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In Praise of Veteran Teachers

Praise for public school teachers is rare these days, and when it comes at all it creates a troubling divide between rookie and veteran practitioners ("New, old teachers: It doesn't have to be 'us vs. them' " Los Angeles Times Jun. 22).

At first, I wasn't sure if what was happening was mere coincidence. But I think a case can be made that spotlighting the successes of the former while downplaying those of the latter is part of a deliberate campaign by reformers intent on operating schools like businesses. First, new teachers cost school districts substantially less in salaries. With stretched budgets, that's no small thing. Second, new teachers are far less likely to support teachers unions. That means less probability of strikes. Finally, new teachers bring unbridled idealism to the classroom. Their youth and inexperience make them easily manipulated by administrators, who take advantage of their dedication.

I submit that none of the above is good for students. Let's not forget that experience pays off. Whatever idealism is lost is more than made up for by wisdom. During my 28-year teaching career, I saw countless proposals made to improve educational quality. They were all accompanied by heavy hype. Most ultimately failed. I have no doubt that there are some veteran teachers who are burned out and should retire. But to brand all older teachers as deadwood is insulting.

Certainly, being open to new ideas to improve educational quality is important, but this attitude has to be balanced by the reality of the classroom. That's why I take my hat off to veteran teachers. I wish others would do the same.

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The opinions expressed in Walt Gardner's Reality Check are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.

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