Last week’s column was about how to protect students and teachers from being murdered in our public schools — the only nation in the world where this is a recurring problem.
Today I address another problem: How to reform the “education” system that subjects our country’s 3.6 million public school teachers to idiotic demands that they take summer school classes in “education” to hold onto their teacher license, rather than doing something useful with their summers.
Such as traveling, learning a language, practicing art or music, dance, poetry or history, or just reading books in a shady hammock in their back yards, away from school administrators, school boards, school politics and powerful political morons who use our public schools, and their 49.5 million students, as whipping boys for their own personal advancement.
Virtually all 50 states require some sort of hand-me-down summer classes for teachers to keep their licenses. Taking a class at a profit-seeking “private college” is generally the easiest way to do this. I shall not name any of these shoddy chain schools, though you might want to look up “Corinthian Colleges” and $5.8 billion in student loan relief, or as I call it, scams.
I taught high school English, music and journalism for nine years, seven of them in Arizona. There, I had to take a summer school class in “education” every other year to keep my teacher’s license. All those classes were idiotic: eighth grade level.
Listen: After a college graduate survives three years of teaching in a public school, there is very little you can teach them about “classroom management,” “lesson plans” or how to run their show. Every good teacher develops his or her own style. Forcing them to go to six weeks of summer school at a profit-making private college does nothing but sour them on the profession — making them stay home in summer instead of having a life.
Teaching, at its base, is about communication: how to transfer facts — gleaned from human life and study — to youngsters. The joys and beauties and values and sadnesses of life: how to learn that at first hand — or, for a lot of it, at second hand—and learn how to deal with it.
I learned more about this in Mexican bars and in my own classrooms than I ever did in college.
Most good high school teachers got into teaching through love of their subject; they stay with it through love of the kids. That’s how I got into it.
(Elementary schoolteachers may be different. Maybe they fell in love with kids from day one; I don’t know; I never hung out with elementary schoolteachers.)
But I will tell you this: Mandatory “education” classes for accredited high school teachers are worse than useless. Look: I got a master’s degree in teaching (not education: teaching) from Northwestern University, not because I wanted to, but because Northwestern had booted up an innovative program through which I taught school for a year on the South Side of Chicago for half pay, and took classes at night in Evanston.
Chicago Public Schools loved it because me and my pals taught three classes a day — 60% of a full load — and the schools paid each of us half a salary. So the Chicago School District got a free class a year from each Northwestern student.
It was well worth it, to me. A professor would come and watch us teach about three times a year — if that — and offered us Helpful Hints about our style.
Public schools and teaching colleges should offer that to all first-year teachers, if they want to sign up for it. With the proviso that neither the teacher’s principals, superintendents or the school board would have access to the experts’ suggestions.