Excuse Me? Who's not Qualified?

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?)

And from Becky G. another misguided defender of public education, “Teachers are college educated and trained to work with children and assist them with learning. I am not. I am not unintelligent, nor am I uneducated, but I have not been trained as a teacher."
And finally, in an article posted on the NEA website entitled, “Home Schools Run by Well-Meaning Amateurs”, Dave Arnold, a public school custodian (yep, you read that right) wrote this, “So, why would some parents assume they know enough about every academic subject to home-school their children? You would think that they might leave this –the shaping of their children’s minds, careers, and futures—to trained professionals.”

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”.

When you evaluate the assumptions, the truth is clearly revealed. There really is no clear evidence supporting the premise that credentialed teachers have an advantage over homeschool parents in their ability to provide students with a quality education. In fact, the true advantage rests in a parent’s vested interest in her student’s future success. And Ms. Kramer takes us right to the heart of the matter.

“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.




15 responses

  1. I wondered when you were going to chime in on this. I have been thinking the same thing about all of this–I know a lot of public school teachers who I would not let near my kids.:)

  2. I am a homeschool parent. I also am a "credentialed teacher". I have a teaching degree. As any experienced homeschool parent knows, a teaching certificate does not make someone a better teacher. I never intended to homeschool & attended college to get my "teaching credentials". It was NOT EASY sitting through those education classes, being "taught" a lot of things that seemed to go against common sense. And this was at a conservative Christian college. I taught a year in a Christian school, which was hard on me as I already had a homeschooler's heart. I had to unlearn a lot in order to learn how to think out side the box in order to become a good homeschool teacher/parent. I wish more people, including credentialed teachers, better understood homeschooling. They just don't get it. I'm very thankful for statistics that should let the general public know, that somehow homeschoolers are doing a great job.

  3. Thank you for your kind words. I am sorry that I got your blood boiling, and delighted that you laugh when you read my posts. You once commented to me that I am funnier than you. You are far better at analyzing the argument and refuting it in a well written post than I am. Better still, you are willing to engage in the argument. The Rita Kramer quote accurately and succinctly states what I have been trying to put into words to describe my experience in education classes. I spent three years at a major university learning how to teach, but I left wondering what to teach. My students were the ones who suffered.

  4. Between you and Arby I am getting quite an education.

    I might actually spout out a mouthful someday to the next person who asks why I homeschool – rather than fall back on my usual "because I want to, and I can."

    That Katie Criss …. sigh. If you're going to publish something – especially about education – can you bother to check for grammar and spelling? good grief.

  5. If success could be guaranteed by having credentialed teachers and state-approved curriculum and funds for every program that comes down the pike, public schools would be havens of intellectual stimulation.

    I definitely agree that if 12 years in the system doesn't equip one to teach, what on earth does it equip kids for? Starring in a John Hughes' movie?

  6. I am a certified teacher who homeschooled for years. I believe the advantage I had from my 'teacher' education was how to put together a balanced curriculum…at least, I hope it was balanced! I was no better teacher of my children, once the choices were made, than my non-certified friends. And I had much more fun watching my children learn that any other teacher would have had, or than I would have had teaching others. Now I teach other people's children in VERY small numbers, and that's fun too.

  7. Great post! I'm a former credentialed teacher (my certificate is long-expired), but I would have to admit that I have known many that I would not want to come in contact with my children, let alone TEACH them anything.

  8. Hmmm Very nice post! You know I've always wondered why these public-schooled parents can't teach their own children the basics? Is the PS not capable of raising and educating people who <i>can</i> teach and educate others??? Der.

    And thank you for your encouraging comment. I am assuming it's in regards to other communications. 😉


  9. Time and time again, I run into the lack of mastery in various areas with teachers. That would be my first complaint.

    For those who would like a real taste of the public education condition, try being a sign language interpreter in the classroom. It's perfect! After a couple of weeks, no one pays any attention to the "invisible person" in the room. Talk about a fly on the wall! I was able to see the best and worst. The thing that was harder was to keep my mouth shut when I saw things that were just crazy!

    No, I'm not interested in my students learning that "there is no difference between the wisdom of the Bible and the wisdom of someone else." I don't want my kids to be taught things that are B'hai in nature. I don't think every student needs to know all the gory details of gangs and gang-related behavior. And, I really don't think kids need to be terrified of natural resources running out and leaving these kids (and everyone here) in desperation and despair!

    As to stellar examples of teachers in the public system, I am constantly reminded of two P.E. teachers in my home district when I was in junior high and high school. One junior high P.E. teacher ended up divorced because he was sleeping with students…a classmate of mine became one of his wives when she turned 18. A high school P.E. teacher was known to be doing the same thing. Oddly enough, it was another classmate of mine that was part of his "entourage" way back then.

    No. I guess I don't have to expose my kids to that stuff, and I will choose to do what we do here instead. When we have conversations about the "tough stuff" in life, we can always factor in the Creator of the universe that makes a difference in our lives!

    In this increasingly liberal world, I am more inclined to dig in my heels and be the conservative I am called to be!
    Edited by MayTheyBeMightyMen on 17 March 2008 at 4:17 PM

  10. Very good points. I particularly like the NEA's analogy of homeschoolers as "well-meaning amateurs."

    Well, yeah. Have they looked up the words? "Professionals" do a thing for money, "amateurs" do a thing for love. I much prefer my children taught by someone who loves the subject matter and loves teaching it than someone who is merely paid to do it.

    So there, NEA. From an amateur who is proud of it!


  11. Amen Sister!

    One has only to look at the state rankings for California to see that the credential is not the magic ingredient. I am curious what those Amicus Briefs will look like from the state…"dear judges – um we think we should have more control…um cuz…it's not fair that they are doing better…and uh they should have as many cumbersome rules as we do, so that their kids don't have an unfair advantage….ARGGGGGGG!!!!!!! I really do have to use calming thoughts when this comes up. Breathe….breathe…..okay I'm better!

    Happy Thursday my dear!

  12. I know I am a little "late" commenting on this but this post is right on target. Sometimes the arguments against homeschooling just don't hold up against common sense and good logic. Great post!

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