Sunday, February 21, 2010

Public School Advertising

I've seen two examples of public school advertising this week, both of which did nothing for my dislike of the scam, I mean, system.

First: three days ago I was sitting at a stop light (which in our town can take up to five minutes at a time) and a shopping center marque sign was scrolling through some names of local school kids. At the end of the list, the screen said they were being recognized for their "behavior, attitude, respectfulness, and kindness." I read that and I thought, "Not one of those attributes has anything to do with scholarship." I looked at the list and thought it could be summed up as "these students are being honored for being easily controlled."

Second: today I was driving home and saw a bumper sticker advertising a local elementary school. The sticker read, "Learners today are leaders tomorrow." I thought, "What reason do we have to believe that? Are any of the parents of those students leaders? Probably not. Many, many more Americans are followers, being led by others. Their children, more likely, are the next generation of followers. And a school that is organized by the true leaders is more likely to teach the next generation how to be good followers than how to be leaders."

I dislike hokey pro-educational-establishment propaganda. Teachers and their supporters like to tell you that they're doing an indespensible service. Now, no one should feel comfortable dumping on others doing what they can with what they have, but when those others try to cover their shortcomings by calling themselves noble, the rest of us don't have to buy it. The fact is that teachers work 9 months a year, 7 hours a day, and draw salaries that reflect this. They voluntarily chose to enter the field, meaning they self-identified as having skills worth the salary they draw. Steven E. Landsburg notes in his book Fair Play:

First, colleges weed out a lot of weak students. According to standard aptitude tests, college graduates are, on average, far brighter than college freshmen; in fact two thirds of all college graduates were in the top half of their freshman classes (as measured by standard aptitude tests). On the other hand, those college graduates who go into teaching are, on average, about exactly as bright as college freshman [sic]; among students who become teachers, only half were in the top half of their freshman classes. It's as if the weeding-out process completely bypasses the education majors. (p. 30)
And since I just pissed off a lot of people who take it as given that teachers are like overweight middle-aged female Jesuses, let me just say before I turn you loose in the comments section that telling me how wonderful, selfless, caring, and sacrificing teachers are is not the same as showing that they provide a necessary service or possess skills worth more than their current salaries.


Angela said...

I love this! Oregon just passed the dumbest tax measures in the name of helping the schools. In all actuality the money they now get from taxing small businesses and rich people is going to the Oregon State emergency fund, where it waits for the state to run out of money. I am willing to bet that the schools (or the teachers that campaigned so hard) will never see any of that money. This only came out the day after the measures passed of course.

JT said...

I always say that my PhD and profession make me much less useful and marketable than 99% of the world.
I think that we should not have teachers, but rather all be forced to home school our own offspring. Then we can put the burden on our wives while we go out and make real money. Wait, aren't you in a PhD program, looking for an academic job? Nevermind.

Erik said...

I can't tell you how much I love this post. Teaching is a job, and one that requires months off in the summer and not the average time at work typical of much of the rest of the country. I have routinely upset many many teachers who argue that their time after work at home grading papers and planning lessons easily makes their job more then full time. I still don't buy it, especailly the teachers that have T.A.s and have taught the same single subject for more then 1 year. All this being said, I'm still happy that other people are compelled to fulfill their noble calling as a teacher because I would have a hard time teaching a class of 2nd graders. Half of the time I'm being taught, I feel like many teachers enter the profession so they can feel good about themselves as they have power over their pupils, an experience that they don't often feel in any other aspects of their lives. (Think Chang's character in T.V. show Coumminity)

Jill said...

Someone has to inspire Turkey's future, chump.

This is what I think-there is a lot of good and bad in most schools. Some teachers are noble and altruistic and really care about improving student's lives. Others do not. In my experience, it is much more taxing than working for a swinger personal injury attorney, but it's also way more fun and less stressful. Kids are fun and all of the vacations are even more fun. I love my job.