Public School Educators: Most Are a Sorry Lot

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Well, my tenure
with public education is through, and I would be a sorry libertarian
if I didn't reflect upon the state of affairs I've seen while teaching
seventh grade mathematics. As a disclaimer, credit is not without
due. There are heroes in our schools who deserve the tip of our
hat. They are talented individuals who enjoy their job and bring
countless smiles to the little faces that walk into their classroom.

Of course,
the dilemma is that any public school teacher reading those lines
will smile with an air of self-importance. Educators seem to naturally
scarf up any broad complements and outsource all criticisms. Indeed,
modesty is not a common trait within the classroom. The majority
of public school educators, within their mind, are Mr. Holland in
due of their Opus. They are benefactors, philanthropists, Gandhi's
of society. If for some reason you find yourself not going anywhere
for awhile, just inquire these individuals' opinions on education
or child philosophy, unwrap your Snickers, and listen to the sounds
of normatives spilling from their omniscient minds. The world is
their classroom! Never have you witnessed such an extensive array
of platitudes and head bobbing till you have taken seat at a public
school faculty meeting.   

They are a
sorry lot of saps for sure, yet, my arrogance aside, let me serve
some of my opinions of the mishaps within our school system.

Exposure,
not Mastery

Somewhere in
route, the field of education substituted quantity of classes for
quality of classes. Education has become a walkthrough, a cursory
glance at the subjects. Our leaders are obsessed with exposure,
not mastery. Students finish three or more years of high school
math with little to no retention. These individuals must then spend
the first few years of college paying for remedial math classes.
Certainly I'm not knocking the need for Algebra or Geometry; they
are vital subjects of study and many of the students who struggle
in college are the ones who possess the weakest quantitative skills.
Yet the solution is more mastery not more exposure.

It is my opinion
that merely an eighth-grade education of mathematics, in which the
student surveys and masters the basics of statistics, algebra, geometry
and arithmetic, would easily prepare a student for college liberal
arts mathematics; much more so then three years of additional high
school math given the average percentage of retention.  In
time, with this trend in rushing of exposure, our middle school
students will be dabbling in integrals and derivatives as they hear,
not learn calculus. It is quite an unfunny joke.  

The
Pretense of Knowledge

Yes, Hayek's
pretense of knowledge cannot be any more apparent then within our
nearly 100,000 publicly controlled schools throughout our nation.
Each school, with its vast arrays of diversity in geography, funding,
community, parent presence, academic ability, salary, etc., is governed
from the same men, wearing the same black suits, with the same American
flag pin. Each, from the comforts of their Mont Blanc pen
delegates what they believe to be priorities.  And the schools,
competing for that federal funding, practice the art form of bureaucratic
submission.

After years
of failed attempts these talking heads now believe they have found
the recipe for educational success.

  • Just sprinkle
    a little bit of emphasis on student proficiency

  • coupled
    with perks for those who show progress
  • add a pinch
    of math targeting.
  • Finally
    set some arbitrary pass rates
  • And… cook
    until burned!

What's
in an Age?

Age seems too
arbitrary of a characteristic to be the focal point of learning.
Again, what's with the ambiguity? If we’re simply going to choose
an arbitrary characteristic for clustering students, why not choose
hair color, IQ or height? At least if you clustered students based
on height you would probably have less bullying within the classroom.

Why not cluster
based on ability?     

Sure it may
be weird to have a 13-year-old learning 4th grade math,
but only because the 13-year-old believes he should be with other
13-year-olds. You may have a 4th grade math room with
a mixture of 6–13-year-olds, whereas a 13-year-old may feel
behind, but this same individual may be in an 11th
grade English room and feel they are advanced. It would certainly
require much restructure and the elimination of many of the educational
taboos — and certainly not without the "yeah, but what about…"
questions, but at least it would be a better system of deciphering
learning.   

Lower
(if not eliminate) all College Requirements for Teaching Primary
Education

You don't need
them to be a good teacher.  

Currently,
the average teacher maintains five years of education coupled with
a semester of student-teacher training. In addition, teachers must
continue their training efforts (be it through college classes,
workshops, lectures or book readings) in order to maintain their
teacher licensure. Imagine a replacement teacher with less required
educational barriers of entry to compare to our existing teacher.

To form a successful
teaching lesson, one that is characterized by student learning and
information retention takes a compilation of experience, training
and preparation time — of which experience is most significant.
Of the following mentioned, our replacement teacher falls short
in one category: training.

It may be contested
that a degree in education also contributes toward experience. Yet,
for those who have had the luxury of watching a newly inexperienced
educator fresh out of his or her program for the first time in the
classroom can attest, education degrees offer little in terms of
experience. 

In reality
teachers are overqualified given the nature of their work. It is
within all likelihood that individuals of lesser education may choose
to work year-round for the same pay or work the same hours for less
salary. Furthermore, given that the supply of potential teachers
would increase as barriers of entry decrease, it is also within
all likelihood that increased competition would translate into increased
learning.

In conclusion,
my tenure in the arena of public schools has convinced me that my
child can only receive an education from the walls of my own home.
Even a part-time home school education would set your child miles
apart from his peers.

July
2, 2010

Jeremiah
Dyke [send him mail]
is a math teacher who hails free markets and freedom of choice.

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