Monday, March 28, 2011

Teacher Status

This Times discussion of teacher status is kind of ridiculous, since it asks how to raise the status of teachers in this country, aside from a pay increase.

Oh, in this status-conscious, class-based society, we'll just sweep that gigantic elephant in the room under a very tiny rug.

So the conversation is kind of a non-starter given that the way to attract top talent is to pay them accordingly and no one wants to pay the necessary taxes to compensate teachers in a way that would make the field competitive with the corporate world.

Even outside of this absurdity, the conversation kind of spins its wheels. I think teacher Vern Williams says it best:

I really doubt that it is possible to raise the status of teachers and teaching in the U.S. considering the major stake holders currently involved in K through 12 education. I understand why students in the top third academically refuse to become teachers, while in Finland, Singapore and South Korea, teaching candidates are selected only from the top third.

Absolutely. And when the response of the Republican Party is to attack the one institution making teachers lives less than hell--their unions--and when they and other education "reformers" want to tie pay to teaching scores, meaning that no one in their right mind or with any interest in a long-term career will teach low-income, high-risk students because they'll probably get fired in 2 years, it's pretty hard to imagine that this situation is going to change anytime soon.

Moreover, I am far from convinced that our schools are broken, or at least any more broken than they were 10 or 30 years ago. I think this is a meme that has infused our discourse, but I strongly dispute that our students are less prepared for their lives than I was in 1992 or my parents were in the 1960s. The poor are not given equal opportunity--nor were they in the past. We don't necessarily excel in math and science--which was a huge issue in the 1950s as well. If anything, the responses to this supposed crisis like Don't Ask, Don't Tell, have created a real crisis out of what was merely systemic problems in American society reflected but not caused by the education system.