Are Our Best Teachers an Endangered Species?

teacher pencilFrom my wife Liz, who is a principal, to my hair cutter Maryann, who is a nursery school teacher, to my students who have entered the teaching profession, to the scores of teachers in Bronx schools I have worked with when doing community history projects, the teachers I know are the hardest working, most idealistic, and most compassionate people I have the privilege of interacting with.

Most of them are women. It is a sad commentary on the times we live in that the profession they have devoted their lives to has been held up to ridicule, and made an object of contempt, by the most powerful people in our society, most of whom are men. It is even sadder that the “reforms” which are being implemented around the country at breakneck speed have the effect of so scripting classroom learning that the room for compassion and personal interaction with individual students has been curtailed.

I urge people to talk to teachers in their families and communities about how their jobs are being transformed by testing and accountability protocols being imposed in their schools and then think long and hard whether education policy in this nation is heading in the right direction.

mark naisonGiven the fault lines that have been revealed in our society by Hurricane Sandy, the last election, and the shootings in Newtown, Connecticut, do we really want to make our schools so impersonal and bureaucratic that the best teachers leave, and the ones who decide to join the profession are ones who have to harden their hearts, impose test after test and ignore their students personal lives? Is this the prescription for a healthy, humane society?

Mark Naison
With A Brooklyn Accent

Sunday, 23 December 2012

Image: Bigstock


  1. JoeWeinstein says

    The new ‘reforms’ are making things worse for conscientious educators, but things were bad enough long before these ‘reforms’ showed up.

    In my view, the most pernicious view of education is one that Naison himself doesn’t question: that education is a group (and indeed regimented group) phenomenon, something that must happen primarily in schools and especially in grade-segregated classrooms, and must be driven not by individual children’s desire to grow and explore and succeed but externally by group-activities-focused ‘professionals’. It’s interesting (to say the least) that this group-regimentation attitude prevails among ‘individual-centered’ ‘freedom-seeking’ Americans.

    I believe that the underlying reason that led to this attitude (mainly in the 19th and early 20th centuries, the heyday of industrial assembly line thinking – and with rather little reconsideration since) is economic. Namely, mass education – using just one teacher for many children rather than the time-honored use of tutors who each work with one or a few – is presumed to be cheaper. Of course it is – until you add all the administrative and logistic overhead that regimentation requires, and correctly cost out all the time-waste and misdirection suffered by each of the individual children. .

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