I don’t have a strong interest in education policy. I tend to agree with John Derbyshire’s analysis of American public education. The very short version is the schools are run by an unassailable cartel and no reform is possible. Critiques from the conventional Right all miss this point, which is why they go nowhere. Reform efforts from the Left are largely based in Rousseauist nonsense and therefore doomed from the start. That leaves it a pretty dry subject as far as I’m concerned.
That’s why I could not restrain myself from commenting on this post by Nick Steves at Handle’s Haus. Steves is a sharp guy with some interesting things to say. There’s too much Moldbuggery for my taste, but that’s a topic for another day. It’s a well reasoned technocratic reform plan that has no chance of adoption. I tried to point that out, but Steves is a prickly guy and there’s little point in engaging him. I bring it up only to point out that education policy seems to make people crazy. I don’t get it, but I don’t understand the fascination with a lot of things.
The people it makes most crazy seems to be teachers. It is the one thing about education I find fascinating. Teachers are some of the most deluded people you will find in modern America. Years back I had a conversation with a gal who was fresh out of college and in her first teaching job. She was complaining about the pay, the hours and the fact that she was taking work home. It was one of those times when you feel old, listening to a young person complain about reality.
I tried to explain to her that lots of people take work home and they also work during the summer too. I also pointed out that most college grads were not making $55,000 per year for eight months work. She tried to argue back on these points, but there’s not much that can be said. Most jobs in America are tougher than being a teacher and pay a lot less, but I got no where with her. Of course, this was not the first of the last time I had this conversation with a government worker.
I thought of that when reading this post at Sailer’s new shop. The post was actually a post from Education Realist, someone I assumed was somewhat realistic about education. Again, we see the delusions about the realities of teaching. It is a really good gig compared to most jobs. The pay is good, the benefits are outstanding, the hours are excellent and you get summers off. Yet, teachers think they have it tough. Even when this is pointed out that still carry on like Job.
I pointed out that the retention rate for teachers is pretty high compared to all private sector fields. If you look at this table from the DoE, teachers just about die in their jobs. The average age is 40 and the average tenure is 14 years. That number is only going up based on demographics. Over 40% of teachers have been on the job for more than 15 years. Generous pension plans means they are not walking away for late life career changes. Reveal;ed preference says teachers have it quite good.
What I find very weird about teachers is they seem to think they lack respect. You never hear this from people in the dreaded private sector. Lawyers take more abuse than almost any profession. You never hear them bitch about it. Car sales has to be at the bottom of legitimate work and they joke about that fact. Public sector employees always worry about status and no group frets over it more than teachers. Any criticism is treated like an assault upon their person.
All of this nuttiness is most likely due to an absolute avoidance of several truths about human biology. One is that not all people are equal in IQ. The goal of making everyone above average is madness. Then you have issues of race that were not a lot to talk about in public. Sex differences are another thing we are not supposed to notice. When you exclude large chunks of reality from your view of the world, you are bound to end up in a very weird place.
I dropped my daughter off at high school on a morning in which there were many teachers outside carrying signs for passage of a bill here in Las Vegas to provide more tax money for “education”. One made the mistake of coming over to my car. I told her I had a simple plan to double the wages of teachers without raising taxes. She was enthusiastic. Then I told her I hoped she would understand that when wages were doubled the type of individuals who would work for peanuts would be replaced by the type of people who would not.
One wonders if said student would want to work with people like them, or would hire people like them.
I once did a spell of teaching, and the first thing I have to say is that in my sector (a college not expecting very bright students) there was no illusion about the ‘value’ of teachers. We knew we were on a front-line and could expect no support from the those higher up. A colleague of mine was sexually assaulted but the offender, who was pulled off by some disgusted class-mates, was not ejected from the college. Rather, she was told that she should make her lessons ‘more interesting.’
That was the problem: those higher up ‘knew’ all about teaching but never did it themselves. They were free to make criticisms on theory (a relative of mine who teaches still was told by a senior administrator that he wasn’t ‘developing discussions enough’ in his science lessons. The theorist believed that teaching science should be out opinions and not facts) but would not take control of a class. That was not their job, they would insist.
The college I taught at made noises about discipline but wouldn’t enforce it. No cell phones they said in class but if you tried to stop a person from using their phone in the middle of a lesson there was no support. You just had to accept that you were on your own and made the best you could of it. Incidentally. I was told, in a review by a younger fellow teacher, that I gave the impression of knowing more than the students. Actually, her words were I ‘appeared to be superior.’
The college meanwhile needed the money to keep going so banning students was never an option. A colleague of mine who was hit in the face by a student was suspended as was the student. It was done for ‘fairness’ even though he was the once with the bloody nose.
The problem with education is that the theory often sounds good but the reality is quite different. The idea of motivating students was impossible if they were there only for the social contacts. The students in fact never studied as such and merely copied and pasted answers from web sites. We teachers knew it was hopeless but the pressure was on to get these youths through the system so their retention figures looked good.
I have to be honest and say some of the youngsters were great people but the majority were out of their depth, and the demand on their time was hardly onerous. They believed they would walk into very well paid jobs the moment they left college irrespective of what they did there, but interestingly none of the students I had ever wanted to teach.
Their reaction to that career option was one of horror. “I wouldn’t want to teach people like us,” one of them told me.