Posts Tagged ‘teacher strikes’

Our Failing Public Schools; Part I, Section 2: Teachers are easy targets for blame

March 30, 2012

Why are teachers easy targets? First, the many teaching unions are totally fragmented, and have no real political power. By nature, most teachers like to remain in their classroom or their department, and are not political activists. They prefer dealing with their students, who might actually listen to them, rather than politicians. Second, they don’t have much direct access to the media. Most news regarding teachers is about strikes, layoffs or declining test scores. Other than the occasional news story about a teacher of the year or a movie about a unique teacher who achieved fabulous results with their students, most of the time you hear about a teacher it’s because of sexual misconduct. When a teacher is caught doing such a terrible and reprehensible crime, they are fired and then imprisoned. When a politician is caught in such an act, the worst that happens is they may have to resign. In some cases, they get to go on being President.

One of those steps in qualifying a teacher is to require stringent tests that show subject matter proficiency; thus, the politicians show they are aware that teachers need to be very knowledgeable in their subject. Today’s teachers are also required to take more courses than before at the graduate level in order to receive their teaching credentials. Thus, they are better trained for the job than ever before. Next, several of the new classes (or a new program for currently credentialed teachers) are geared towards making teachers “culturally sensitive”, because teachers were clearly out of touch with the changing demographics inCalifornia, as well as five other states high in illegal immigrants. Finally, they shortened the time period for which a credential is good, from permanent to five years, during which time teachers must take even more continuing education to re-qualify.

Notice any common threads to all of these great solutions? Number one, not one of them costs the State one penny. The teacher must pay for every single additional qualification, as well as spending the time it takes to receive them. Number two, none of those solutions addresses any of the actual problems. If they did, then the system would be improving, not continuously declining.

Are teachers the main problem?

Why do I say “actual” problems; don’t I think teachers are one of the problems with the decline in the standards? Not really. In the first place, with all of those requirements in place for the past couple of decades, the quality of teachers must clearly have risen, as the credential program essentially requires a Master’s degree now, and many other adjunct prerequisites. In the second place, I have worked with a number of teachers for years now, six of those in low-performing school districts, and it is my personal observation that most teachers really are dedicated, qualified, and hard-working.

Are there teachers who are jaded, incompetent, too set in their ways, arrogant, and just plain bad teachers? Absolutely. However, given the results — or lack thereof — that legislators demonstrate, such as not even being able to agree on a budget for the state until a crisis situation has developed, I would say the average teacher is not only a lot more qualified for their job than the average politician, but a lot more effective. And very few teachers are able to base their job performance on either pork barrel projects or on kickbacks from influential contributors. And, be honest, what percentage of people do you know in your profession that you would say are not highly competent? Teachers have no monopoly on incompetence in their profession.

Nevertheless, as much of the rest of the world (i.e., politicians, students and parents) blame the decline of our educational system on teachers, I will spend some space on a discussion of them. If teachers aren’t the main problem, what are some of the problems they face in doing their jobs?

Next: Some of the problems teachers face in doing their jobs effectively