Doctors and Teachers
While creating and establishing its present system of public school education this country made two huge mistakes of which we are still sufffering the tragic consequences.
First of all, probably at some time during the latter part of the 19th. century, medical doctors were given or assumed what should have been just as much or more the rightful of teachers in regard to the respect and remuneration accorded them by the population. The result is that people now look up to doctors and pay them accordingly, whereas teachers are looked down upon and are poorly paid. If you’re a parent who should be more important in the life of your child, the teacher or the doctor? It’s strange that we need even ask this question, and not be sure of the response. A symptom of the problem our country is up against in regard to the education of its children. We’re probably the only developed country in the world where teachers are not held in high regard, respected even more than medical doctors. Why this came about is for another, probably book-length post, but it did come about, and we’re still paying for the consequences, on the one hand with the exorbitant cost of medicare care and the resulting absence of health insurance for millions, and on the other hand with the mediocre achievement of our schools over all, and their failure in particular among the poor and the disadvantaged youth of our inner cities.
So in the 19th. century our teachers saw the position they should have had go to the doctors, although this didn’t have to be a competition, or a zero sum game. Both could have been well remunerated and well respected. Then in the 20th century, in spite of their loss of respect among the population as a whole, the teachers gained many more students as state after state provided free schooling, from Kindergarten through high school, to every child. It was at this point that our country made its second big mistake. For some reason the schools placed the burden of the child’s learning on the teacher, the curriculum, and the conditions of the classroom, and not on the child. Was this a conscious decision on the part of the school authorities? I don’t know. But the children were not made to understand that if they learned anything at all it would be mostly through their own efforts, and that the school and the teacher could help, but could never replace what they had to do for themselves. The children were never told that they would learn only to the extent they made an effort to do so. So they ended up, huge numbers of them, going to school and waiting to be taught, and in many cases, when they realized they were not learning, dropping out of school along the way, often well before finishing high school.
Now this is a tragedy because lives, those of teachers as well as students, are still being lost, and we seem powerless to turn things around. The doctors are still well paid (although less so today than yesterday) and are well respected, and the teachers are still poorly paid and not respected. Americans are constantly hearing about all the efforts, one after the other, on the part of politicians, business leaders, school superintendents, principals, and teachers to reform and improve teaching and learning in the schools, and then they invariably see how each reform effort brings about little or no substantive change for the better. And the students, instead of being confronted with the fact that they are responsible for their own learning, go on, mostly at ease, and probably amused, while observing the reform efforts made constantly in their behalf. The fact that children during the first few years of school do seem to be learning illustrates this point, for very young children haven’t yet learned to attend school and class waiting to be taught by the teacher. Instead, they go to school at that young age still carrying their natural learning with them. After a few years they do learn otherwise, that school really isn’t about their learning, and they become disillusioned and for good in some cases, and for bad in others, look elsewhere to learn other things not taught in the schools.Explore posts in the same categories: Education