The policy goal here is de-professionalizing teaching, establishing it once and for all as a short-term, entry-level technical job designed to attract a revolving door of "community-minded" candidates, who will work diligently for cheap, then get out because they can't support a family or buy a home on a teacher's salary.


The self-esteem egg comes before the integrity, courage and patriotism chicken, not to mention academic skills and knowledge. It's hard for students to build character and resilience when they have no self-concept. It's hard for them to learn, when they don't trust themselves or believe in their own capacity.


We have genuinely reached a tipping point, one where we're struggling to get young people to go into teaching as professional career (as opposed to two-year adventure before law school). Our state legislators are openly declaring that teaching is now a short-term technical job, not a career, and thus public school educators don't really need a stable state pension. That's not only a war on individual teachers, but a war on teaching itself.


There seems to be a social movement (or at least a book) suggesting that success in a professional career is not enough, that valedictorians are merely conformists, hard workers, even suck-ups, not the kinds of disruptive movers and shakers who change the world. But--should they be disrupters?


With ADHD, there's money to be made, books to be written, tests to be developed/normed/administered and data to be analyzed. It's the usual American approach to health: deal with the symptoms, not the causes. And make a buck while you're at it.


Can we trust policymakers to make beneficial decisions for schools? Can we rely on their deep understanding of the issues, their moral compass, their desire to craft policy for the common good?


Our statistics are striking. Over half the people in the United States are women. Over half. But the fact remains that half the population has little political voice nor is it enmeshed in a political structure that embodies the knowledge, skills, talents, and gifts of the feminine.


The unexamined national goal now seems to be a productive, compliant workforce, at the lowest cost, not an educated citizenry. Instead of building on our public education infrastructure, we talk about "failing schools," and bogus international testing data.


I told my students I had assessed their prowess as musicians, and tried to divide the groups evenly, so nobody would be in the "top" band--or left behind. Our job was to play well all the time, to live up to our potential as performers--not to be better than the other band. It took a while, but this policy eventually led to greater achievement, especially from students who did not start out at the top of the skills spectrum.


"Hillbilly Elegy" is impressive personal narrative--plaudits to Vance for his persistence--but hardly illustrative of poor habits and prospects of an entire region of the country. Nor does it illuminate any of the very real problems--crises, per the book's title-- facing working-class families in America today, beginning with the dangerous income gap between the haves and the have-nots that threatens the social order.


The opinions expressed in Teacher in a Strange Land 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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