Saturday, May 30, 2015

Oh, Wisconsin

Teachers in Wisconsin recently got another kick in the face with the state government's earnest attempts to strive to reach the bottom of the pile in terms of standards for teaching, education, and learning.

Wisconsin State Capitol
It's always so sweet when politicians on committees* make decisions about education based only on the all-important bottom line ($$$) with no regard for what works in real classrooms. With the interests of the state at heart, they have to find places to cut spending to make the budget look good, and the first place the Republican representatives like Mary Czaja gleefully hack to bits is education. At the local level when faced with less money to educate kids, programs like foreign language, art, and music get slashed (never anything sports-related, of course, because after money, Americans value sports most of all). Languages, music, art...that's just culture, and who needs that?

*COMMITTEES:  Because none of us is as dumb as all of us

(thank you, demotivational posters of

The most alarming part of the state's proposed budget (but believe me, there are other significantly alarming bits regarding education) is that a teaching license will be as easy to get as a fishing license** for people who want to teach 6th to 12th graders. As long as a person is deemed by the public school district or private school "proficient" in the area s/he wants to teach and has real world experience in the subject field, s/he will be granted a license to teach by the state.

**For the benefit of my German readers, a fishing license in Wisconsin does not require knowledge of various types of fish, techniques used for fishing, or rules as it does here - you just go to a gas station that sells fishing licenses, pay the yearly $15 fee, and collect your permit.

Even a bachelor's degree won't be required to obtain a teaching license except, perhaps, for the four core subject areas: English, math, science, and social studies.

This means that (for example) if your neighbor graduated from high school, married a German [real world experience], can convince several people who don't speak German that he can, and perhaps spent some vacation time in Germany [more experience], he will be granted a license to teach German to middle and high school students in Wisconsin (grades 6 to 12).

However, since German programs are being cut left and right in Wisconsin schools because there's just not enough money and the whole world should speak English anyway, that wasn't the best example.

Your other neighbor who owned a small cafe can teach business, computer, and economics classes because he has real world experience in the field of business. Mary Czaja herself suggested that, for instance, a local mechanic could teach middle and high school shop classes. I have a lot of respect for mechanics, but I would be slower to suggest they should teach a bunch of 6th to 12th graders in a classroom.

To teach math or science the candidate might need a bachelor's degree, but still no classes in how to teach. Any idiot can teach a class of 25 hormone-infested teenagers most of whom don't give a flying shit about the class, after all. Right?

It doesn't take any special skills or talents to teach while dealing with all the interruptions that come in the course of a class period as well as the students who approach the teacher after the starting bell to announce that they have returned from their week-long hunt with Dad but didn't do any of the homework she prepared for them before their departure as requested because they were, well, in a tree stand all week, and are wondering if they missed anything during their five-day absence. The emails from parents wondering why their child is not getting an A in the class when she got As in all her previous math classes will also be no problem - the untrained teacher can answer those during her 45-minute prep period. Learning the various components of an effective lesson or unit plan? Pish posh. This teacher won't expect to have to deal with a 10th grader wimpering, "Mrs. Smith, Johnny took my pencilllllll!", but that won't be a problem either because she has real world experience and is good at math.

No longer will the people standing in front of your child's classroom have to waste years and lots of money on college classes focusing on teaching methods, assessment strategies, reaching students with special needs, multicultural education, philosophies of education, or any of the other silly classes that prepare a person for the teaching profession. If they can present themselves in an interview as competent enough in the subject area and possessing real life experience, they're good to go.

With that line of thinking, since I raised two children to adulthood, I should be able to get a Wisconsin medical license to be a pediatrician, a counselor or therapist, a nutritionist, or a nurse. Someone who has tinkered with wiring in his own and friends' houses without electrocuting himself or burning anything down should be able to get an electrician's license in Wisconsin.

Home schooling isn't even legal in Germany - for religious or any other reasons - because in Germany formal education is deemed important enough to be handled and directed by professionals. In Wisconsin, though, if this budget passes, just about anyone will be able to get a license to teach classes of other people's children from 6th to 12th grade whether he or she is cut out for teaching or not.

Good work, Wisconsin. Good work.

the Wisconsin high school where I taught for 13 years after wasting time in college
and taking additional classes after college to learn how to be an effective teacher

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