Don’t Mourn The Loss Of The Worst

I recently drove through a state experiencing a kerfluffle with secondary education (I should avoid newspapers more carefully). This state has a rule that a teacher must pass basic tests in order to be employed as a teacher. It sounded like a test for basic college level literacy and possibly a little bit of math. It was not a detailed subject matter test. I’d happily take a test like that any day of the year. How hard can literacy be? Who wants an illiterate teacher? Everyone seemed to agree the bar of this particular test was set low.

There have been exceptions to the rule; a prospective teacher that failed the test could teach “provisionally” for a few months. Say what? Is this allowed in other parts of life? Can a truck driver fire up a Kenworth without a license. Shall he explain to the State Trooper that he earnestly plans to pass the driver’s test sometime soon? Can I watch? One can’t be a “provisional” veterinarian, electrician, accountant, or surgeon. Hell no!

The state (quite reasonably in my opinion) changed the law to “you must pass before you can teach”. Makes sense to me. Everyone else gets their ducks in a row before they get a job.

The change means some folks who’ve been skating on the exemption will have to either make the grade or get a different job. Cue the whining. Sources in the article estimated 400 individuals statewide who have been “teaching” provisionally will be SOL. This was presented as a big problem.

My response is simple. “It is not a problem. It is a feature.”

Why mourn their loss? These are the losers were talking about. Learning is important. It’s good when those who failed are sifted out.

I frame it optimistically. They had to level up sooner or later.  They’ll either get it done asap or they were a waste of time and money (at best) and should be cut from the rolls before we send good money after bad.  Win, win!  I wish them luck in the test and if they fail I hope they like whatever alternative career they choose.

The article quoted a couple school administrators whining that they’ll lose too many “teachers”. Wrong! They won’t lose “teachers” they’ll lose “failed prospective teachers who didn’t make the cut”.

Time for a Curmudgeonly Gem Of Insight:

“A bad teacher can do more harm than good.”

Kids won’t learn from bad teachers and there’s no point in encouraging the incompetent to show up and draw a check. Innocent children are too important be used as placeholders.

Administrators who think that any teacher is worth preserving have lost perspective.  A bad teacher is a net loss. I don’t want kids faced with semi-literate teachers any more than I want them exposed to unskilled doctors or incompetent police. Kids are important!

Kids are not meal tickets. They shouldn’t be fed upon by the semi-illiterate or administrators who harbor them. The State was right to say “pass the test or get out”; it’s a sign of reasonableness and honor.  I’d like to see more actions like it and I applaud their efforts.

About AdaptiveCurmudgeon

Adaptive Curmudgeon is handsome, brave, and wise.

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0 Responses to Don’t Mourn The Loss Of The Worst

  1. julie says:

    can’t believe they let people teach who can’t pass a basic literacy test?!?!?!?!

  2. cspschofield says:

    I think one of the things at work here is the image we have been sold of teaching. In spite of examples we know of to the contrary, various forces have pushed the image of teachers as dedicated and loving semi-parents, and some of that has stuck.

    Aside: Now, I’m not crying “Conspiracy!”. TV writers write about caring teachers because it makes for good stories in some way, not because they are in the pay of the teachers’ unions.

    The truth is that teaching can be a calling, but how many people with a calling do you meet in one lifetime? The majority of teachers are people who like their jobs about as well as most people like their jobs. Drones. And the pay isn’t all that great, the hogwash factor is high, and there are a lot of other “why the hell would you want this job?” factors.

    Teachers’ Colleges do not attract the Best and Brightest (the Best and Brightest tend to be a little high-strung to deal with large groups of children). Teachers’ colleges attract the dregs; ask anybody who has spent time in academia. I don’t know if the state in question requires a teaching degree, but most of them do one way or another. So, having selected for nitwits, it is then necessary to select again for nitwits who can read.

  3. Joe in PNG says:

    For far too many, teaching tends to be a bit of a default profession, kind of “I don’t know what to do with my life so I’ll teach, I guess.” And so, you wind up with the legions of placeholders, drones, incompetents, and babysitters that pass for our modern education system.

  4. Firehand says:

    One night at a bar somebody brought up a then-current mess in the OK teachers system and I allowed that “A good teacher is a treasure to be cherished and well-paid; a BAD teacher should be thrown the hell out of the classroom before they do more harm than they already have.

    Guy who started the discussion kind of puffed up and announced that he was a whateverthehell in one of the teachers unions and he’d NEVER met a bad teacher, in a challenging way. I just said “Then you’ve been damned lucky, because I have.” Which brings me to one of the problems: the unions don’t seem to give a damn if someone can teach ‘1+1=2’ or not, as long as they pay their dues and vote as the union wishes. Which leads to crap like you describe.

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