Mind Matters

by Rev. Robert H. Tucker

Number 262
September 22, 1997

Whither (or Wither?) Education?



Breathes there a newspaper, ere so mild, that doesn't contain at least one weekly, if not daily, article detailing the terrible state of education in this country? What to do about low-performing students? What to do about low-performing teachers and administrators and school boards? What to do about low-performing schools? What to do about non-participating parents? What to do about a low tax-paying public?

The National Commission on Teaching and America's Future, according to the Houston Chronicle, stated the bad news: the current standards for training and hiring teachers are well below our nation's needs, and more than a quarter of those hired to teach each year lack even those minimal standards. The Commission's answer is a tightening of standards for teachers all along the line.

Not so, says Dr. Sizer, professor emeritus at Brown University and former dean of Harvard Graduate School of Education, who suggests, in The Christian Science Monitor, doing away with teacher certification (a teacher is to have a major in the field to be taught plus one year of courses in education). His core solution is to trust teachers to teach their students and to simplify schools in a way that frees teachers to do this.

Underemployment is, to my mind, a far worse social problem than unemployment (though not for those individuals unemployed). Not just in education but in most areas of our work life, people are seriously underutilized, and ingenuity, energy and enthusiasm are slowly sapped. Some teachers would not be able to handle expectations without a strict structure, but most would flower.

Having taught school for five years, I know the tendency is for a new rule to be put into effect each time something untoward happens. Over time these rules and regulations accumulate and work their oppressive and deadening power. Teachers are increasingly driven by rules and administrative directives rather than students' needs.

Two newspapers, two answers for the "unwept, unhonor'd, and unsung" teachers of our day. Dr. Sizer has my vote.


--Robert H. Tucker
22 September 1997

© Robert H. Tucker, 1997.
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