Russell and Duenes

Why Don’t Teachers Have to Take 8 Hour Exams?

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I’ve been writing quite a bit about the teaching profession lately, and I posed the question in a previous post: Can just anyone teach? One of my commenters said that, yes, anyone can teach, but parents should be free to choose what schools they want their children to attend, so that schools with bad teachers can be avoided.

I agree that parents should be able to choose schools, and I don’t think the state or any credentialing agency should mandate certain qualifications for teachers. But I do think that a school that wants to be excellent at educating students should have very stringent job requirements and recurrent training requirements. What do I mean?

I was chatting with a fellow teacher last week, and he said that one of his sons is a building inspector and was about to take an 8 hour exam in order to remain qualified/ certified as a building inspector. This got me thinking. How come I don’t have to take an 8 hour exam at regular intervals to remain qualified for my teaching job? Shouldn’t I have to? Surely what I’m doing is vastly more consequential than what building inspectors do.

Shouldn’t someone teaching government be required by his or her own school to be reading seminal books and articles that have to do with government? Should such a teacher have to show mastery of the U.S. Constitution, the Federalist Papers, the Anti-Federalist Papers, certain relevant Supreme Court cases, western political theory and history, and the like? I’m not saying that a government teacher needs to be a Renaissance Man or some kind of Ivy League intellectual. But we don’t just let people walk in off the streets and practice law. Yet someone can be retained as a teacher even if he or she simply has a working knowledge of textbook on government and good teaching methodologies. No doubt there are teachers who haven’t read anything in their subject field for decades. Why do our schools – public and private – accept this? Would we pay a visit to a doctor who hadn’t read anything since medical school?

It seems to me that schools that want excellence should have requirements for teaching at their school that cause teachers to “sweat it out,” as it were, just like a law student does before taking the bar exam. Teachers should have to be constantly learning and growing not only in teaching methods but in attaining command of their subject matter. When we don’t demand this, we shouldn’t be surprised that teacher pay is low (ever wonder why lawyer pay isn’t low?), that the “best and brightest” choose other professions, and our students miss out on a richer education.

-D

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Written by Michael Duenes

November 4, 2010 at 10:50 pm

Posted in Duenes, Education

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