May 30 2012

Hard Work Never Hurt Anyone…Including Students

Vicki E. Alger

Concord Review founder Will Fitzhugh has an interesting take on what he calls “Education Lite.” Compared to education in "Finland, where they accept only one of every ten applicants for teacher training, require those to earn a master’s degree in a (content) subject area, and then support them and trust them to do professional work, I have to agree...that our practices...are mistaken."

Fitzhugh explains that what began as a push to keep teaching “creative” has degenerated into an obsession with “fun,” which may help explain why so much time seems to be wasted in the classroom. Fitzhugh explains:

Too often, in my view, [creativity] is in the service of FUN, and “hands-on” (and brains-off?) activities to entertain students in an age-appropriate and “relevant” way, to make everyone feel good about themselves, no matter how little they know and how little academic competence they have achieved. …Where went the old view that “hard work never hurt anyone”? Is it the result of laying aside the time-honored authority and role of “The Old Battleaxe,” who represented to students the goals and hopes of the community, and whose academic expectations and standards were not only high, but remembered for years after graduation, usually with profound gratitude? Perhaps too many now seek to be a good friend to students instead? They should try to remember that friends don’t let friends drive drunk, and they don’t put FUN before a teacher’s job to take academic work seriously practically all the time.

Earlier this year the U.S. Department of Education launched the “Teachers Get R-E-S-P-E-C-T" campaign, which stands for Recognizing Educational Success, Professional Excellence and Collaborative Teaching. Its goal is “to work with educators in rebuilding the profession—and to elevate the teacher voice in shaping federal, state, and local education policy. Our larger goal is to make teaching not only America’s most important profession but America’s most respected profession.” Oddly enough, this was one of the express reasons for establishing a department of education…back in 1867.

Perhaps respect for teachers, like charity, should begin at home not with government mandates. Parents must be free to choose the teachers they believe are best for their children. That way, schools would have an incentive to hire the best ones and reward them handsomely for their success. Respect for the teaching profession also starts with schools of education and state credentialing policies. More stringent entrance requirements and training, along with rigorous diagnostics and teaching demonstrations would help.

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