Not long ago I spoke at an “open house” for high school students who wanted to meet college professors and learn more about different career opportunities.
When relatively few students or their parents showed interest in elementary education, a father remarked that he understood the rejection of teaching as a profession and that he, too, was trying to convince his exceptionally bright daughter to think instead of a business career.
“Who in the world would want to be a teacher these days?” he asked. “All they get is poor treatment and constant blame when they can’t do magic and instantly bring kids up to grade level.”
He might be onto something, and I worry that if we continue placing so much blame on teachers for what is often beyond their control, we run the risk of turning off many of our best young people from careers in education.
And this we simply cannot afford to do.
So here's what I'm pretty sure is going to happen:It seems many lawmakers with no classroom experience, in state after state, are ratcheting up the rhetoric against teachers. There are calls by some to cut teaching positions, freeze or slash teacher salaries and eliminate tenure. But is it just to place the bulk of responsibility for student performance squarely on teachers’ shoulders when policy makers, politicians, teacher educators, parents, administrators, the public and students themselves all play a role? [emphasis mine]
Over the next few years, young people are going to decide that as much as they might have liked teaching, they just can't afford to do it. Sure, the pay was always low, but a few years ago at least there were decent benefits and a modest but stable pension.
And there was some small level of respect. You didn't get your name published in the paper if your kids' test scores weren't great. You didn't have governors swaggering around phony town halls calling you "greedy." People knew what you were doing was important. They had the manners to acknowledge that you may not have been making a lot of money, but you were making a difference.
Well, those days are over, and there's little incentive for anyone to enter the teacher profession - mostly because it's no longer a profession. In a profession, you have a say over your work, and get deference to your authority once you've earned it. That's not teaching in America any more.
So in 15, maybe 10, possibly 5 years, it's all going to go to hell. And then we're all going to turn to you:
Michelle Rhee, Bill Gates, Arne Duncan, Barack Obama, the entire Republican party, Chris Christie, Rick Scott, Scott Walker, Dannel Malloy, Rick Snyder, Bobby Jindal, Cory Booker, Mike Bloomberg, Rahmbo, Koch brothers, Waltons, Chris Cerf, Joel Klein, Rupert Murdoch, Mike Milken, Eli Broad, Whitney Tilson, David Tepper, Eric Hanushek, LA Times, and so many others that I could name...
... and ask you why the hell you destroyed the teaching profession.
You'd better damn well have a good answer.