It seems that we are becoming a society that no longer trusts the integrity of others. I can understand why…there are so many examples out there of violations of trust that each of us could probably write a book. It is normal and somewhat healthy to carry a certain amount of skepticism regarding the intent of others but where do we draw the line? How much is too much?
Examining the issue from an economic theory point of view, trust is the backbone of specialization within an economic structure. Unless you learn how to do everything under the sun by yourself (and have the time to perform such tasks), are you not bound by mutual trust when dealing with another? We trust mechanics with our cars. We trust doctors, nurses, and other health professionals with our health. These individuals in which we place such trust are educated and well-trained professionals within their field—and if they do not perform in accordance with our trust, we will change to another individual within the field who does. Of course, this either assumes that everyone goes through trial and error for every professional service they encounter or we trust the experience and accuracy of another’s experience on which to base our decisions (and that information is readily available and accurate). In this regard competitiveness and the availability of quality information within the market place provide an environment for “self-regulation” that lends to an assurance that our trust in these services is warranted.
But what about teachers? The trend in today’s education policy is all about “accountability” and “performance of students”. Teacher quality is being judged by student performance. Sounds like good sound logic…if children were transmissions on an assembly line. Assembly line worker quality can be measured by examining how well the end product performs when tested. But can human beings? An individual child is just that—AN INDIVIDUAL. Teachers have to be free to find the best way possible to convey and reinforce masses amounts of information into each of these individuals. There will be no single approach that rules the day; and while curriculum standards are important, the material needs to be suited to the environment and social structure to which it is being delivered. That cannot be accomplished with standardized exam formats and across the board delivery methods.
Where is the trust? Educators are professionals. Yes, some of them are not as good at their craft as others; but won’t those individuals get “weeded out” just as the poor performing professionals (mechanics and doctors) would? Sure they will. It may take a little more time than it takes for a bad mechanic’s garage to go out of business but it will happen. If the mechanic has been unfairly pegged as problematic, he/she will find success in another’s garage. In actuality, it takes quite a long time to deem anyone as subpar in a profession. There are protections and safeguards in all aspects of the economy to support fair treatment. Why is it then that teachers are pegged as poor quality and impossible to get rid of? You are probably thinking to yourself “tenure”, but here is the thing. Bad teachers are bad from the start—so if they are permitted to stick around long enough to earn tenure protection, someone else has dropped the ball. It is not up to administration alone either. Parents who are involved in the educational process can get a “feel” for a teacher’s quality. It is akin to “feeling” that your car received poor care when observing the resulting performance of the car.
Concerns should be raised to administration and fairly assessed with other feedback (establishing consistency of concern). In addition, professional judgment needs to be employed when assessing the legitimacy of the concern; AND then there needs to be some “benefit of the doubt” extended to the professional in question to allow for interpreted “margin of error” which is present in all social relationships.
Parents also know the weaknesses within their own children that may affect the effectiveness of the teacher. The following may seem cold to some but I am working to make a point here. If you take an old car that is served its purpose well and is nearly shell-shocked to a mechanic, and then expect a “miracle” renovation when you pick it up a few hours later; you are being unreasonable. Further, if you take that car (or ANY car for that matter) to a mechanic that is only allowed to use a predefined set of tools, you will be very disappointed with all of your automotive concerns are not met.
My point (and I do have one) is, we need to trust educators to do what they are trained to do. They are practicing their craft and will make some errors in judgment over the years—but don’t we all (if we are honest). Why should they (we) be held to a different standard?
Further, what really lies at the base of this accountability movement? Are we simply shifting blame onto the educational field for the shortcomings and failings of us; as parents, community members, and government officials? I find it quite interesting that the political participants that are beating this accountability drum so fervently are the very ones that are failing so miserably to do their own jobs. They know damn well that we cannot trust them, so they want to make certain that stay preoccupied with the idea that we can’t trust each other.