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Restore teaching as a respected profession

Ohanian Comment: It strikes me as an outrage that such a column needs to be written. Lynn Stoddard notes, Clearly, something is terribly wrong with a teaching profession that meekly submits to non-educator politicians telling them what and how to teach. And then proposes a solution.

There are reader comments actually worth reading.

Lynn's book
Educating for Human Greatness provides rich alternatives to a lockstep education system setting universal standards for all children. In a short film child psychiatrist Bob Kay discusses the roots of US public education.

History of Compulsory Schooling, a film polemic, provides history of compulsory schooling from its Prussian roots--with quotes from everybody from Albert Einstein to Frank Zappa.

By Lynn Stoddard

Why do half of all teachers leave the profession within the first five years of its starting? When a new teacher is thrown into a room full of 20 to 40 lively youngsters, s/he gets hit in the face with reality and responsibility. As days go by, the burden begins to accumulate. Some of the students are there only because they are required to take the class to get credit for graduation. Many of these know how to play the game and get good grades but don't learn very much. Others are there only to have fun disrupting and calling attention to themselves. The new teacher soon begins to wonder if s/he has chosen the right profession.

Most people don't realize how difficult it is to teach school. Only a small part of what teachers know and can do is obtained in colleges of education. Most of their competence is a result of years of experience working with children who are totally different from each other -- different personalities, different abilities, and different needs. If a teacher survives the first five years, the chances of staying on are much better.

It takes at least 10 years for a teacher to start assimilating the subtle nuances of interacting with a great variety of students and at least another 10 years for one to attain the skills of a master teacher. Then with added love, great teaching becomes extraordinary.

This raises another question: Does experience as a student qualify one as an authority on teaching? Do some legislators and school board members qualify as expert educators by virtue of having attended public schools for thirteen or more years as students?

How can these pseudo educators, with straight faces, make edicts such as this: "We will deny funding to school districts that do not achieve 90 percent of students reading at grade level by third grade?" What happens when counterfeit educators impose a curriculum that prioritizes reading and stipulates what every child shall know and be able to do at each grade level?

High pressure reading instruction dictated by non-educators has been the pattern ever since the No Child Left Behind Law was enacted 12 years ago. It has resulted in many students developing an aversion to learning and a hatred for reading. John Locke said, "This much for learning to read, which let him never be driven to. Cheat him into it if you can, but make it not a business for him. Tis better it be a year later before he can read than that he should this way get an aversion to learning."

Clearly, something is terribly wrong with a teaching profession that meekly submits to non-educator politicians telling them what and how to teach. Is there anything that can be done to restore teaching as a respected profession?

There is one big thing that can be done that will bring out the best in teachers, parents and students: Make school attendance and learning voluntary. If attendance and learning are voluntary, the teacher, student, and parents are responsible. If education is compulsory, the state orders what is taught and what it believes should be learned. This removes teaching as a profession and lowers it to assembly line work. Ever since the government started to take over public education in 1983 with the Nation at Risk Report, teachers have been gradually losing their autonomy to make decisions and perform as true professionals.

By making school attendance and student learning voluntary, we change the dynamics of the system and restore teaching as a profession wherein teachers are trusted to work with parents and make decisions about what each child needs. When it happens, teachers will again be able to proudly feel as Pat Conroy did a few years ago, "There is no word in the language that I revere more than 'teacher.' None. My heart sings when a kid refers to me as his teacher, and it always has. I've honored myself and the entire family of man by becoming a teacher."

After 36 years as a teacher and elementary school principal, Lynn Stoddard retired "early" to promote "Educating for Human Greatness," a different model of education wherein teachers, parents and students unite to develop positive human diversity. His 12 children attended public schools. He lives in Farmington and can be reached at lstrd@yahoo.com

— Lynn Stoddard





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