BustED Pencils’ Jed Hopkins: The danger of uncredentialed teachers


In case you’ve been living under a rock you might not know that my great state of Wisconsin—under the fascist like leadership of pseudo-conservatives—is subverting democracy and using the budget process to ram through oligarchic sponsored legislation.  However, the slash and burn approach to anything remotely connected to public education is particularly maddening.

In the post below, my colleague and BustED Pencils co-host—Jed Hopkins—addresses one of the nastier provisions contained in the budget that essentially dismantles the state’s responsibility to “credential” professional teachers.

Consider what the provision in the state budget that would allow individuals without education credentials to teach our children will put into effect. This move, approved by the Joint Finance Committee, is an audacious policy move indeed. But its extremity can only be matched by its foolishness and danger.

Why? Investing in education means investing in something that, for the sake of our children and our children’s children, needs to be done as well as possible. Doing education well is not technically simple, is not a quick study, is not something that can be mastered readily, isn’t simply something driven by hard performance data, is not replaceable by online instruction, and is even much more than a matter of enthusiasm, talent and effort.

We are talking about education, not training. Education is the very thing that can sustain this great country’s future, and that will depend upon teachers who measure up.

And what grounds do we have for claiming this? Look no further than the immense intellectual traditions of educational thinking that this country can rightly be proud of (that barely get the light of day in the common media), traditions of research that challenge us to “think education” and are the envy of less free nations. In this country, we have educators who know how to think education which, unlike the way it is for some politicians, is different from claiming that they have the answers or that they are happy that for-profit corporate entities may have them.

Educators belong to honorable institutions charged with provoking would-be teachers into what ought to be regarded as the difficult and creative vocation that it is. That is where the investment needs to be.

Finally, a word for teachers. In the name of the bigger picture, let’s not bash them. Despite the “reformers'” propaganda, this country has done extremely well by its public education system — it has produced creative, entrepreneurial spirits that have helped to make this country the economic powerhouse that it has been and still can be.

Is there room for improvement? In particular, have certain groups been denied access to a genuine education while other groups flourish? Unfortunately, there is iniquity and it should be faced. But doing so is not simple. When we think education we understand that well-prepared teachers know more than their content. They need to understand the role language plays in academic learning; they need to understand who their students are, they need to be aware of the many different learning styles different students bring to the table; they need to have a repertoire of different strategies to work with a diversity of students to ensure their success. Teachers need to understand racial, cultural and linguistic differences and how to create a vibrant classroom out of many different threads. They need to be technical, creative, in love with a life of learning and connected to their profession.

Please, let’s invest, and invest at levels like we’ve never done before, in this most important of professions. Seriously undermining the professionality of teachers, as this legislation would do, is the very opposite of the direction we need to go. If this provision goes through, it will be the world and our children who will suffer.