Monday, September 10, 2012

Teacher/Education Reform Can’t Wait

I wrote about education reform and in particular the way we hire teachers in my book, “The Teenager’s Guide to Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness…” The education “industry” monopolizes the way teachers are hired in the major public school systems. The education industry uses certificate programs to weed out the most qualified individuals willing to share their talent in the pursuit of educating our kids. I am not against certificate or higher education but when the results are what we see in Chicago, NY, LA, Detroit, and other major cities, we need another approach.

There are tens of thousands of experienced and qualified “teachers” in industry today willing to teach. The roadblock? Is the certification process to become eligible to teach our kids in public schools. Many smart and talented people that have a passion to help our kids get a head start in the real world don’t have the time to go back and get credentialed. They may be at the twilight of their careers and have time to dedicate to teaching part time or full time, and the passion to pass on that experience. At one time in history this was the education system; elders teaching children.

Here is my question to parents of kids locked into failing public schools: what have you got to lose? If we focused on results in the education industry as we do in the private sector, we would have to conclude the system is failing. There are a lot of things that account for that but one of them is the way we hire teachers. We hire kids out of college with no life experience. Many have spent their entire lives in a system that does not reflect the real world in any imagination of the term, and now they are the “leaders” that are given the awesome opportunity to get our kids ready for the real world. And how do they pass on an experience they have little if any knowledge of? Certification should focus on three areas, knowledge of the subject (discipline study needs review as well), experience in the private sector, and a passionate communications skill that energizes a love for learning.

I believe many, many teachers are doing a great job! I have had the pleasure of meeting many in my kids classrooms. But too many do not understand the importance of their role and don’t connect what they learn with applications in the real world. Much of the problem is curriculum that is driven by politics, unions, and people with specific agendas like special interest groups. Schools should produce a product for parents to consume. Curriculum is part of that product, methods for teaching and teachers are the other elements. Parents must be able to choose and schools need to have the ability to be flexible.

We watch as Chicago teachers strike and the kids wonder the streets in gangs killing each other. We need to reject the adage that all kids are worth educating. If kids are disruptive they are expelled. Once the message is clear behavior will change. You chuckle but you’re wrong.

On average Chicago pays its teachers $76,000 a year then add benefits including pensions that are bankrupting taxpayers. All the while not educating kids but providing an example of selfish greed and criticizing accountability measures designed to improve performance.

As a parent and American I am done with paying lavish pensions when I get squat!! Teachers, firefighters, policemen, and municipal employees need to pay their own damn pensions. I respect what they do when they do it well. I don’t begrudge these service employees a fair wage. But I am done scrounging for my family while these people cry when they have to contribute a small percentage toward their retirement or benefits and I have to fund my retirement 100%!

We can do better by firing every Chicago teacher that doesn’t go back to work and replacing them with experienced people that have a passion for their craft, and are willing to be held accountable for test results. Just as we hire engineers, sales people, technical workers in the private sector and hold them accountable, we need to break the unions and the education “industry” from holding us and our kids hostage to failure.

It is time to end this madness and see how many more kids we can educate by hiring passionate, skilled teachers, with real world experience to educate our kids. God knows it can only get better!

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