Thursday, April 03, 2014

All "schools" of education should be closed -- immediately and permanently

My wife is a Spanish teacher, and a good one. Her students go on to success in high school, which surely is the only true measure of success for a junior high teacher, isn't it? Many of her students place out of Spanish I in high school; the ones who don't routinely report that they cruise through the introductory high school Spanish course, almost all getting A's. In other words, they were well-prepared.

Youngest Son wants to be a teacher. He's playing baseball at South Janesville College (the name I made up for his actual school) and majoring in history and education. He is one course shy of completing his history major. He wants to student teach in the fall of his senior year.

After he started school -- after he took C's in a couple of introductory education courses -- the education department at SJC decided to impose a 3.0 GPA requirement for student teaching. Youngest Son is a few tenths of a point short, although he has better than a B average in his history major. He was not grandfathered in. Yesterday, the education department allegedly considered his petition to student teach next fall -- as a senior. They turned him down. On the most bogus pretext, too: He "has a ways to go" he was told "in disciplinary content." Really? He's already passed the certification content exam for history and (remember?) he has exactly one course left to complete his history degree. And the kid is still a junior.

Now I will grant you that Youngest Son is no Einstein. He's a kid, like most kids, meaning that, when he's interested and engaged he does fine and when things are dull and boring he tunes out. He was apparently indifferent (that's a polite word, isn't it?) in several of his classes freshman year. He passed everything -- that much I know, since he was invited back. But, of course, thanks to Federal privacy laws I haven't seen one of his report cards -- ever. He's the fifth of our brood to go to college; I've never seen one report card from any of them. I got tired of asking the kids -- they'd tell me this grade was posted, or that one, but nothing beyond that. Somehow, though, privacy laws do not extend to tuition bills. Colleges send those to me.

Among the courses in which Younger Son floundered as a freshman were his introductory education courses. He was very discouraged. "Education classes are terrible," my wife -- the good teacher -- agreed. "They're pointless. But you have to get through them to get to the methods classes. That's when you find out whether you're cut out for teaching."

For those who may not know, "methods" classes involve getting up in front of a class and presenting lessons. Some folks have a knack for it -- my wife does, for example, and, judging by the glowing responses he's gotten so far, Youngest Son may have the knack as well.

And Youngest Son has grown up some in college, just like he's supposed to. He has his eyes on the future now, and he wants to graduate on time.

But "education" departments don't let kids graduate on time.

I'm not talking just about South Janesville College. Middle Son and Younger Daughter went to different schools in the Chicago area, both of these traditional teachers' colleges. Neither of them is a teacher -- Younger Daughter flirted with the idea for a semester until she took an introductory education course and was so repulsed she abandoned the notion -- but both of them have many friends who did pursue teaching degrees.

And they all got saddled with an extra semester. A ninth semester. Education majors 'walk' with their classmates at graduation -- but a lot of them don't get their diplomas until they return to student teach. Because education departments don't let many of their majors student teach until after they are supposed to have graduated.

And, of course, student teachers aren't really on campus -- and certainly not frequently. They teach in schools and their colleges get extra tuition.

This is a scam, a sin, a crime and a shame.

And -- pardon me -- but there are too many lazy, incompetent, stupid teachers out there for any education department at any school to claim that it is doing a good job.

Think of your own education. How many truly good, memorable teachers did you have? One? Two? I was lucky -- I can think of a half dozen without stretching -- including one teacher who saw promise in a tall, skinny kid who absolutely deserved the D he received in his introductory high school science class. That teacher decided I was bored, not stupid, and recommended me for the honors course in Chemistry and Physics (yes, I was the D student). Wonder of wonders, the teacher's recommendation was accepted and I started getting A's and B's. In the honors courses.

How about your kids? How many really good teachers have they had? How many times have your kids come back to you and said something like, "Thank goodness for Mrs. Smith! Without the foundation she provided, I never would have passed Trigonometry!"

We spend boatloads of money on public schools -- many of which are terrible, so terrible that responsible parents sacrifice their futures to send their kids to private schools. That are somewhat better. Sort of. Sometimes. (The 'best' schools in Chicago right now are probably a handful of public high schools -- e.g., North Side College Prep, Walter Payton College Prep, Jones College Prep, Whitney Young Magnet School -- but it's easier to bring explosives into the White House than it is to gain admission to one of these schools. They are that competitive.) But, on average, for normal people, people without über-clout, private schools are better in the City of Chicago -- and many Chicago suburbs -- than the publicly funded ones.

There are societal reasons that explain why so many schools fail, of course: Hunger, poverty, drugs, crime. But the poverty-stricken drug addicts of today were yesterday's public school students. Parents, or the lack thereof, may be the single most important factor in shaping the next generation (I think so, certainly) but teachers contribute to the success and failure of our offspring as well.

Meanwhile, American test scores are in free fall (professional educators' "solution"? eliminate testing!). American kids place well down the lists of achievement in math and science. In Europe, kids speak two and three languages without working up a sweat. But our kids are getting dumber here at home.

Years ago, my parents gave me a reprinted set of McGuffey Readers -- stuff they used to use to teach little kids. Compare these to the watered-down pap given to our little kids today. It's embarrassing.

No -- the problem with schools is not money. Money is being spent, but not wisely.

Let's get smart.

To begin with, let's close all the education departments and schools of education.

If someone wants to teach math, let him or her first become a mathematician. Then let him or her apprentice to a math teacher for a term -- a semester, perhaps. If he or she likes teaching, and if the kids prosper, and the senior teacher agrees -- voila! he or she is a math teacher. Oh sure, there will be many slugs and parasites that will have to age out of the school system; we can't fire them all. But even observing slugs and parasites has value: One learns what not to do. Maybe we'd need two or three terms, apprenticed to different senior teachers, to fairly evaluate a candidate's potential. But these apprentices should be paid -- not at a full teacher's pay, perhaps, but maybe half-pay. Because teaching is a knack, a skill -- a talent -- not a set of equations or theorems that can be reduced to writing and taught to any stiff off the street.

Long Suffering Spouse is encouraging Youngest Son to stick it out and suck it up and get certified. His baseball coach gave him the same advice. Get past these parasites and get the credential so you can get a job. I hope he will. I think he will. But no thanks at all to the 'education' department.

Tear it down.

Tear them all down.

1 comment:

Empress Bee (of the high sea) said...

i could not agree more curmy. it's a sin really. just toss more money at it. think back, i had books and notebooks and pencils and pens and protractors and the teachers had chalkboards and erasers. we learned. we did our homework. we can spell. we can make change. we can read. we can multiply, add, subtract and even divide. if we were bad we got it and nobody sued the teachers. i realize computers and such are necessary but so is making the kids behave and do their part too. not just tossing $$ at the problems.