is all but vanished, 1 or 2 30 minute classes per week and poptarts an coke in machines. school days getting shorter per day and about 180 accual days per year. It's no wonder this generation is fat lazy and unfocused. :(
sorry for the misspellings. goes to show my IQ

August 28, 2009 7:49 AM

Word verification

Rusty said...

Well said, Johnz... The good news is that there are a lot of good teachers who know exactly what needs to be done and haven't completley given up just yet. The bigger problem is getting the politicians out of the way and the administrators fighting FOR the teachers and not AGAINST the curriculums that will produce results. Let GOOD teachers teach and remove those who can't.

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