Sunday, March 30, 2008

Beat up on Teachers, it makes us feel good

It has become very fashionable and accepted by the society to beat up on teachers by the opinion pundits of any kind including the politicians and school administrators for the failure of educational system.

Here is John Stossel beating up on poor teachers in an hour long docu-entertainment segment of a TV show



Notice how every thing is portrayed as teachers fault. In an interconnected world where every thing interconnects and influences every thing else such a crisp portrayal of facts is simply not possible if some one wants to do justice to a topic as complex as education. It can only be achieved by including the whole picture. Since it is not possible to consider the problem from every angle in an hour long TV show that also has additional responsibility to provide people their daily dose of emotional kicks so that they keep coming back to watch the TV, we get an extremely one sided view of the problem.


The problem is not limited to grade school only. It is creeping up even in higher education. There was a time when distance education was synonyms with the correspondence courses. It had a legitimate place in the educational setting and teacher were considered important to the teaching and learning process. With the rapid improvement and drop in the cost of the information communication technology that perception is changing.

The computers were originally invented to perform difficult calculations but they found their use in manipulating information bits and when they got interconnected they start shipping information bits from one computer device to another computer device very cheaply. Any profession that deal with information has no choice but to adopt computer information processing to stay competitive. The education profession has more demanding information processing needs then let us say accounting where all we need is client information and extremely structured client's financial information.

The education profession's information processing needs are not this well structured and that creates a very interesting situation where suddenly we have instructional designers/Technologists ,e-learning experts etc. etc. These experts should assist regular teachers to incorporate information communication technology to improve the learning process. That is in the theory. Instead they started beating up on the teachers too. They immediately found fault with teachers. According to them, teachers are using wrong pedagogy. They are not using correct assessment and host of all other jargon that specialist create to make their profession appear important. In the past the compromise between instructional Designer/Technologist and the teachers was that the process of teaching should be renamed as "Teaching and Learning". Once the Internet came along they want teacher completely out of the picture and the new word is "Learning"
You will notice this usage change in the words if you read articles written by some of the famous instructional Designer/Technologist. In their grand scheme of things teacher does not exist or has a very minor role of delivering the instructional material designed by them. No body can argue that the purpose of teaching is to facilitate pupils learning and with that objective in mind any thing that accomplishes this task should be encouraged. However, as far anybody can see that the results of the approach implemented using instructional design techniques has been dismal as any body can see from that video from John Stossel. We can argue back and forth about who is at fault. Instructional designer will argue that teacher did not implement it properly and the teachers can argue that instructional designer do not understand class room experience that is more chaotic then Instructional Designer are willing to accept. Even the Charter school idea worked only in a limited way and can not be considered as a overwhelming success.

So what we have now. Finally the focus on teachers where it should have been at the first place. Here is a New York Time articles with the headline

"At Charter School, Higher Teacher Pay"

How high

"Could six-figure salaries attract better teachers?"

"A New York City charter school set to open in 2009 in Washington Heights will test one of the most fundamental questions in education: Whether significantly higher pay for teachers is the key to improving schools.

The school, which will run from fifth to eighth grades, is promising to pay teachers $125,000, plus a potential bonus based on schoolwide performance. That is nearly twice as much as the average New York City public school teacher earns, roughly two and a half times the national average teacher salary and higher than the base salary of all but the most senior teachers in the most generous districts nationwide."

Here is the graphics that compares salaries with other profession:


That is an start if this experiments succeeds I am sure that teacher salaries will make them equivalent to other professionals and an equivalent increase in the status will follow and hopefully their portrayal as a laughing stock in the current movies will stop.

I think it is a good start in the right direction. Hopefully it will bring attention to the other issues plaguing the educational institutions as well.

Finally with added respectability teachers will be able to voice their own opinion about the real issues in educating the students, not the one imagined and created by the Instructional designers.

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