Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, left, and Commissioner of the state Department of Education, Stefan Pryor, Right, arrive at the legislature's Education Committee public hearing on Malloy's education proposal. Melanie Stengel/Register (ctbulletin.com)
Okay, I’ll admit it.
I’m a teacher and my job is pointless.
I’ve been thinking a lot about this fact as educators have come under increasing criticism—especially here in Connecticut.
I concede that formal education is unnecessary. Public school is a relatively new idea, and people got by without classrooms and textbooks for millennia. Our most beloved American success stories are of self-made individuals who struck out against schools and other institutions to make their own way.
The truth is everyone is perfectly capable of learning what they need to survive. Watch a child master a new task to see what I mean. Learning is ingrained in human nature, and our curiosity allows us to figure out everything we need to know.
So why teach? After all, Governor Malloy insists a teaching job should be “like every other job.” He says teachers should welcome evaluation and competition as a way to improve our practice. He says we don’t want to accept common business principles into our field soley so we can protect our tenure system.
I’ll counter with a question: Should teaching even be considered a job?
Let’s compare working in education to working in the ministry. Across cultures and religions devout men and women heed the call to serve others through their faith. Clergy are highly regarded for pursuing a vocation and for trying to make the world a better place. They are protected and cared for by organized religion so they can do good without impediment.
However, as a job, becoming a priest or a rabbi or an imam is pointless. People in general can find their own spiritual path just fine. Spirituality is a natural part of life, and we are all equipped with an intuitive sense of divinity. Left to their own devices, people will usually form a personal system of belief.
But isn’t it nice to have some guidance?
Maybe teaching should not be seen as just another job. Like the clergy, men and women enter the field to enrich their communities. Yet you don’t see the government attacking religion. Despite some bad apples, the influence of religious people in this country is stronger than ever.
When a member of the clergy is criticized—rightly or wrongly—the faithful often see this as an attack on their beliefs. Believers in education should feel just as indignant. They should see attacks on teachers for what they are—attacks against the value of education.
Governor Malloy urges you to see teaching as just a job. As such, many of his new policies will reward the very teachers he claims he wants to root out—those who pander to principles, who bully students into compliance, and who merely teach to the test. In short, he will reward the teachers who only show up for a paycheck, not those truly devoted to their students.
If you consider yourself a member of the faithful, please support the educators and staff who chose a career in education instead of working just another job. Believe it or not, there are scores of talented, hard-working people in our schools who want to make a difference.