Thursday, March 18, 2021

On Teachers and Our Education System

An Existential Threat to Our Society

When I was in college in the mid to late eighties, my buddies and I had a game we would play.  We would meet coeds, chat them up a bit, and then one of us would guess chemistry or accounting or whatever.  So we'd ask them, okay what is your major?  Needless to say, we were always wrong.

That is, we were always wrong...for the smart gals.  But we kept at it because we had so much fun with the dumb gals.  See, we had noticed a pattern.  After that, when we encountered Mitzy and started our chat, one of us would ask:  Are you an Education major or a X major?  I am going to withhold X; we'll come back to this.

Anyway, after a while, we quit asking it that way.  We'd just look at each other and one of us would ask:  So Mitzy, what's your major?  Invariably it was Education or X.  We'd look at each other knowingly and crack up.

I can only speak anecdotally on this.  This was one college, thirty-odd years ago.  But it is undeniable that at that time and in that place, the absolute worst students on campus were education majors.

When I look at what's going on in the education establishment today, I fear that it was not just our campus, and I doubt there's been much improvement over the years in the average education student.

University Education Departments are typically ranked as the least rigorous programs on campus.  They attract the least intelligent and least ambitious students.  And if you plan to work in some K-12 education leviathan, you expect a secure, comfortable job, for life.  So education attracts the least serious, most conformist, and the most risk-averse students.  Then the education programs offer these same underperforming students master's degrees and even PhDs.

Couple a lack of academic rigor with a master's degree and what do you get?  Undeserved smugness and complacency.  And I can think of no other profession that takes itself so seriously.  Teachers develop an exaggerated sense of self-worth.

For Christ's sake, in this country high school math is almost always taught by someone without a degree in, you know, math.  Why?  Ask any teacher.  They will smugly inform you that the pedagogy of math is more important than, well, math.  This is the thinking that leads to new initiatives like Common Core.  Since pedagogy is more important than the actual subject, the university Education Departments are forever churning out new pedagogical concepts and tools.  Like Common Core, much of this is quite inane.

Let me ask, does anyone really believe that today's Common Core students have higher math skills and competency than say your grandparent's generation?  The idea is absurd.  Here's another question:  Could it be that the people teaching math were not smart enough or disciplined enough to actually bother to get a degree in math?

So when I read serious journalism on education in this country, I am never surprised at how bad things are.  The US education system is populated with sciolistic people with subpar educations.  Of course they are going to be susceptible to the latest bien pensant orthodoxy.  They don't have the intellectual rigor and fortitude to resist it.  And in any case, the idea that these people should be leading a moral crusade, however misguided, is laughable.

Is it any wonder how US educators have reacted to Covid?  Their response has been nothing short of shameful.  The average grocery clerk has demonstrated more integrity.  In fact, to even compare teachers with grocery clerks today, does an incredible disservice to the clerks.  Look, this is not an outrageous statement.  Can anyone seriously take issue with it?

Okay, so what is X?  Well the X majors are not failing our children and society.  They may not be the smartest or most ambitious people, but they are in a profession that really does not require the smartest or most ambitious people.  So I am not going to deprecate them here.

I have no such compunction about teachers.  They have a vital role in our society and they are unworthy of it.  The Schools of Education are failing their students.  And in turn their students graduate and go on to fail ours.

It should be a national scandal.