..said Henry Thoreau, “that is a profession which is full.” And, to finish the point of the previous post, it is a profession which is full of people who, through lack of much actual field experience in the very fields where they are seeking to exercise their benevolent intentions, don’t know what the hell they’re talking about. And to judge by recent developments, some of which I’ve already discussed, things don’t seem to be improving.
William Ayers (“Distinguished”) barely amounts to a boil on the butt of American education, but he is symptomatic of a bigger problem. As a rule, public classroom teachers are very poorly managed. Also, the academicians and think-tank thinkers, the politicians and policy makers –all the people who advise and control teachers– do so, with rare exception, at a comfortable remove from classroom reality. If they ever taught in the public schools at all, often they fled the classroom at the first opportunity. Faced with the prospect of a return to day-to-day teaching, these folks would abandon the field of education. In my experience, however, if they are expert at anything, they are expert at evading such a humiliating fate.
The defeats suffered by American education are routinely blamed on its teaching corps. Isn’t it time we looked at the generals, the people who are designing the grand strategy? How did they get to be generals anyway? What was the process? What are their qualifications? Not what they’ve said or studied or researched, what committees or boards they’ve been on, certainly not who they know or what family they’re from. What have they done? What are they doing?
And, of course, these same questions and concerns should be directed to other areas of society. A couple of them, having recently suffered rather spectacular failures, come to mind.
But returning to education: in recent conversations with former colleagues, I’m told they’re experiencing their usual level of frustration, to wit, inhumanely high. That said, if anybody ever asks me about going into teaching, I almost always reply: do it. If people are talking about getting out of teaching, I routinely advise: don’t. But I usually add this: if all you’re interested in is finding the shortest route to becoming an administrator or some sort of expert advisor or, worse yet, a “Distinguished Professor,” go talk to somebody else. Somebody who can clue you in on all the buzzwords and shibboleths, the solemn nods and secret handshakes that identify you as someone who, while not really interested in the daily grind of dealing with all those pesky and unpredictable kids, is very interested in”doing good.”