Don't make teachers the scapegoats
Schools catch society's problems. Breakdown of institutions shows here, decades of crumbling foundations. Our reaction? Find a scapegoat. We have targeted the teacher.
In Feb. 2010 the Central Falls, R.I., school superintendent and school board said they would fire all teachers by year's end. Supposedly, their version of combating student failure demands instructors agree to 24-hour workdays: eating with, tutoring, and giving students complete access to their homes, phone numbers and lives.
Mark Wilson, CEO of the Florida Chamber of Commerce, supports the bill just passed in the state Senate, basing teacher pay on student test scores and evaluations. From Wilson's market-based perspective, he writes: "The key to a student's success in the classroom is the quality of the teaching."
Teachers know that school superintendents, school boards, lawmakers, and business people sometimes promote ideas that only make sense outside the classroom. There are good and bad teachers; ditto that for all other human categories. In the trenches, brilliant lesson plans presented by engaged, bright, energetic instructors are daily sabotaged by an increasing number of unruly, apathetic, disrespectful students.
The No. 1 problem in the schools has been and remains lack of discipline. On-campus police, security devices and lockdowns attest to that. Yet, in school hallways students openly touch one another inappropriately. There are "rules" against it. Pants droop, displaying underwear, and tops flaunt cleavage. There are "rules" against it. How ludicrous that the Massachusetts school system, involved in the bullying leading to the January 2010 suicide of 15-year-old Phoebe Prince, needed a hired consultant to tell them: "The actions, or inactions, of some adults at the school are troublesome."
Parents and administrators handling these behavior outrages would be worth more than money to a good teacher. A cartoon in The Tampa Tribune on March 28 showed the Florida Legislature delivering a "you're fired" to a teacher while her pupil, flashing polka-dot underwear, writes on the board: "I don't kare abute skool. I'm gonna skip skool! I don't do homework! My parent don't care!"
Biblical advice is practical: "Train up a child in the way he should go" (Proverbs 22:6). Very early training is meant here. Unsolved problems beginning in the home get bumped from pre-school to elementary to middle to high school. Which teacher is accountable? If you're a high school teacher and know the 12th grader in your English class reads on first-grade level or not at all, what standard will judge your efforts?
If the law must police our campuses anyway, why don't we adults set some strict, boot camp standards, simplify curriculums, and get the basics on grade level? Good students would be grateful. Teachers deserve higher pay, but you will find most of them yelling, "Let me teach," not, "Show me the money." Hopefully, students will know we mean business before all good teachers are run into the wilderness with their predecessors, the ancient scapegoats who had to bear all of everyone's sins alone.
Finding truth requires the right starting point. That is the quest of this column. If you are a seeker of simple truth, we can find it together - side-by-side.