I'm Just Sayin' - Do we need to consider a new paradigm regarding education?Recently, while in Chicago, I had a chance to observe the teachers strike against the Chicago Public School District. It caused me to observe and think about what was going on and how it has come to this.
By: DuWayne Paul, Echo Press columnist, Alexandria Echo Press
Recently, while in Chicago, I had a chance to observe the teachers strike against the Chicago Public School District. It caused me to observe and think about what was going on and how it has come to this. On most of the busy street corners of the central Chicago area, there were at least 50 teachers, and sometimes more, carrying signs in support of the union and the strike. As people drove by, they either honked their horn in support or signaled the universal display of discontent with a single digit from either hand.
I watched this and wondered, how has it come to this? Both sides of the issue say they want to do what is best for students. Both sides have drawn a line-in-the-sand over benefits versus costs. Both sides view the other side as something akin to an “enemy.” Is this really the future face of education in America?
We’ve all heard the arguments from both sides. School districts and administrators have a budget to live by that is supported by taxpayers. They are put in the unenviable position of asking for more funding from the taxpayers and usually get a lot of heat when school levies go up. On the other hand, what is causing the teachers and their unions—in some cases, not all—to be a bit militant about their position?
With all the pressures teachers and school personnel face, is it any wonder they feel nobody is listening to them and their concerns? Not only do we demand that they educate the future generations of this country, but we also expect them to be quasi day care providers, disciplinarians, family counselors, and mentors when our children are in need of a friend. I can imagine how very frustrating it is for a teacher to sit through parent-teacher conferences and some parents don’t show up.
With the underlying expectations of teachers, a union to speak on their behalf might be viewed as their best course of action. But, does it have to be adversarial?
According to the National Center on Education and the Economy, many countries around the world are educating their students with far superior results than are being achieved by the U.S. These countries have strong teacher unions, yet they have a good, cooperative, working relationship with local governments and school boards. Isn’t that what we should try to achieve here? Taxpayers should expect well educated and highly trained teachers along with school administrators that work hand in hand with teachers and unions to achieve the goal. So what is the difference?
As noted by the agency named above, the difference comes in how teachers are viewed by the public, by the government, and by their place in the economy. Teachers in these countries face very stiff standards and requirements to even become a teacher. Qualifications to get into a teacher education program are similar to an engineering school. Only 1 in 10 applicants are accepted in a teacher program.
The net result is highly qualified teachers who are paid commensurately, along with having measures of performance and accountability standards. There is little need to worry about weeding out poor teachers, because the standards are so stringent that only highly qualified teacher candidates are accepted into the profession.
What about the costs? Done correctly, the quality and efficiency of such a program would balance with the costs. Getting there would be difficult, but worth the try. I’m just sayin’.
“We will respect our teachers. Write that 100 times and act accordingly, because that is how schools get better.”
— Marc Tucker, National Center on Education
and the Economy
DuWayne Paul of Alexandria is a regular contributing columnist for the Echo Press.