Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Teaching School in the 21st Century: watching the demise of a profession?

Teaching is not a lost art, but the regard for it is a lost tradition. -- Jacques Barzun Teacher in
 America (Boston, 1945), p. 12.
Despite loud, sentimental declarations opportunistically promulgated, the situation Jacques Barzun apprised sixty-six years ago has not improved. Cheating, plagiarism, low class attendance and grade inflation are reported to be common in colleges. In some universities a professor’s winning an award for excellence in teaching presages failure to obtain tenure. After all, given all the administrivia a faculty member is expected to spend time on, he or she can’t be doing much research if that much energy is devoted to teaching!

Many private and parochial school teachers describe rampant cheating, plagiarism and drug usage easily on a par with what the general public imagines goes on in public schools. Parents care more about their kids’ grades than what they represent. School board members stand and salute whatever banner the most vehement ideologues in their community wave.

What informed person, of sound mind and good character would go into teaching anymore, given the widely accepted doctrine that teachers are the major, if not the sole cause for students’ failure? (Compare your job options with a self-survey. See Comparing Teaching to Other Occupations)

Who would pledge their Lives, their Fortunes, and their sacred Honor to work in many of the madhouses that are our schools and colleges? (See for example, Cannonfodder: Preparing Teachers for Public Schools )

What is the foundation of a rising career in education? In the very first course I took for my principal’s certification -- at a university of some “repute” -- I was told, “a principal’s first principle is CYA -- “Cover Your Assets.” God help the teachers and students under the leadership of such a “principled” person! (No doubt superintendents and their bosses observe the same maxim.)

In the good (?) old days before No Child Left Behind, K-12 public school teachers quit their jobs at a rate of 12-13% per year due to “working conditions.” Were it not for replacements from the ranks of the under-informed, the saintly, the gullible and the mislead (see Cannonfodder, above) the public school teacher population would disappear after five to six years! Are the incentives for entering the teaching profession -- at any level -- getting better?

 For references and to examine these issues further, see Who Controls Teachers’ Work?

--- EGR