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Well, it's eliminated all the woes of the law profession ... right?
January 11, 2013 7:07 AM   Subscribe

"Finland long ago decided to professionalize its teaching force to the point where teaching is now viewed on a par with other highly respected, learned professions like medicine and law. Today, only the best and brightest can and do become teachers: Just one in every 10 applicants are accepted to teacher preparation programs, which culminate in both an undergraduate degree and subject-specific Master's degree." Joel Klein argues that the US should follow Finland's lead and create, essentially, a bar exam for teachers, which would serve to professionalize them in the eyes of society and raise their societal value.
posted by barnacles (82 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite

 
The bar exam is a handy tagline for the proposed approach, but it's a little misleading. In fact, the Finland model does far more than just gate the teaching profession with a rigorous exam. From the article:
Just one in every 10 applicants are accepted to teacher preparation programs, which culminate in both an undergraduate degree and subject-specific Master's degree. Even after such selective admissions and competitive training, if there are graduates who are not deemed ready for the classroom, they will not get appointed to the system.
High quality education and competitive placement is the real driver here.
posted by monju_bosatsu at 7:15 AM on January 11, 2013 [5 favorites]


"where virtually anyone who graduates from college can become a teacher"

Bullshit. Getting a teaching certification is actually a huge pain in America, and in most states you have to take tests every few years to remain qualified.

You can have a PhD in nuclear physics with 100 publications and you are not qualified to teach in a US public school in any state.

Pay teachers more? Yes. Treat teachers with more respect, since it's a profession that requires nearly as any years of higher ed. as does being a doctor or lawyer? Sure.

I'm actually sympathetic to a lot of this, but that one phrase pretty much makes him one of the Michelle Rhee "reform" crowd who aren't about making schools better, but about shitting on teacher unions.
posted by bardic at 7:17 AM on January 11, 2013 [33 favorites]


It's facile, at best, to look to a small, largely homogenous, country, with a very different educational pedigree as a model for a nation like ours. Still, the "go- Finland" crowd is onto something [...]What explains this cross-national difference? It does not seem to be teacher pay. Although teacher salaries in Finland are slightly higher than the average salary there, they are comparable to teacher salaries in other European countries. And when adjusted for national price indices, they're lower than teacher salaries in the U.S.

Instead, the difference seems to be rooted directly in the relative professionalization of the position.


This kind of thing is pretty maddening, and it displays the worst kind of technocratic thinking. "Let's take this one factor, name it the most important factor, and adjust our system so that it ameliorates the power of that one factor. That will solve our problem, which was conveniently defined as 'not sufficiently ameliorating this problem we identified.'"

Teaching in Finland is different from teaching in America because the societies are different. Their ability to "professionalize" their teaching workforce is a consequence of that difference, not a cause of it.

Here's an exercise: What do these jobs share in common, aside from relatively low status: social work, providing legal services to indigent clients, homeless outreach, inner city teaching, needle exchange worker, sex worker outreach, providing government services to people in need?
posted by OmieWise at 7:22 AM on January 11, 2013 [6 favorites]


"where school teachers, along with professors, doctors and lawyers, are called "Sensei," a title that connotes earned respect"

Because there are no shitty and/or incompetent teachers in Japan.

Gawd, fuck this guy.
posted by bardic at 7:23 AM on January 11, 2013 [4 favorites]


It's more like a medical board exam, no?
posted by Mental Wimp at 7:24 AM on January 11, 2013


This sounds good on the surface but I think it misses the mark. As a county we have shifted from "teach the students" to "test the students," and now with the issue of teacher ability, Klein's proposal is "test the teachers" instead of teaching and training them. There is no silver bullet, and certainly not with testing... especially when so many teachers leave jobs within 5 years because of bureaucratic impediments.
posted by entropone at 7:24 AM on January 11, 2013


Rigorous entry requirements might be a good idea, but I fail to see how a standardized exam is the right barrier to entry for a skill based profession like teaching. Requiring prospective teachers to spend long periods of supervised time in the classroom (more like the clinical component of med school) seems to make a ton more sense than having a bar exam style test. Teachers do student teaching, but those programs are usually short in comparison to the kind of clinical education doctors get.

I also think there's a huge tension between this idea of reform and the need to lower class sizes. More teachers and better teachers are goals we can probably achieve simultaneously, but they're naturally in conflict so it's hard.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 7:26 AM on January 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


Well, the bar exam has certainly insured that we hold lawyers in high esteem in America.

The thing missing here is the degree of freedom teachers have in Finland. They are paid like professionals, but more importantly, they are treated like professionals. They are given a job to do (teach kids) and mostly left alone to do it. In the US, we are approaching the point where we will be handing teachers scripts and expecting them to follow the script word by word every day.
posted by COD at 7:30 AM on January 11, 2013 [24 favorites]


Just start paying teachers well enough that smart kids grow up wanting in no small numbers to be teachers. There are some, as it is, certainly. And many more who really care about kids, and I believe that. But honestly, I also know a lot of people who were just not the best and brightest who're teachers, and a lot of people who are, who wanted to teach, who don't.

I wanted to be an English teacher, for awhile, when I was growing up. And then I saw how the teachers in the family got treated by the administration, and how many hours they worked during the year, and how little they made, and when I got to college, I went into accounting.

You can't professionalize something with an entry-level salary of $30k/year. (And that's median in my state, and if you look at the districts that really need the best teachers? It's not even that.)
posted by gracedissolved at 7:32 AM on January 11, 2013 [11 favorites]


Teachers in Finland may be paid the same or less than their American counterparts, but you also have to factor in the massive benefits from a socialized welfare state. How much does an american teacher pay for healthcare, retirement, vacations, etc? For the same amount of pay, I know where I'd rather teach.
posted by blue_beetle at 7:33 AM on January 11, 2013 [7 favorites]


Teacher's Guide to the thought exercise:

This isn't an issue of pay, it's an issue of low status conferred by the groups that teachers work with. Inner city poor are never going to confer status on the people who work with them in the US, regardless of in what capacity that work is performed. There is a different problem in more rural areas where teachers are seen as introducing the problems of inner city poor to the pure minds of children.

You can't solve that status problem with this proposed solution because it is external to the profession, not inherent in it.
posted by OmieWise at 7:37 AM on January 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


The "bottom third" statistic might be slightly misleading - what they actually mean is that most teachers generally come from a sample set that tests in the bottom third on SAT/ACT tests. I really don't think that standardized testing scores are a good measure of intelligence, and I say this as somebody who has always tested in the top 1%.

That said, I've made no secret of my intense love for the Finnish education system. If I could, I would marry the Finnish educational system and have little knowledge-babies with it. However, I feel that this analysis is only part of the story. We need a free educational system, and we also need to have cutoffs to restrict which students are entitled to get that education, in order to ensure that burnouts and losers don't clutter the system. (This is also part of the Finnish model.)
posted by wolfdreams01 at 7:37 AM on January 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


Finland also has a 100% state-run educational system and they had to go through some difficult negotiations with the other public service unions in Finland to give teachers "special" status among government employees. This was not achieved without some bitterness on the part of other public employees who just because they don't happen to have a job with such high public profile don't get the pay or benefits awarded to teachers. It is not all joy and happiness in Finland over this arrangement.

Joel Klein argues that the US should follow Finland's lead and create,

Joel Klein should maybe visit Finland first. I mean this is a country of just over 5m people, comprised overwhelmingly of one ethnic group, about the size of New Jersey. The people are prosperous. There is no great level of poverty. Excellent public health service. Good roads. Lots of industry (and not just the moribund Nokia.) Stable, effective government. So nothing at all like New Jersey in other words.

How this tiny, Nordic country possibly serve as any example whatsoever for the United States escapes me entirely.
posted by three blind mice at 7:37 AM on January 11, 2013 [12 favorites]


We need a free educational system, and we also need to have cutoffs to restrict which students are entitled to get that education,...

This is one spot in which "that" and "which" cannot be interchanged without clearly changing the meaning of the sentence. And I would have used the word "which." Everyone is entitled to free education, but the education should be allocated based on aptitude for it.
posted by Mental Wimp at 7:44 AM on January 11, 2013


As someone who was once also called "sensei," let me say that it's actually a pretty low bar.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 7:46 AM on January 11, 2013 [4 favorites]


We need a free educational system, and we also need to have cutoffs to restrict which students are entitled to get that education, in order to ensure that burnouts and losers don't clutter the system. (This is also part of the Finnish model.)

On the other hand, I was, at one time, one of those "burnouts and losers" cluttering up the system, and look at me now- risen to the exalted rank of "sensei" in Japan!
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 7:51 AM on January 11, 2013 [8 favorites]


Partial solutions like this can't work. Your first step is to actually want public school students to become educated, successful members of society, which we don't. We want public school students to become criminals and failures, so as to justify our ongoing and extremely successful class warfare against them.

If you throw highly-qualified teachers at an "open" i.e. "competitive" i.e. exclusive and socially-stratified, education system that includes publicly-funded but private magnet schools, etc., then all of the most qualified teachers fill the top quartile of jobs leaving the mass of public education untouched. And not just untouched, but in fact worse off, because the creation of a pseudo-class of "professional" teachers, you provide further justification for defunding and ignoring the masses - they and their teachers "deserve" their poor treatment because they've "competed and lost". That's how it works.

One of the biggest reasons Finland's system works is because it's a completely closed system - there's just one school system, with one set of barriers to entry. That's just not possible in a country the size and composition of the U.S., at least not in today's political climate. What will happen in America is that, according to market-based principles of "freedom of contract" and "federalism", the existing stratification and sorting of people into superior and inferior classes will just be reproduced and reiterated under a new different ideological banner.
posted by facetious at 7:54 AM on January 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


From three blind mice: The people are prosperous. There is no great level of poverty. Excellent public health service. Good roads. Lots of industry ... stable effective government.

How this tiny, Nordic country possibly serve as any example whatsoever for the United States escapes me entirely.


You know the people are prosperous, there's not a lot of poverty, they have excellent public health, good roads, lots of industry and stable effective government because they have a good education system.

That's what the US should learn from them.

(if you were being sarcastic, I'm sorry I missed it).
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 7:55 AM on January 11, 2013 [4 favorites]


Everyone is entitled to free education, but the education should be allocated based on aptitude for it.

No, I meant exactly what I said - see the second link in my comment for details. "Free higher education for all" is an inspirational ideal, but it fails the reality check because there would be no way to pay for it.
posted by wolfdreams01 at 7:56 AM on January 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


We don't need to go to Finland to find schools that work. Many American students work terrifically well, and what they have in common is that the large majority of their students live with married parents who provide expectations, and impose discipline, upon their children. Education reform theory generally ignores, and in its more aggressive precincts actually seeks to destroy this with busing and housing schemes.
posted by MattD at 7:56 AM on January 11, 2013 [3 favorites]


If you're considering why teachers aren't respected to the degree that doctors and lawyers are, you need to first ask "Why are doctors and lawyers respected?" And it's not because they passed a test. When people look at doctors and lawyers, they think to themselves "I do not have the skills and training to do that." They can't cite case law or write a tricky contract, and they can't reel off the correct dosage for even common drugs, and they recognize that learning all of that would take them years.

But, by and large, they look at a teacher teaching a kid how to add 3 digit numbers, or discuss racism in To Kill a Mockingbird, and and they think "I can do that, this person just has more practice." And, as for the areas where most people know they couldn't be the teacher's equal: pedagogic theory, say, the general public really doesn't put much stock in them.

So, rightly or wrongly, they don't respect the teacher for having any special skill, and in issues of policy, feel utterly qualified to push their preferred methods and curriculum instead. That's at the heart of it -- the notion that they're about as qualified as the teacher. And, if you want to make a teacher as respected as a doctor or (for their skills) a lawyer, that perception is what has to be tackled.
posted by tyllwin at 8:00 AM on January 11, 2013 [21 favorites]


I don't understand arguments that point to our racial and geographic heterogeneity as evidence that creating a uniform educational system can't work in the U.S..

This seems to implicitly assume that racial and geographic cultural differences should have more influence on education than the needs of preparing all our citizens to be civically-minded citizens of the same country and competitive, competent individuals in an increasingly technologically oriented economy.

Not only does the lack of uniformity in American education currently create a mayhem of different educational standards, it creates redundancies for kids who change schools within the public school system. When I was growing up, I went to three elementary schools in the same state, and two different high schools, and each time I moved, I ended up repeating certain lessons because there was no uniformity of when certain subjects were taught even within the state. For example, I did a major unit on Huckleberry Finn three years in a row because I changed schools and every school I arrived at, it was their year for Huckleberry Finn!

Now imagine the same thing happening in science and math, and suddenly you have years of wasted education and redundancy.

I, for one, think we should have a national plan for what it taught in every grade to better prepare all our children to be informed and curious citizenry. And I think a single, national standard for our teachers would be awesome.
posted by whimsicalnymph at 8:03 AM on January 11, 2013 [5 favorites]


This irritating meme has been showing up in my Facebook feed for the past month. Sure Finland has a lot to teach Canada in the realm of education (and also fostering tech commercialization) but it would be really really helpful to hear from an actual Finnish teacher, Finnish parent, and Finnish student
posted by KokuRyu at 8:04 AM on January 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


So all I had to do for my teaching credential was get a BA, stay in school for another YEAR on top of that in my credential program (which, sorry, was NOT easy), and pay tuition while working as a teacher for a semester under the supervision of two other teachers. Oh, and pretty much never get into any legal trouble ever. I should note that I took a relatively quick route; other programs I know of have a full year of their apprenticeship ("student teaching") phase.

That's for a preliminary credential. After five years, I'm at a point where I cannot advance in salary without a master's that I cannot possibly afford as a substitute teacher.

This is, by the way, on top of constant ongoing education and training in my profession.

Were I to get hired in a regular spot, I would make less than $40k a year. Align that to how much I could make in another field with an equivalent level of rigor in career training.

Clearly, the problem with America's schools is that it's too easy to be a teacher.
posted by scaryblackdeath at 8:07 AM on January 11, 2013 [6 favorites]


Is the American education system really that bad for kids who aren't poor?
posted by leopard at 8:08 AM on January 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


What Americans Keep Ignoring About Finland's School Success.
posted by chunking express at 8:08 AM on January 11, 2013 [8 favorites]


The remark about respect for Japanese teachers is not far off by the way. Teachers in Japan (real teacher) enjoy, as all other civil servants, tremendous respect and influence. It would be interesting to see how Finnish teachers wield their status, because in Japan a teacher is essentially like an additional parent.
posted by KokuRyu at 8:11 AM on January 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


I don't understand arguments that point to our racial and geographic heterogeneity as evidence that creating a uniform educational system can't work in the U.S..

This seems to implicitly assume that racial and geographic cultural differences should have more influence on education than the needs of preparing all our citizens to be civically-minded citizens of the same country and competitive, competent individuals in an increasingly technologically oriented economy.


I think you misunderstand this argument. It is not that these things should influence how the educational system is set up, it's that they do. I think most everyone here would lament that. The problem is that the politics of social services (of which education definitely is seen as one, although it should not be) in the US is so severely fucked-up that these divisions play a much larger role than they should. That's why the linked article is so bone-headed. Sure, it would be great to introduce more professionalism and uniformity, but those things cost money that all kinds of constituencies (despite their rhetoric) object to paying. People assume some kids are just a drain on the system from the outset, rather than recognizing the system as a drain on the kids. People equate education with taxes (which is a fair equation), etc.
posted by OmieWise at 8:11 AM on January 11, 2013 [3 favorites]


Fill in the blank:

Practicing Doctor's average salary 5 years post graduation and qualification = ?
Practicing Lawyer's average salary 5 years post graduation and qualification = ?
Practicing Teacher's average salary 5 years post graduation and qualification = ?

The US is not Social Democrat Europe (as Scandinavia is).
posted by jannw at 8:12 AM on January 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


From chunking express's link:
Yet one of the most significant things Sahlberg said passed practically unnoticed. "Oh," he mentioned at one point, "and there are no private schools in Finland."

This notion may seem difficult for an American to digest, but it's true. Only a small number of independent schools exist in Finland, and even they are all publicly financed. None is allowed to charge tuition fees. There are no private universities, either. This means that practically every person in Finland attends public school, whether for pre-K or a Ph.D.

This is a pretty important point.
posted by jetlagaddict at 8:13 AM on January 11, 2013 [5 favorites]


When we talk about schools, we never hold the kids accountable, because they're just kids and they're faced with a wide variety of circumstances beyond their control. We never hold the parents accountable, because there's no way to legislate parents into being good parents. (And we never hold any political leaders accountable at all, 'cause that's just unAmerican.)

But the teachers? Somebody pays their salaries. And they have to report to people. So we scream at them and we hold them to ever-increasing standards, because they make up the sole factor in this whole aspect of society that can be controlled and litigated.

(Totally said this before on education threads on the blue. I'll likely say it again, too.)
posted by scaryblackdeath at 8:14 AM on January 11, 2013 [6 favorites]


Also, on that note of respect: the Monday after Sandy Hook, I had a meeting with a HS senior and his mother (and the VP, and the head of security). She had an accent I couldn't quite place. Son was an affluent, blue-eyed blond, mom had a darker complexion, so maybe she was step-mom... anyway, she said that when she came to America, she was quickly aghast at how students disrespected teachers.

The reason we were having the meeting? Yeah, her son had openly suggested (while I was subbing in his science class) that they murder their regular teacher. Again, about 72 hours after Sandy Hook.
posted by scaryblackdeath at 8:19 AM on January 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


I don't understand arguments that point to our racial and geographic heterogeneity as evidence that creating a uniform educational system can't work in the U.S..

Well, the evidence is basically that most countries with uniform educational systems are much smaller and much more homogenous than the US, and that many countries that are about as large and culturally heterogenous as the US also have many of the same problems. We'd probably be better looking to India or Brazil for solutions than Finland; it's pretty naive to simply assume that what they're doing in Finland will scale perfectly.

That said, because the US isn't a monolithic entity particularly with regards to education, there's no reason why a state within the US which happens to resemble Finland better than the country as a whole couldn't try to emulate it in some way.

I think there's a lot of danger in always looking for top-down, national solutions that we can somehow apply all at once. First, because solutions that can be applied that way rarely exist; second, if you do manage to find a potential one and it doesn't work, you've just wasted a staggering amount of effort and political capital; you're probably skunked on making any changes for a generation. This is something that we've seen more than once out of otherwise well-meaning large-scale reform efforts.
posted by Kadin2048 at 8:21 AM on January 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


I've likely ranted about this in other threads, but I'll do it again here - in the Canadian model (which I am sure shares some characteristics with American education), student learning is NOT the primary consideration of running a school or an education system.

Student learning is a nice-to-have. The most important thing is managing the school's budget. Why else does my son's school end at the completely insane time of 2:47 every day? Not 3PM. Not 2:45. At 2:47.

The reason is because the most important thing is making sure teachers work a set number of hours over the course of the year, in order to follow a collective agreement or contract of some kind.

Why does my son only have 15 minutes to eat lunch, before being kicked outside? Because there is no money to pay for teachers to supervise lunch. So, my son barely eats during the day, because 15 minutes is too short.

It's a stupid system, and kids learn and teachers teach in spite of it.
posted by KokuRyu at 8:21 AM on January 11, 2013 [4 favorites]


I don't understand arguments that point to our racial and geographic heterogeneity as evidence that creating a uniform educational system can't work in the U.S..

Racial heterogenity is a myth. However, socio-economic status is easier to quantify, and if you are living as a latch-key kid in a single-parent home with no books and no Internet, you will not do as well at school.
posted by KokuRyu at 8:23 AM on January 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


Is the American education system really that bad for kids who aren't poor?

Is it? I got a decent education in a public school. I graduated high school 15 years ago though. Even if it's not, if it's just urban schools in poor areas that are most affected by the plight of the American public education system, it must be fixed.

We can't just write off 16 million children living in poverty.
posted by IvoShandor at 8:27 AM on January 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


Is the American education system really that bad for kids who aren't poor?

No. This is all panic from both sides.

Yes, there is problem with the disparity of education outcomes, but in aggregate the US system of education is no different on a relative basis today compared to 50 years ago. We were suffering a "science crisis" in 1960. The right has been complaining about a phoney skills gap since the movement began. Every STEM person in the world thinks there aren't enough STEM students. Its all bullshit.


Trying to be "Finland" is attempting to address a problem that doesn't exist. The real issues are socio-economic and involve more effectively redistributing money and creating socio-economic diversity across all schools. Yes - Even if that involves busing and forced mergers of school districts. BTW - that's how homogeneity matters in the case of Finland. Not how they train their teachers, or how society values them.
posted by JPD at 8:31 AM on January 11, 2013 [5 favorites]


Don't try to solve a Macro problem with a Micro solution.
posted by JPD at 8:32 AM on January 11, 2013


The reason is because the most important thing is making sure teachers work a set number of hours over the course of the year, in order to follow a collective agreement or contract of some kind.

Teachers in any sort of system would presumably have some sort of contract, either collective or otherwise, that would include the number of hours they work. Unless you're suggesting that we do away with teacher contracts and just work them when we feel like it.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 8:35 AM on January 11, 2013


Teachers in any sort of system would presumably have some sort of contract, either collective or otherwise, that would include the number of hours they work. Unless you're suggesting that we do away with teacher contracts and just work them when we feel like it.

Don't change the subject. My point was that the education system is not primarily concerned with student learning outcomes.
posted by KokuRyu at 8:48 AM on January 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


Is the American education system really that bad for kids who aren't poor?

It depends on what you mean by "bad."

Many kids who are not poor have to take remedial courses when they start college. These are not all students who are poor, stupid, or unmotivated; these are students who, for some reason, didn't learn the basic skills that they were supposed to in high school. It's especially bad with math. Several of my friends didn't really understand things like fractions after finishing high school, and either never learned, or had to be tutored before continuing their education.

I had a brief stint in a private school, and the difference was astounding. I had previously attended a public high school that was considered above average. Once I started classes at this private school I realized how incredibly sub-par my high school had really been. When I had to go back to public school, and ended up in a below-average high school because my parents had moved, I dropped out very quickly. There was no opportunity for me to get an education there. I had one teacher who seemed to care, but the content he was teaching was far below grade level.

The teachers at this private school were equally or more qualified in the field that they were teaching, but less qualified with regards to teaching credentials. I really don't think the problem is that teachers aren't "professional" enough. The difference was mostly cultural and structural. Cultural, because most everybody wanted to be there, even th "troubled" kids, and structural, because there wasn't a huge bureaucracy designed to get in between the teachers and helping the students.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 8:51 AM on January 11, 2013 [3 favorites]


Is the American education system really that bad for kids who aren't poor?

I had assumed shitty public schools were the reason for much of America's general stupidness: reality TV, crappy cable news, lame political discourse, etc, etc.
posted by chunking express at 8:56 AM on January 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


The link between professionalism and respect or prestige isn’t very clear. Here’s the list of most prestigious careers according to Harris Poll in 2009: (Source: Harris Interactive, National Science Foundation)

Most Prestigious Occupations
• Firefighter (62% say “very great prestige”),
• Scientist (57%),
• Doctor (56%),
• Nurse (54%),
• Teacher (51%), and
• Military officer (51%).


Least Prestigious Occupations
• Real estate agent/broker (5%),
• Accountant (11%),
• Stock broker (13%),
• Actor (15%).

Also from the Harris Poll link:

Biggest Changes over Last 30 Years

The Harris Poll first asked this question, but with a shorter list of occupations, in 1977. The biggest change since then has been a 22 point increase from 29% to 51% in those who believe teachers have very great prestige.

Also, it’s not clear what people mean by saying something is a professional career. Here’s Andrew Gelman’s discussion on this: What’s “the definition of a professional career”?
posted by Jasper Friendly Bear at 8:57 AM on January 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


Don't change the subject. My point was that the education system is not primarily concerned with student learning outcomes.

You illustrated your point with a totally silly example that's basically unrelated to your topic. Yes, your kid's school gets out at a goofy time; maybe that's because they have to adhere to some contract (I honestly doubt that you're right on that, but whatever), but adhering to contracts that limit the number of hours teachers work is a feature of any educational system that doesn't rely on volunteers or slaves. A system that is totally dedicated to student learning will still employ teachers with contracts and those contracts might necessitate strange scheduling.

There's plenty of examples of student learning not being emphasized, but getting out at 2:47 isn't really one.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 9:00 AM on January 11, 2013 [3 favorites]


Many American students work terrifically well, and what they have in common is that the large majority of their students live with married parents who provide expectations, and impose discipline, upon their children.

So, MattD... we're deciding now who gets to be functional, educated adults based on the fact that they have good parents?

It's not that parental expectations and discipline (I'll leave marriage aside, just here) aren't good things on the whole, it's that they are things which are 100% outside the control of the children. The point of the educational system is the children. If the system cannot educate pretty much 100% of the children to their personal capability, even if their parents are crap, then the system is not working. The whole point of public education is to not leave children at the mercy of their parents. Great parents who are themselves educated could manage just fine without public schools. It's all the rest of the kids who need the help--and this has always been true, and it will always be true. There was no magic time in the past when everybody had perfect parents. Only times when everyone pretended that the kids with parents who were uneducated/mentally ill/substance abusers/any number of other things were just naturally "bad kids" and irredeemable.

I was not irredeemable.
posted by gracedissolved at 9:02 AM on January 11, 2013 [9 favorites]


And, if you want to make a teacher as respected as a doctor or (for their skills) a lawyer, that perception is what has to be tackled.

Is this really a problem nation-wide?
I mean, I know a million lawyer jokes. I even know a few doctor jokes, but not a single teacher joke.

As well, most parents I know will say (as they drop off their kids), 'Man, I have trouble with one kid, I can't imagine 30'.

Maybe I'm just missing out on a large undercurrent of tension or something, but in my experience, teaching is a solid, respectable profession.
posted by madajb at 9:06 AM on January 11, 2013


People like to blame teachers for things because the last time most of them had regular contact with teachers they were cognitively immature, and see their relationship with their teachers through the lens of their past empathy-starved intellectual incompetence.

Seriously, as soon as you are tempted to talk about how teachers did or didn't meet your needs and generalize them, remember that you were basically a self-centered fool drowning in your own cognitive biases.

A culture of respect for the teaching profession is above all, an antidote to this. The mania for quantifying teacher performance using business administration models is the formalization of foolishness, and in fact exists to undermine the authority of the profession. This is why, for example, Ontario introduced the College of Teachers, whose honorifics mean nothing to nobody. What they effectively do is steal teachers' power to represent themselves as labourers worthy of respect, and reduce them to people who get a pittance of recognition at the sufferance of the government. And the history of education in Ontario since then has followed suit.
posted by mobunited at 9:07 AM on January 11, 2013 [6 favorites]


a bar exam for teachers, which would serve to professionalize them in the eyes of society and raise their societal value.

Make teachers == to lawyers?

Considering I've had a lawyer actually forge an affidavit (fake signatures) in a case - why should teachers lower themselves to the level of a lawyer?
posted by rough ashlar at 9:08 AM on January 11, 2013


A system that is totally dedicated to student learning will still employ teachers with contracts and those contracts might necessitate strange scheduling.

I'm not sure where you have the silly idea that I'm advocating against contracts; you seem to have an axe to grind.

I'm not against contracts, but I am against contracts that make student learning outcomes as a secondary consideration. What is the purpose of having a school? This is not a rhetorical question, by the way. The purpose of having a school is not to employ teachers and administrators and tradesmen and manage a capital budget.

The purpose of having a school is to provide children with an education. Full stop. Everything should be interpreted through that lens.

Obviously teachers need to be treated as professionals. But stopping the school day at 2:47 is absurd, and just points out that education is not the primary focus of our education system.
posted by KokuRyu at 9:12 AM on January 11, 2013 [3 favorites]


Is this really a problem nation-wide?
I mean, I know a million lawyer jokes. I even know a few doctor jokes, but not a single teacher joke.


There's a serious underlying current/not-funny-joke that goes "those who can, do; those who can't, teach" that I have heard all too frequently, which has never related to anyone I have known that teaches.
posted by ndfine at 9:14 AM on January 11, 2013



Maybe I'm just missing out on a large undercurrent of tension or something, but in my experience, teaching is a solid, respectable profession.


I think a lot of people will talk a good talk about it being a solid, respectable profession, until reality intrudes. And then they schedule meetings to exempt their kid from the honor code, or they don't help with homework, or they blame their teacher as the "bad teacher," or they make snide comments about summers off, or they agree vociferously that teachers are just union slobs, or so for and so on. And what they teach their children is that teachers are fallible and bad, and that school rules can always be broken, and so there isn't an atmosphere of mutual respect.
posted by jetlagaddict at 9:16 AM on January 11, 2013 [4 favorites]


There's a serious underlying current/not-funny-joke that goes "those who can, do; those who can't, teach" that I have heard all too frequently, which has never related to anyone I have known that teaches.

You're right, I have, of course, heard that one, so I do know one teacher joke.
posted by madajb at 9:20 AM on January 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


I always wonder what would happen if, instead of raising the bar for entry to teaching, we lower it instead.

That's all.
posted by etc. at 9:31 AM on January 11, 2013


Here's the thing that I don't get.

I have a 6-year-old kid in 1st grade (public school) with Mrs. S., a tough-as-nails teacher who rules the class with an iron fist. But none of that matters compared to this: Mrs. S. taught my kid how to read. We humans are not bred to be readers; it's not something that our ancestors needed back in the Great Rift Valley. And I had been reading to the kid ever since infancy, and she knew some of the stories by heart (and so could "pretend" to read) but only Mrs. S. was able to get her to get the connection between the black marks on paper and the words of the story.

This, my friends, is nothing short of miraculous. I hear other parents complain about how tough Mrs. S. is, or how they don't like the lesson plans, and I always jump in and say, "Holy fucking shit, this woman taught my daughter to read. In three months, with 20 other kids."

Respect for teachers? I think they walk on water, and I tell everyone as often as I can.

(and yes, there are bad teachers, along with bad doctors and bad lawyers. But now that my girl can read, she is set for life. The rest of her education is just filling in the blanks. Because now she can read.)
posted by math at 9:33 AM on January 11, 2013 [6 favorites]


I'd go for something like this, expensive though it may be, but what will the unions say to this? My perception is that they're resistant to teacher aptitude measurement, but if it occurs before they're in the union, well, maybe they won't care. Also, I acknowledge that my perception is partly biased, but I'd like to hear from someone who would be willing to speak for a union or at least speculate knowledgeably as to what their position might be.
posted by Sunburnt at 9:38 AM on January 11, 2013


Getting a teaching certification is actually a huge pain in America

It may well be a pain, but it's not something that requires much academic ability. No one worries their way through a "pre-Education" degree desperately trying to keep their grades up high enough to qualify for the famed rigor of Education courses. If you're not flunking out of your major (and flunking pretty spectacularly) then there's absolutely no question that you'll both qualify for a teaching credential course and be capable of passing it. That is not to say that there aren't lots of teachers out there who would have been capable of passing a very rigorous and challenging credentialling course--but it is to say that the statement "this person is capable of earning a teaching credential" is very faint praise indeed.
posted by yoink at 9:46 AM on January 11, 2013 [5 favorites]


There's a serious underlying current/not-funny-joke that goes "those who can, do; those who can't, teach"

That's from George Bernard Shaw's Man and Superman--there's really nothing very new about our current disputes over education.
posted by yoink at 9:50 AM on January 11, 2013


We don't like lawyers because they're expensive, often elitist, they destroy wealth, and they can't promise an outcome you'll love. They also also have a codified their ethics rules, so any loophole they go through to cheat is still considered ethical.

If you prefer, why not talk about professional accountants. There is an ethics code and kind of bar exam for CPAs (Certified Public Accountants-- is this a USA thing?), and while not every accountant is, nor needs to be, a CPA, the CPAs are licensed professionals (in the states) who can be cast out of the guild for malpractice as easily as lawyers. (Which is to say, not too easily, but it can be done.)

Those two fields and medicine constitute the biggest three fields in which someone with knowledge and training is at an astonishing advantage over the average person, in a transaction which is confidential, often personal, and in which the average person is way over their head thanks to the complexity of the field in question and thus vulnerable to exploitation. That is why we make sure the pros are licensed, reviewed by the standards set by their peers, and have written codes of ethics.

Do teachers, too, enjoy that position of advantage over their students and their parents?

Arguably, yes.
posted by Sunburnt at 9:53 AM on January 11, 2013


Trying to be "Finland" is attempting to address a problem that doesn't exist. The real issues are socio-economic and involve more effectively redistributing money and creating socio-economic diversity across all schools. Yes - Even if that involves busing and forced mergers of school districts. BTW - that's how homogeneity matters in the case of Finland. Not how they train their teachers, or how society values them.

This exactly. But the root of the socio-economic problems is political. Imagine if US society had true "equality of opportunity," which is what a functioning public school system means: it would be tantamount to a revolution.

Now, turn that around: can you imagine the public school system as a fount of revolution?
posted by ennui.bz at 9:56 AM on January 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


Just for the sake of argument, maybe getting a teaching credential should NOT require as much academic ability as other professional or academic careers. As was pointed out earlier, sometimes those with the very highest aptitude for a subject are actually the worst at teaching it to a broad base of students at different levels of aptitude for that subject, unless they work very conscientiously to avoid projecting their own high aptitudes onto their students.

I think we've all had teachers of both stripes, and I know from personal experience how frustrating it can be to have a teacher who simply assumes the students will all "get it" with one, cursory presentation of the subject, and become impatient with those who don't (and moreover, don't know how to deal with the slower learners in a truly professional manner ).

I had a professor of undergraduate logic who told the class that, in his opinion, only those who had received a B or C in introductory logic ought to be teaching it, because only they truly understand what it's like to struggle with the subject. Maybe that's an overstatement, because conscientiously applied teaching methods (and a healthy dose of self-awareness) could allow even an ace academic to teach core classes well, but I do think there is some degree of truth to the notion that subject matter competence is only a necessary, not a sufficient, condition to being a good teacher at any level.

To coin a new phrase, "Those who can teach, should teach. Those who cannot teach, should not teach."
posted by JimInLoganSquare at 10:03 AM on January 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


What a wacky person to have this idea come from. Because his company's plans for success seem to assume a whole bunch more money being thrown at his company's special computers and software, which sound more likely to bog teachers down in managing the software and generating "big data" for managers to peruse, rather than spending time, well, teaching students.
posted by benito.strauss at 10:03 AM on January 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


The thing missing here is the degree of freedom teachers have in Finland. They are paid like professionals, but more importantly, they are treated like professionals. They are given a job to do (teach kids) and mostly left alone to do it.

Can they be fired if they screw it up? Because so long as teachers effectively can't be fired for incompetence because of union protections, they're not really professionals. Teachers in the US/Canada spend a lot of time talking about how they want to be treated like professionals (cheifly being paid more), and a lot less time talking about taking on the corresponding responsibilities.
posted by Dasein at 10:06 AM on January 11, 2013 [3 favorites]


They also also have a codified their ethics rules, so any loophole they go through to cheat is still considered ethical.

Sex with clients - not ok.
Taking money from clients - not ok.
Drugs from clients - not ok.

(go ahead - read your State annotated law-dog statutes. Some parts have pages of cases and others - not a case/not 1 case to give guidance as to what is not allowed.)
posted by rough ashlar at 10:09 AM on January 11, 2013


Is the American education system really that bad for kids who aren't poor?

Maybe not... but it is quite bad for the kids that are poor. That alone means it needs reforming.

From what I understand, school boards are funded on property taxes in many states(?). Of course that leads to inequality. In Ontario (which isn't perfect, of course), school boards are subject to a funding formula from the province based on enrolment and geographic and demographic factors - then whatever amount is not raised through local taxes is paid for directly by provincial tax revenue. Poor areas get the same amount (or more, lots of times, since they will have worse socioeconomic factors that go into grant modeling) as rich areas.
posted by barnoley at 10:15 AM on January 11, 2013


can you imagine the public school system as a fount of revolution?

bingo. you've just hit on the whole conservative plutocratic plan behind under / de-funding the educational system for the past 50 years.

/adjusts tinfoil hat
posted by lonefrontranger at 10:17 AM on January 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


Can they be fired if they screw it up?

In my experience in the software business, if a non-manager professional screws up, managers redirect resources to fix the problem as best as possible, for the sake of the companies reputation. Obviously people who repeatedly screw up are let go, but there was an understanding that things sometimes go wrong.

Can the teachers in the thread say how this compares to their situations?
posted by benito.strauss at 10:30 AM on January 11, 2013


One problem is defining what a "screwup" involves. In IT, there are well understood criteria that constitute a fuckup: if you commit obviously-broken code to a repository, that's bad. If you push something to production without testing it and it breaks, that's even worse. Do stuff like that too many times and you'll probably be fired, in most reasonably-competent organizations.

But what's the analogous situation for teachers? I know developers who have accidentally hosed entire customer environments, but not any teachers who have accidentally annihilated an entire school class. That would be a pretty clear-cut failure. Most "failing" teachers are probably analogous to mediocre developers, and there are certainly a lot of them around.

There are lots of other professions you wouldn't want managed like software development, either. An old joke: if cooking was treated like programming, every great chef would have several humorous anecdotes about how they fatally poisoned a bunch of customers early in their career, but it's really okay because they learned a lot from it.
posted by Kadin2048 at 11:24 AM on January 11, 2013 [3 favorites]


Okay, forget the phrase, "screw up." How about "are chronically incompetent"?
posted by Dasein at 11:28 AM on January 11, 2013


But what's the analogous situation for teachers?

That is the crux of the issue with education reform in the US. All the merit pay proposals and similar ideas are predicated on standardized testing of students. However, the fact that Johnny can't do Algebra may have nothing to do with the teacher. Johnny may have undiagnosded learning disabilities, he be may be homeless and coming to school after sleeping on a different couch or in a shelter, he may not have parental support to get homework done, or he may be hungry all day. These things can all have a negative effect in Johnny's ability to learn, and none of them are the teacher's fault.

Making the teachers pass a "bar exam" will not help any of that.
posted by COD at 11:31 AM on January 11, 2013 [3 favorites]


Joel Klein should maybe visit Finland first. I mean this is a country of just over 5m people, comprised overwhelmingly of one ethnic group, about the size of New Jersey. The people are prosperous. There is no great level of poverty. Excellent public health service. Good roads. Lots of industry (and not just the moribund Nokia.) Stable, effective government. So nothing at all like New Jersey in other words.

How this tiny, Nordic country possibly serve as any example whatsoever for the United States escapes me entirely.


All this success when the USA is wealthier? It pretty nicely serves as an example: Instead of "got mine, fuck you", allow government to address healthcare. Allow government to address poverty, etc. My observation coming here to the US is that people will never allow government to function properly (because socialism!!1!) but the example it serves is still plain as day - government works when people want it to and allow it to and maintain it with pride and/or care.
posted by anonymisc at 11:33 AM on January 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


an they be fired if they screw it up? Because so long as teachers effectively can't be fired for incompetence because of union protections, they're not really professionals.

I don't think being able to be fired for incompetence is the hallmark of professionalism. There are states where teachers can't collectively bargain (even more where they can't strike) and thus aren't protected by the teacher's union bogeymen. The teachers in those states are no more professional than teachers in states where it's allowed.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 11:37 AM on January 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


One thing I've often wondered about is why Finland's social safety net seems to never be brought up as part of the country's education spending. The kids there grow up with food and counseling provided when they need it, in homes where healthcare is never an issue, with parents who can form legally recognized couples no matter what their genders might be, generally without fear of physical violence, and so on.

So to say that Finland spends a certain amount of money on education is misleading when those other factors, which create more stable home lives for the students, are not also considered. I suspect that if you added their social spending into the mix, prorated according to some sensible scale, Finland spends way more per student than the US. And I also suspect that if most of the struggling students in America had access to better nutrition, more stable parents, were not exposed to violence at home and in other aspects of their lives, and so on, that they would perform much better in school. I tend to think those aspects dominate, though a close second in my mind is autonomy for teachers within their classrooms.
posted by jsturgill at 12:01 PM on January 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


bardic: Bullshit. Getting a teaching certification is actually a huge pain in America, and in most states you have to take tests every few years to remain qualified.

You can have a PhD in nuclear physics with 100 publications and you are not qualified to teach in a US public school in any state.
Not true in PA. You can teach with a college degree and passing a certification test, plus a licensing fee - the college degree is by far the hard part.
posted by IAmBroom at 12:08 PM on January 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm not quite sure that's accurate-- I believe you also need to have gone through "an approved program of study" which includes student teaching experience; out of state transfers need two years of classroom teaching. If you do that while doing an undergrad (my college offers this sort of as a minor, even though we didn't have an education program) it's substantially easier. Getting it after you've graduated, regardless of the number of advanced degrees you have, is much more difficult. (This is based on knowing a lot of teachers in PA, most of whom worked in private schools because of the expensive hassle of being certified, but my understanding could be off.)
posted by jetlagaddict at 12:19 PM on January 11, 2013


Is the American education system really that bad for kids who aren't poor?


It absolutely isn't. I teach at a school comprised mostly of 1%ers (or maybe 5%ers) with some "poor" kids mixed in (who live in $1,500/mo. apartments), and we basically don't worry about test scores because our kids score really well; as well or better than the private schools in the area if you compare just the rich kids.

All the medical and mental health services, all the good nutrition, all the support that our rich kids get because their parents can afford it, well, the schools in those utopian countries like Finland provide it for ALL of their students if they need it. The link between under-performing schools and poverty (and therefore ethnicity) in this country is so obvious to everyone in education, and is supported by tons of data, but you can't fix poverty without becoming communist nazis or something, so the teachers often get the blame.

I'll also say that I feel very appreciated by the parents at my school, and my district pays extremely well compared to other places, so I'm not worried about those particular things for myself. The way we treat teachers at poor schools and the families who are served by those schools is shameful, though.
posted by Huck500 at 12:33 PM on January 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


Wheee! From Chungking Express' link:
Since the 1980s, the main driver of Finnish education policy has been the idea that every child should have exactly the same opportunity to learn, regardless of family background, income, or geographic location. Education has been seen first and foremost not as a way to produce star performers, but as an instrument to even out social inequality.

In the Finnish view, as Sahlberg describes it, this means that schools should be healthy, safe environments for children. This starts with the basics. Finland offers all pupils free school meals, easy access to health care, psychological counseling, and individualized student guidance.

In fact, since academic excellence wasn't a particular priority on the Finnish to-do list, when Finland's students scored so high on the first PISA survey in 2001, many Finns thought the results must be a mistake. But subsequent PISA tests confirmed that Finland -- unlike, say, very similar countries such as Norway -- was producing academic excellence through its particular policy focus on equity.

That this point is almost always ignored or brushed aside in the U.S. seems especially poignant at the moment, after the financial crisis and Occupy Wall Street movement have brought the problems of inequality in America into such sharp focus. The chasm between those who can afford $35,000 in tuition per child per year -- or even just the price of a house in a good public school district -- and the other "99 percent" is painfully plain to see.
If a system is successful, you can't cherry pick one item from that system ("let's create a bar exam for teachers") and expect it solve a rainbow of problems. In fact, you probably shouldn't even expect it to solve any problem across the spectrum.

Hey! Anecdotal evidence! I teach at a private school (with a union). Most of us don't have teaching degrees. The last six "teachers of the year" at our school couldn't teach in a public school without an additional education degree. Yet, we send more kids to the colleges of their choice than the local public schools do. Its just as hard to fire bad teachers here. Our mean pay is somewhat below the public school average.

What we have is families (some one parent, some two parent) that can afford private school, teachers who are really passionate about education (and have a ton of freedom to teach the way they want to teach) and properly funded programs (the bulk of the money we take in goes directly back to the students' education, activities, etc). We're probably one of the top five schools in the state.

We're also all like "forget you" to standardized tests. Yeah, our kids take the SATs and PSATs, but that's not the educational focus. Thank God we don't have to administer the "No Child Gets Ahead" tests that our public school brethren have to do.

Also, we're treated with a great deal of respect by the parents and students alike. With no education degrees.

The other schools in our states top five each have WIDELY different ways of addressing issues. Some aren't unionized. Some require education degrees. Some are public. Some micromanage their teachers.

We can treat education like the blind men feeling the elephant parable and say "this is the problem! This will solve everything everywhere!" I suspect the reality is closer to "every school is different and has its own set of problems and acting like one solution is going to fix EVERYTHING AT LAST OMG is actually doing more harm than good."

But I also think that equity is a good place to start. Equity doesn't mean that we eliminate all differences, but making sure kids are fed and have physical and psychological health consultants and have the basic environment they need for education (which may vary from location to location) certainly levels out the paying field a bit. Hungry, unhealthy kids can't focus as well as healthy kids with a full belly. That won't solve all the problems, but it would probably help and surely couldn't hurt.
posted by Joey Michaels at 12:52 PM on January 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


jetlagaddict: I'm not quite sure that's accurate
I'm basing that on the word of a friend who went that path (engineer -> small test + license fee -> teacher in private school), and offered to recommend me as his replacement.

So, his experience might be outdated (10 yrs+), but that's what he told me.
posted by IAmBroom at 1:49 PM on January 11, 2013


From what I understand, school boards are funded on property taxes in many states(?). Of course that leads to inequality. In Ontario (which isn't perfect, of course), school boards are subject to a funding formula from the province based on enrolment and geographic and demographic factors - then whatever amount is not raised through local taxes is paid for directly by provincial tax revenue. Poor areas get the same amount (or more, lots of times, since they will have worse socioeconomic factors that go into grant modeling) as rich areas.

British Columbia also works on a per capita funding formula, and this funding is allocated to various school boards via the Ministry of Education. The individual school boards are responsible for allocating funds, and are responsible for setting a balanced budget.

At the same time, the school boards have to administer funding according to strict criteria set by the Ministry of Education, and the rules can change dramatically from year to year - in recent years school boards have been required to top up pension funds.

Plus, since enrollment determines per capita funding, funding can fluctuate from year to year.

In fact, the main problem in British Columbia (and this would probably be true for the rest of Canada) is that student enrollment has declined considerably since the year 2000. So, while per capita funding has increased, as has the total education budget, this increased spending either goes to salaries or operating costs such as heating.

It's a real challenge - even though a school may have fewer students, and thus, its funding gets reduced from year to year, it still costs the same to heat it and maintain it and staff it.

On top of all that, school boards, while staffed by technocrats, are led by elected apparatchik trustees, so ideology often drives funding decisions (inasmuch as school boards have the autonomy to make decisions).

Contracts are not negotiated at a school or even district level, but between the teachers union (in reality a federation of teacher associations that organize in each school district) and an employer's association. The employer's association is typically split between meat-eating ideologues and realists, so the provincial government has to step in, push the employers aside, and legislate a contract.

I would love to hear how the Finns avoid this dysfunctional mess, since Finland and BC have roughly the same population, and some of the same resources to work with (eg, trees, a large neighbour to the south).
posted by KokuRyu at 2:01 PM on January 11, 2013


I'm basing that on the word of a friend who went that path (engineer -> small test + license fee -> teacher in private school)

Ah yeah, private schools are completely different -- I thought you were addressing public school teachers, which have substantially more restrictions on licensing. This is clearly something that's a lot easier in Finland!
posted by jetlagaddict at 2:08 PM on January 11, 2013


an they be fired if they screw it up? Because so long as teachers effectively can't be fired for incompetence because of union protections, they're not really professionals.

Once again in British Columbia, we had a situation over the past half decade or so where the BCTF (the teacher's union) actually sat on the board of the registrar for teachers, the BC College of Teachers, kind of a grey area when it comes to conflict of interest.

Sort of like the Catholic church, teachers who engaged in questionable behaviour were disciplined behind closed doors, and, while various offenses were made public, anonymity was preserved, presumably because of privacy laws and the fact that the teacher was not convicted of any crime.

Practically speaking, the only metric for consistently evaluating teacher performance in British Columbia is student performance. I've been a teacher for ten years. Classrooms are wonderfully private places.

But since teachers enjoy great labour mobility, if things don't work out at one school, they can attempt to go to another school at the start of their next teaching contract.

This is not to say that teachers are bad or unprofessional - teachers are great!

But I had less oversight as a teacher than I do in my current job, where results are measured every month.
posted by KokuRyu at 2:09 PM on January 11, 2013


Most of my contact with the system that educates educators has been embarrassing, and I've had a lot of it from taking many education courses (including at the master's level) and being aghast at the lack of rigor and the poor quality of my classmates. I also went from grade 5-12 in a school with a relationship with a highly-regarded teacher's college, and our worst teachers by far were the people who were professors of education, sent down to Teach the Teachers how to Teach.

In many states the credential system is an almost purely economic barrier, taking time and money for tuition but little skill. Citing the fact that it takes an entire year (!!!) of post-graduate education as proof that it is equivalent to law school or medical school is embarrassing.

The mere suggestion that actual skill might be required of teachers or that teachers might not actually be perfect and wonderful beings made of pure light is, as usual, met with vitriol and numerous whines about how "kids are poor and their parents don't discipline them so they can't learn" (with the implied undercurrent of "they're black/hispanic") and it is shameful. Don't get me wrong, it is just as shameful that attempted reforms of education mostly come from people who wish to dismantle it and punish teachers for having the temerity to work for the government. But in one comment you'll have people decrying these kids' home life and then in another, someone who mentions--just mentions!--the fact that kids get out at 2:37 is excoriated and accused of treating teachers like slaves. The concept that kids with a poor home life might benefit from being, you know, not at home, doesn't seem to matter nearly as much as the fact that Sainted Teachers have been slandered by an extremely mild criticism. Again, embarrassing.

At this point, many teachers and teachers' unions in the US seem to have completely washed their hands of any responsibility to affect children's educations; nothing is their fault. If that were true, they would be the homeopathy of professions: no side effects, sure--because there are no effects at all. I don't buy it, and people who keep selling it should take a long look at themselves and the uncomfortable resemblance they bear to old-school race and class essentialists. At least they didn't bother to pretend to try to educate poor kids or black kids, taking a salary for educating them with one hand while completely washing the other hand of any and all responsibility.
posted by the young rope-rider at 3:06 PM on January 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


Good luck getting the two big teachers unions to agree to something like that. Oh sure they might do so with a caveat like 'but current teachers are exempt, and seniority rules still need to be in place, and automatic pay increases because living wage.
posted by 922257033c4a0f3cecdbd819a46d626999d1af4a at 3:38 PM on January 11, 2013


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