10.21.2008

The Issue

As I've mentioned previously, I'm having a hard time deciding who to vote for this year. Neither candidate is offering a platform I can support wholeheartedly, and politicians as a whole have really let me down in the past few years. I don't have any party loyalty--I'm a registered Independent--so I don't even have party lines to rely on. (If only this were a congeniality contest; it would be SO EASY!!)

I've watched all the debates, and I've decided that the one thing that will sway me is where the candidates stand on education. That makes sense to me, since everything I have is affected by the American educational system; from my finances to my employment status to my healthcare, nothing I do would be possible if it weren't for public education. So obviously I have a vested interest in the candidates' views on this important issue.

Over on Ravelry, one of the teacher groups has been discussing some remarks made during last week's debate, and there have been some strongly-worded replies to this statement:

MCCAIN: We need to encourage programs such as Teach for America and Troops to Teachers where people, after having served in the military, can go right to teaching and not have to take these examinations which – or have the certification that some are required in some states.


Here is what I wrote, and it's what I believe, and it's what pushed me over the edge into the liberal--or, according to my family, socialist--camp:

McCain’s statement assumes that the only things standing in the way of growth in the teaching profession are exams or certification, and that is simply not the case. Other obstacles include low pay, high stress, increased duties (with no extra pay), governmental pressure, apathetic and/or combative students, unsupportive parents, and–above all–zero respect or status.

Teaching requires a level of dedication that not everybody can or wants to give. It takes a desire to reach children at their level. It demands flexibility and a willingness to grow as a learner and as a teacher. It calls for a thick, thick, thick skin, but it also calls for compassion and sympathy for students.

As others have stated, McCain implies that anybody can be a teacher, but you and I and everyone else who has stood in front of a classroom knows that this is a ridiculous claim.

I don’t sanctify the teaching profession, and it annoys me when others refer to teaching as “a calling.” But I do know that allowing random people to go into the classroom just to pay down debts or to rejoin civilian society or to mark time until they find their “real jobs” is a disservice not just to the teaching profession, but also to the students who are placed in those classrooms. And that doesn’t just affect those kids for the semester, but it can have a life-long impact on their attitudes toward learning, toward various subjects, toward their community, and toward themselves.

What McCain doesn’t realize is that when he talks about education, he’s not just talking about teachers. He’s also talking about students, and that means he’s talking about our future.

5 comments:

angela said...

wow. The more I read about Americorps and TFA the more I think that the people that these groups place in the classrooms do more harm than good. Their failure rates are iffy... but how good can it be for a class of students to go through 3 teachers in one school year?

Marsha said...

"...go right to teaching and not have to take these examinations"?

*blinks*

He's kidding, right? Oh please let him be kidding.

Next thing you know, he'll be suggesting that, in order to address the shortage of medical care in some parts of this country, we let people go right ahead and start practicing medicine without having to pass board exams.

Anonymous said...

I agree with him. It's better to have a teacher who hasn't passed their boards in a classroom then have no teacher at all. It isn't as if these people are taking jobs away from certified teachers. They are going into places that are underserved, and are working in areas that no one else wants to work. These programs should be applauded.

Dree said...

Marsha beat me to it... lol... I was going to make her point about doctors.

When I heard McCain talk about education, I was more than a little offended. I went through college and grad school (which I'm STILL paying for), took a bunch of exams (which I had to pay for) and got certified in 3 areas (which I had to pay for)... all for a job that doesn't pay nearly enough and, as you pointed out, garners little respect. And he thinks anyone can just walk right into a classroom and teach? So why did I waste my time and money on my education?

I also agree with you about the multitude of other problems that schools are facing today. I don't think people in other careers realize the many, many battles we have to fight every day just to get our job done.

Speaking of which... now I'm curious... is Anonymous a teacher?

J said...

this is so spot on, thoughtful and articulate! i'm a product of alternative certification, but damn straight we still took those exams. they weren't difficult at ALL and there are plenty of people who can't pass them on the first or second try. and there are plenty of people in those alt cert programs who don't belong anywhere near a classroom. just because they applied to the program doesn't mean they'll be smart or savvy enough to make it. teaching IS NOT for just anyone, as I have very much learned the hard way over the last four-plus years. what kind of trust does that put in our future if we'll let just anyone waltz into a classroom full of kids who have so much they need, education and otherwise?

 

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