Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Where Is Teaching's Dr. Fauci?

There are Dr. Fauci fan clubs already thriving around the country, in honor of the physician who has managed to thread the thorny needle that is being a nation's medical guide in these challenging times. He's a trusted voice, an expert in his field. He's a reminder that "leading US physician" is a thing, like the Surgeon General is a thing.

So where is the Dr. Fauci for teaching?

This came up in a discussion about nationalizing health care when one person observed that it could end up as disaster, like having Betsy DeVos in charge of education.

Education is different, I pointed out, because teachers have always been boxed out of all leadership positions. Which sucks, and explains a lot, and not just the last thirty-five years of reformster baloney.

Other professions are in charge of their own professions. They're in charge of their training; you can't hand out medical degrees unless you're certified by a bunch of doctors. Ditto for training lawyers or nurses or physical therapists. But any college that wants to start cranking out teachers just has to satisfy some bureaucrats at the state capitol. And these days, you can even set up an "alternative pathway" to teaching and all you need to do is convince some lawmakers to let you do it.

Training for the profession? Done by other members of the profession. Entrance to the profession? Lawyers and doctors and physical therapists have to convince other members of the profession to certify them. But teacher schools include many professors who wouldn't last five minutes in a real K-12 classroom, and the gatekeepers of the profession  include folks like the notably non-teacher folk running the bogus edTPA test.

If you want to move into leadership or supervisory rolls, again, you only have to satisfy some bureaucrats. Hell, you don't even have to do that. You just have to convince some board to hire you, even if your only experience is two years in a classroom via Teach for America, or the Broad Academy where your only certification of educational leadership skill is Eli Broad saying, "I'm a very rich guy and I say this person gets to be a superintendent."

State education leadership positions? Strictly political. National? Ditto. Lawyers and doctors depend on the certification and endorsement of boards of fellow professionals to advance (though lawyers have started getting a dose, now that their professional recommendations are ignored in favor of strictly political appointments of judges).

All of the mechanism for determining what it takes to be a teacher and how to tell a good teacher from a bad teacher is in the hands of politicians, bureaucrats and other amateurs who don't know what the heck they're talking about. If there is any single plague bedeviling teaching, it is this-- the entire profession is overseen by non-teachers.

So here we are, a few weeks deep in a tremendous disruption, and while there's a voice of authority to speak for the medical aspects, there is no one to speak to the challenges of shutting down the bulk of US school systems, nobody but a secretary of education who wants to see public education gutted, a thousand opportunistic profiteers, and a wild web of edu-celebrities adapting their brand to the current crisis. Nobody to provide needed trustworthy info, even ever-so-gently correcting the prevaricator-in-chief.

I don't know of a way to remove the entrenched power structure that now rules teaching, particularly in a era in which actual expertise in a field is discounted and disrespected. But wouldn't it be cool to see a press conference in which someone was introduced as a leading teacher speaking on behalf of a panel of leading teachers about what schools can do to handle these times. Teachers can handle things without such a person, because teachers are used to working with minimal, non-existent or even obstructionist leadership. But still, wouldn't it be cool.


  1. Lots of good points.

    I have no idea why schools of education have not fought edTPA with everything they've got.

  2. This is so apparent and so true and I still don't understand why we accept it and or do anything that goes against good teaching or what is in the best interests of students.