Today in the NYT, there appeared two opinion pieces on education reform, The High Cost of Low Teacher Salary and A New Measure for Classroom Quality. They couldn’t be more diametrically opposed in how they propose to improve schools. The first hopes to treat teachers with respect while the second looks to instal Big Brother type measures of a teacher’s effectiveness. Seeing as how it’s May 1, and thus your monthly allotment of 20 free NYT articles has reset, I really encourage you to read both of these important opinion pieces.
“The Hight Cost of Low Teacher Salary” points out that when war goes wrong, we don’t blame the soldiers, we blame the policy and strategy makers. In teaching, we do the opposite. Reading “A New Measure for Classroom Quality,” we see this attitude in action. The author argues that we should video tape (digitally record?) all teachers and measure how much time the teacher spends on and how closely they follow the prescribed curriculum. The assumption is, once again, that it’s how the teachers teach, not what they teach, that matters. No question if the curriculum developed by politicians, businessmen, and administrators is even worth teaching.
“A New Measure” also makes classrooms sound miserable. Children should be seen and not heard, and teachers should read from a script. No variation, no deviation, no fun. Now, I’m not saying that learning should always be a joyful experience; it’s hard work. But, this type of learning suits one kind of student and one kind of teacher. This is not the modern reality of the classroom.
But it shows the fundamental disrespect that teachers receive in this day and age, or at least a fundamental misunderstanding of what teachers do. Not to mention the inherence dangers that come from the recording of what goes on in the classroom, both for the teachers and the students. How can we expect students and teachers to take risks and challenge each other intellectually if we know that what we are saying is being recorded to potentially be used against them later?
Oh, yeah, while critical thinking is on the curriculum, it isn’t really what policy and curriculum makers are looking for from students. If it was, then we wouldn’t be reading op-eds about monitoring a teacher’s every move in the classroom, and we’d have already done what is being recommended in the first piece.