Arby posted a great post earlier this week that elicited two responses from me. The first reaction I am accustomed to experiencing whenever I read Arby’s blog. The second reaction was not as familiar. It was by no means the first time that I laughed out loud at the hysterical writings of this funny man (and I mean that in the best way), but when I read his post I also wanted to scream. Don’t worry! I’m not mad at Arby—only at some quotes he posted in reaction to the recent California court ruling.
I’ve been hearing statements like these quite a bit lately—and, personally, it’s starting to get old. Here’s a sampling of the statements found in Arby’s post and a few other places. Oh, and by the way, the spelling and grammar errors in these statements were theirs, not mine!
“It bothers me that so many children are being taught by non-credentialled people, whether those people are their parents, or someone in a private/charter school.”
“Children have a right to a good education with credentialed teachers…”
Then let’s not forget when credentialed teacher, Katie Criss, wrote: “American citizens, together let’s promote our very prestigious and notorious public school system and crusade against the leniency of home schooling that consequently will benefit our country by providing a solid education for all.” (Does Katie know what the word “notorious” means?)
The premise that only “credentialed” teachers are qualified to teach children is flawed on so many levels that I hardly know where to begin. Yet, despite its many obvious flaws, this assertion has become an extremely popular argument of both casual and “official” critics of the homeschooling movement. But a critique of the assumptions that underlie the premise very quickly reveals its faults.
Assumption #1: A teaching certificate is the sign of a good teacher.
Statistical and anecdotal evidence regularly point to the fact that many children are being taught by teachers who themselves are not making the grade. I had the job of reviewing tutor applications for a Chicago Public Schools "No Child Left Behind" tutoring program last year. More than 90% of the 200 applicants were certified teachers from the schools where our tutoring program was to take place. I was appalled at the lack of basic communication skills—spelling, grammar, and sentence structure—possessed by these teachers. Literally, thousands of school children in Chicago (and in many of our nation’s schools) are being taught by teachers who themselves probably never should have graduated from high school. (By the way, some day soon, this NCLB experience may become its very own post!)
Assumption #2: Children in our nation’s public schools are receiving a first-rate education.
Check national, state, and local student achievement statistics for yourself. Take a look at exactly how many of your state’s public school children tested at or below Basic Proficiency. Keep in mind that "basic" proficiency “denotes partial mastery of prerequisite knowledge and skills that are fundamental for proficient work at each grade assessed.” The Chicago public schools employ almost 25,000 credentialed teachers and yet, according to the NCES, more than 80% of 8th grade students tested at or below basic proficiency in reading and more than 85% of 8th grade students tested at or below basic proficiency in math. That’s right. Only 15% of CPS 8th graders have achieved better than partial mastery! The national picture is not much better.
Assumption #3: Credentialed classroom teachers have extensive training in the content that they teach every day. This is what makes them more qualified to teach children than homeschool parents.
Prospective teachers shouldn’t need to take courses in content. Most prospective teachers are fairly recent high school graduates. They should be proficient in all the content they need to teach. Of course, most of them were probably publicly schooled and may have been in the 70% of American students who are at or below basic proficiency in math and reading! In this regard, certified teachers certainly have no advantage over homeschooling parents. In "Who Is to Blame for American Teens Ignorant of History and Literature?", an excellent article discussing the failures of our current school system, Rita Kramer reveals exactly what prospective teachers are learning today.
“…a curriculum heavy on pedagogical methods and light on subject matters – a lot of emphasis on how to teach and very little knowledge of anything to teach. Curriculum has taken a back seat to methodology”.
“In the end, learning is something that takes place between teacher and child. Buildings, technology, and all the things money can buy have little to do with it. Someone who loves a subject and knows it thoroughly and can pass that knowledge and that passion on to the young is the bedrock of the learning process, starting when schooling begins and going on into young adulthood.”
You don’t need a teaching degree to do that.