Education is the career field of my choice, and I can’t wait to get into the school system of the town/city I end up teaching in, and actually get to work with the kids, however the idea of working in a system that is so broken is a daunting one at the best of times. In an economy that is so beleaguered by a lack of jobs and an increase in the need of education to support a family, the base levels of education, that is our public schools k-12 must hold up their end of the bargain, which is to say, they have to actually educate their students.
There is a real issue in the education departments of our nation. New teachers are being laid off because of budget cuts, and tenured teachers get to keep their jobs despite the declining performance of our public schools. This policy of First In, Last Out, has been around for years and, while I can see its uses and the reasons the teachers unions want to keep it around, it is also building a lack of culpability into the teachers of America.
What the unions do not want is to have the school districts replace the experienced, tenured teachers – who usually have the higher salaries- with younger, more inexperienced, and ultimately cheaper teachers, simply to bridge budget shortfalls. I can see and understand this fear, and because of that I empathize with the unions wanting to keep this policy, however seniority can no longer be the first determining factor when it comes time for teacher lay-offs. Principals have no authority to hold teachers responsible for poor performance, and no system to actually make themselves aware of the problems as they arise. As a result of this lack of pressure from the top, the teachers who could care less about teaching and more about collecting their paycheck and building their pensions, are safe from harm when they under-perform. Now, don’t get me wrong, there are experienced teachers who love their job, and paired with the experience they have relating and educating students in the environments in question, they are obviously the best suited for these positions. However, when as I mentioned before, certain teachers who have less enthusiasm towards their students and their success, will continue to pass their students regardless of actual aptitude simply to give the impression of a job well done, we as a nation will be forced to settle with a substandard education for our children, and they, in turn, can expect a lower level of competitiveness in both the local and global job markets.
Also, it must be said that we live in a world where students are increasingly given only one chance of success, college. We have to realize that college is not the proper course for every person. Some of us are built to do well in an academic environment, while others excel in an environment that is more mechanical and physical in nature. By shipping a great deal of our manufacturing jobs overseas, and reducing the necessity for skilled labor, we have taken away most of the other options that the members of society who choose to not go down the path of higher education have for careers. We have become so focused on the idea that a university education is the only key to financial success, that we have eliminated one of the major strengths of the American economy, the middle class and it’s diversity.
So all in all, we are in an educational rut, however it is not a rut that we can not climb out of. Empowering our principals, reducing the focus on standardized test results and increasing the focus on actual aptitude, creating a system that makes teachers perform at a level that is acceptable in educating our students are all paths toward a better education for future generations, and more than that, a stronger and smarter America.
Words Have Teeth