Friday, April 19, 2013
I don't think about it very often, but I suppose this is my blog, and I'm free to write pretty much anything I want here. There are probably bounds of good taste and decency, but I doubt that I will cross them.
I wanted to share some thoughts about education. Disclosure: I'm not an education professional, although I did spend a year as a substitute for the Pasadena Unified School District. I went to school and my children went to school too. So I have thoughts. I'm puzzled that education and the work of teachers is such a big political issue. In so many other fields - public health, criminal justice, air traffic control, nuclear regulation, to name a few - the politicians and citizens trust the trained professionals to understand the work and recommend the policies. But it seems like everybody knows how teaching ought to be done. Probably because, like me, they went to school.
Then there is this pervasive opinion that teacher's unions are the cause of everything wrong with education - that teacher's unions want to protect the jobs of dangerously bad instructors. Seriously? How on earth is it in the best interests of the unions to protect the jobs of dangerously bad workers? Doesn't that drag the stock of the other workers down? And make their jobs much harder? It's true that contracts give teachers a certain amount of job security, but isn't job security generally a good thing? I wonder if the jobs of dangerously bad teachers aren't more likely to be protected by administrators who don't want to admit that they have dangerously bad teachers and deal with them. Consider this: Boy Scout leaders don't have unions.
I easily grasp why teachers wouldn't want to be evaluated based on students test scores. That would be like evaluating hair stylists on the basis of beauty pageant results. To be sure, their work is relevant to the results, but nowhere near the biggest factor. Yet I kind of like the idea of evaluating teachers somehow. It seems like good teachers ought to be recognized, and struggling teachers ought to be helped and corrected. Here's what I think. I think there should be security cameras and monitors in all the classrooms. Teachers might balk at first. I would. It would seem like an intrusion, but seriously, there aren't very many working people who spend 99 percent of their work day unsupervised. Administrators could actually watch the teachers teach under all conditions; they could see if the class was engaged and under control. The monitors would also lend some extra safety and security to schools. Intruders and other dangerous situations could be detected immediately, and appropriate assistance could be dispatched to classrooms.
I also think there ought to be a lot more art education. It has been shown that music and visual art education improves students' performance in all areas. Are history and geometry more important than than drawing and instrumental music? What do you think?