Sunday, January 4, 2015

Questions about the Teaching Profession in 2015

As I consider the start of my penultimate Spring semester I find myself pondering questions that have never occurred to me before. Perhaps it's because I've always been so concerned with dealing with the questions associated with the day to day life of being an advocate for math and science education that I have neglected the bigger picture of what teaching is all about.

I find myself more and more asking myself questions like; why is that all politicians, regardless of their affiliation seem to dislike teachers? Why is it that the education of young children is now justified by the country's need to remain globally competitive? Why is it that we are constantly comparing the performance of children in the U.S. with that of children in other countries where everything else is so different we would never consider making other comparisons? Why is it that we have bought into the standards movement so wholeheartedly and unquestioningly that the number of individual standards that must be assessed along the path of becoming a teacher run into the thousands; standards that are checked off like a shopping list? Why is it that the whole structure of school with its short days and long vacations has not changed with the changing times? Why is it that we now design schools with safety in mind and not theories of learning?

I came a cross two things recently that bear upon these questions. Here is a remarkable collection of data, Ranking America,  that shows how the US ranks relative to other countries on an almost infinite list of cultural characteristics. So the next time you hear someone complaining about how the US ranks 35th in  math scores, use this site to share some other details about where the US ranks in other characteristics. For example, the US ranks 1st in anxiety disorders, 6th in assaults, 3rd in carbon footprint, 70th in women in government and 2ND IN CHILD POVERTY. Pause for thought when we complain about the math scores!

Another remarkable piece of writing surfaced on the BBC website this morning and is the best commentary on the disaster that the conservative government is creating out of the education system in the UK. The Perfect Storm: Gove's Teacher Shortage is a brilliant, thought-provoking piece about what happens, and will happen, when a government meddles in an education system that at one time was second to none.       

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