So I’ve been blogging at Forbes and spending a lot of my time talking about teachers and how teachers are under a sustained ideological assault. However, one thing I will never blog about is how teachers should be teaching. My philosophy is pretty simple: nobody knows how to teach better than a teacher does. They are trained to teach by people who are often either teachers themselves or experts in the subject of teaching. And they learn from years of teaching in the trenches what outside observers could never learn reading education papers and analyzing test scores.
Education pundits, school reformers, and politicians all think they know what’s best for students and by extension what sort of pedagogy a teacher should adopt. Often, top-down reformers try to use ‘teacher-proof’ curriculums which enforce lockstep thinking and automated-teaching. I find this appalling. And even though I occasionally have an idea about how I’d like to see teaching done, or imagine how I would teach if I were a teacher, this sort of thing won’t show up at the blog. Let teachers teach, and let bloggers (and bureaucrats) talk about policies that allow teachers, parents, administrators, and students to weave together the best education experience possible.
A lot of that is going to be doing nothing, actually, or mostly nothing – or at least scaling back all this something that has been done. The years since Bush signed No Child Left Behind, and Arne Duncan followed up with Race to the Top, have not been marked by rapid educational gains and growing student achievements. Instead, they’ve been marred by anti-teacher uprisings, test-accountability zealotry, skewed test data, and a system of education pretty much turned on its head by people who have too much power and too much certainty in their good ideas.
Good intentions may sit at the root of all this reform, but that doesn’t change the direction the road they paved is headed. American public schools have served most Americans well. The problems in our system comes in areas of deep poverty, typically in impoverished inner cities, on Native American reservations, and in poor rural areas. You don’t remake an entire system from the top down due to the outliers, nor do you remake a system of education in order to compete with other countries. These are problems that need to be addressed, but not in the way we’ve been addressing them over the past decade.
Anyways, that’s what I’m trying to do at Forbes. I have a couple posts people might be interested in. First, I try to show why this chart, illustrating how horribly difficult it is to fire a ‘bad teacher’, is in fact very misleading.
Oh, and it turns out teachers aren’t overpaid babysitters. More like underpaid babysitters.
PS – I am not saying here that nobody should ever criticize teachers or that there isn’t a discussion to be had about good ways to teach or how to better identify bad teachers. What I am saying is that there is a lot of arrogance in the punditocracy and the political bureaucracy and that a lot of people think they’re a lot smarter than they are. A lot of them haven’t taught and don’t truly understand the difficulties teachers face. But I think teachers and other educators and people in the field should always be trying to find new and better ways to do things. It’s not like this wasn’t happening before the current reform craze, however. Teachers are often very involved in professional development and there’s always a debate going on about bets practices, curriculum, etc. Even school choice – done properly – could help contribute to this. Initially, charter schools were all about cooperatively working with their school districts to experiment with different teaching methods and team-teaching, and so forth. Nobody and certainly not me is suggesting that we can’t evaluate or discuss teachers. All I’m saying is that I’m not going to be blogging about how I think teachers should teach. Maybe I’ll shine a light on various ideas, but it’s not going to be something I editorialize on. Others are free to do so however they please. This is simply my own approach.