American public education is facing a crisis. A nation boasting some of the top universities in the world falls short when it comes to the quality of education at the public school level.
One of the leading causes of this problem reverts to one thing: teachers. We don’t stress the importance of good teachers like we should. According to The New York Times, American public school teachers come from the bottom 60 percent of college graduates.
This is a problem, and our shortsightedness keeps us from seeing that. Many colleges offer a curriculum in “education,” and most have dismally low acceptance standards for their programs.
For example, a university in Michigan called Ferris State University admits students into their “Early Childhood Education” program with only a 2.25 high school GPA. How do we expect children to receive a good education when the teachers weren’t good students themselves?
This should be a startling statistic to most. Instead of colleges offering a
vague “education” major, they should offer a concentrated subject instead, like any other college degree. Instead of offering this vague curriculum, students who want to teach history, math or biology should study their own fields in depth, and upon graduation, undergo training to become teachers. In doing so, this would afford students to learn under a master of the subject, rather than a generalist.
However, Americans do not value teachers like other countries. Japan, for instance, only recruits the best students in certain fields to teach. There, the profession is highly respected, and the children are not there to get an education, but to learn practical social skills and civic engagement. Perhaps this is what sets them apart from us.
In Japan, education is the backbone of their society, and teachers play an integral role in that philosophy. Quality is highly sought after. Moreover, American teachers are not as good as they should be largely due to the relatively low salaries that remain unattractive to many indebted college graduates.
According to CBS, Japanese teachers make $11,000 more than the average American schoolteacher. A good student can find a job with a substantially higher salary, so where is the incentive to teach?
A study made by McKinsey & Company found that in New York City in 1970, the difference between an attorney’s salary versus a teacher’s was only $2,000. Now, that disparity has grown to a staggering $115,000.
Perhaps the reason teachers are continually paid so little is because of this mentality that drives the notion of education solely as a means to an end — the end being a job — which I do not see as a problem.
This mindset, however, becomes a problem once other crucial subjects — reading, writing, math, science and history are neglected in favor of more “practical” skills or vocations. The classic trivium of grammar, rhetoric and logic would provide a firm basis on which to build on other subjects: math, reading and writing — subjects with which American schoolchildren continually struggle.
Unfortunately, a classical education is highly criticized for its perceived lack of practicality and elitism.
Someday, America will learn — I hope.