Who's In Charge
I was a guest at a party not too long ago, and as usual, conversation turned to the “problems in America”, and not too long after that, many agreed that the educational system – namely TEACHERS – was the thing most threatening the American way of life. I constantly try to just listen to these 3 beer pundants, and not speak as one with over three decades of experience in the classroom; but although their expertise in the field of education and educational administration filled me with a sense of awe, I finally had to enter the fray. Although few minds were changed, at least it made me feel a little better.
Among many other things – and yes, some of the problems are caused by ineffective teachers and building administrators – I believe that the major problem with the education system is that it is generally run by people with absolutely no experience in the field. I recently read an article on the potential demise of the Tasty Baking Company, and one person claimed that the fact that the current CEO had no experience in the food production industry was a key factor in poor business decisions. Why are no such claims made about education? In addition, while I constantly hear politicians and others saying that the education of our children should not be a political or partisan issue, school board members are elected and are, by nature, politicians. Many school board members mean well, but most are driven by constituent agendas and, like most politicians, have their own re-election as their top priority.
If we really want to begin reforming the American education system let’s put educators in charge. I am not saying that teachers should totally run the schools – which would like letting the inmates run the asylum – but teachers should certainly have a great deal more input than they have in most school districts. (Once we let teachers have more input, we might even be able to get rid of the teacher unions everyone seems to hate). In addition to teachers, principals, administrative specialists, academics, and other education experts need to be in charge of the educational process. We cannot make the system better until we let only the people who have a vested interest in improving the system and the expertise to do so run the system. This is far from the case. In every district I know of there is a group of people; usually with the word “taxpayer” somewhere in their name, with the sole agenda of keeping their taxes as low as possible. More often than not, these people do not have children in the system and while their concerns are certainly legitimate and need to be addressed, improvement of the education system is not on their list of priorities. In some districts these people have an inordinate amount of control over who gets elected to the school board.
If this is the ideal model, then we should let the members of organizations devoted to peace and worldwide disarmament run the military and ensure that those with no formal legal training at all serve as judges. I could go on and on with such examples. (On a personal note: if this is the ideal model then I, as a practicing non-Catholic, would be honored and humbled to serve as Pope.) If, as reasonable people, we can agree that we need experts in their field to run complex institutions, doesn’t it then make sense that experts in the field of education should run our schools. I believe that if Governor Corbett and other political leaders at the state and national level are sincere about reforming and improving the education system then the first step is to eliminate the current management model and replace it with one that puts education in the hands of educators and not politicians. I believe that there are a lot of teachers, administrators, parents, scholars, and even those in the “taxpayer” groups that I mentioned that have a lot of good ideas - if anyone would just be willing to listen.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
This guest post was written by Gary Touchton. Mr. Touchton is a retired AP history teacher from Pennsylvania and is currently employed by Specialty Telephone Answering Service as a liaison to colleges and universities for Specialty's college answering service. The service offers emergency alert services and hotline services to educational facilities across the United States.