Those Who Can, Teach; Those Who Can't, Make Education Policy.
In any case, just two days ago a guest speaker came to my Foundations of Education class to talk about education policy, which she's been involved in for decades. Near the end of her talk, she mentioned that she never thought she could be a teacher, dealing with her two children being more than enough. This reminded me of something that's bugged me for a long time: Why are there so many people who have never been teachers who think they know the best way to run schools? It seems to me that a new saying is much more appropriate: "Those who can, teach; those who can't, make education policy."
|Michelle Rhee (source)|
One of the most infamous non-teacher policymakers in recent history is Michelle Rhee, former chancellor of District of Columbia Public Schools. She was a teacher for a grand total of three years, and apparently couldn't handle it, in one case even putting masking tape on her students' lips to keep them quiet, which bled when she pulled it off. (See here.) Later, somehow, she was selected to be DCPS dictator without any administrative experience, and began a spree of teacher persecution that spread throughout the country. Check out here, here and here for more information.
Well, what are the problems here? For one thing, I believe there are too few teachers going into politics and policymaking after they teach—maybe after 5-10 years of experience, or certainly after retirement. (Have you seen how old most of the politicians in the U.S. are?) I know that commitment may not sound very appealing to many teachers, but it's better than the status quo, which is to have more and more non-teachers dictating how schools are run. At Georgetown, it seems like there are an increasing number of students with a stated desire of getting into education, but not by being a teacher. Since when did that become a popular career path for young people to aspire to? It's like aspiring to handle medical insurance without having had a desire to treat the ill. I mean, some people have to do it, but what is their motivation?
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TFA from the Georgetown Voice.
I have a very simple idea when it comes to education policy: Allow teachers to have more autonomy, more power, and more voice in determining how best to educate their students. Reinvigorate the idea of having PTAs: Are those still around? It seems like no one talks about them anymore. Guarantee teachers a seat (or more) on every school board, and they can recuse themselves when it comes to setting salaries and benefits. In essence, we need people who can teach to pass the laws about teaching. We need our education agenda to be set by people who actually know how to educate.