By Jennifer L. Williams, Contributor, USDR.
Someone asked me the other day why I don’t teach in the public schools (K-12). I don’t have a teaching “license”, I replied. I don’t need one at the college level. So I am not “qualified”, after years of intensive study in my chosen field, to teach American History to high school students because I have not graduated from a College of Education. I have been teaching at the college level for 13 years so, of course, I don’t know anything about classroom or time management, or preparation of lessons. So…because I am missing that stellar qualification of a piece of paper, I am not qualified.
After taking the PhD route, I am still wondering WHY colleges and universities require this expensive, time-consuming and often irrelevant degree for tenure. I am still mystified how that piece of paper somehow makes me more qualified for a tenure-track position. Proof of tenacity? Showing off a skill set? Intense, focused knowledge in my field since my nose has been stuck in a book for four years (or however long it takes) rather than some practical application in the field
At a time when attending college, even for a bachelor’s degree, is becoming more and more expensive and attaining a higher degree almost out of reach (and giving up some financially productive years to attend more classes, write more papers and be someone’s teaching lackey), it still amazes me that all of the qualifications remain the same – highest terminal degree. Having that piece of paper does not make you a good teacher. It simply states you have managed to jump through the hoops of academia. As soaring college costs make the possibility of a higher degree as expensive as a mortgage, more and more students will say it is not worth it. So when you have a teacher shortage, as many places do for various reasons, how do you fill those positions when none of your candidates REALLY know how to teach?
As I scroll through the pages of open teaching positions in Ohio, I wonder how they will be filled. School culture and safety and security issues aside (although extremely relevant to the empty slots), how do schools recruit and KEEP GOOD teachers? This is one reason the government monopoly on education MUST be broken. Highly qualified individuals will not want to be bogged down in endless regulations and testing goals. Those state tests do nothing to measure true learning, only that the teacher has taught to the test. They are expensive and time-consuming products of government regulation, made worse by the imposition of federal guidelines ONLY for the money. If I am wrong, let a school administrator tell me they adopted Common Core or ANY federal education guidelines “for the children” – bull, I say. Admit it – you went for the money.
This is a good time to examine how the federal government controls our lives. Your public schools are one example of it. The entrenched hierarchy of administrators, bolstered by unions that will not allow schools to fire incompetent individuals, means that schools will simple continue to flounder, especially in areas where the culture does not support educational attainment. If there are no parents to care, the schools can then do and teach anything. They are not constrained by parents who will rise up and argue that what they seek to impose on their children is not a good idea. The indolence created by the government plantation means that both those who run it (unions) and those who abide by it (those who belong to the union) means no real change will ever be made to rescue the school culture, engage parents actively in the educational process, and truly educate our children. It is simply indoctrination at this point – tell me what I need to know for the exam. Pointless benchmarks and state testing standards only rate the success of the student to fully embrace the indoctrination. Few students are taught to think or question because many teachers do not want the orthodoxy questioned. If it is, teachers will simply invoke an insult to embarrass or harass a student to keep them quiet. Daily news stories are reported about students who are routinely berated for their expressions of faith, for example. For this simple reason, the government monopoly on the educational process must be shattered, not merely cracked or even broken. It needs to continue at the local level and move up to the state. Parents need to pull their children out of the public school system and home school or use good-quality private or charter schools. The message needs to be sent – for every child NOT in a public school on census day will mean less money for the system. If enough parents engage their brains and examine what is really being taught (we have found serious factual errors in our daughter’s textbooks, let alone AWFUL grammar and spelling), then public school systems around the country would be in serious financial trouble as their students leave in droves.
A piece of paper does not make you a teacher. Your 2.5 GPA, or even your 4.0 GPA, and graduation from an appropriate College of Education do not make you a teacher. Money does not solve the problems that ail our public schools. They require competition. Thrive or die. Stop being state nannies (or I will bite my Pop Tart into the shape of a gun) and start teaching. States should revise the license requirement. It really says nothing about the quality of the teaching, only that they’ve managed to complete the appropriate expensive graduate courses for recertification. Having written and taught teacher certification course, I know how this process works. Hire only the best, with or without a teaching license. If they can demonstrate excellent (not politically correct) knowledge in their field and show the ability to convey information, put them in the classroom and monitor their progress (without Teach for America). Let the principal and a teaching mentor decide, after a year, to keep a new hire. If they are abysmal, out the door they go. It’s too simple; so simple that it won’t happen. If teachers get it into their heads that they are “at will” employees and have no job security based on tenure or rank, then they will kick it up a notch. Nothing like a little competition to get the blood flowing and keep you on your toes.
So if you’ve ever wanted to teach, there may be hope yet. But we have to release the government grip on the educational process. We have to demand better teachers, better outcomes not based on testing standards, and quality instruction as free as possible from a political or social agenda. We have to demand more for our money than whiteboards and technology and new school buildings. Some of our best and brightest, our Founding Father and Mothers, never set foot in a classroom until they went to college. Even then, it was not what we think of college today. Yet they were intelligent, well read, inquisitive, and schooled in many subjects. Yes, they had their moments when they didn’t want to read or complete an assignment. But there were swift and immediate consequences if they did not. No, it wasn’t a perfect system, but it produced a better student for many reasons. We cannot and should not go back to that system in whole but there are parts of it that we can learn from. Our educational system needs improvement but until we break the elitist snobbery that only government knows best how to education our children, we will continue to produce a mass, mediocre, and largely ignorant population who only know indoctrination, not education.
Jennifer Williams is adjunct faculty in American History at Ashland (OH) University and the American Public University System. She is also the teaching chef for the New Day Family Resource Center in Sandusky, Ohio. Her interests are photography and curling. She lives with her family in Norwalk, Ohio.