On December 2nd, 2012 the American Federation of Teachers put out a press release proclaiming their recommendation that American Teachers be required to take something resembling a bar examination as lawyers do, citing that the common “rite of passage” of teachers graduating and being handed the keys to classrooms must be eschewed. Randi Weingarten, the leader of the union, came forth declaring further that the profession should be allowed to take ownership of itself which has become over regulated by test preparation companies—and I’ll add uneducated politicians—and should be able to self regulate as the professions of medicine and law have. Besides being a complicated statement that Weingarten and the AFT are putting forth it is bewildering and also contradictory in many areas and overall neglects many truths of the process—or “rites of passage”—that teaching candidates navigate on their way to the classroom.
Firstly, the institution of a national level bar for teachers is illogical from the onset. Education is a State-to-State issue constitutionally and though the Federal Government has found ways to encroach its influence over the already over regulated profession via non-binding legislation tied to “supplementary” funding, it remains a different ball game dependent on which state you are in. Having a national bar for these examinations is indicative of the ascent (or descent) into a nationalized school system, and furthermore a privatized one, because it overlooks the rights of each state to regulate its public systems and define its own processes.
The move towards nationalization of this system is hardly new, though it has been somewhat gradual over the past 20 years, and has started to materialize realistically over the course of the past 10 years. Both the No Child Left Behind Act legislation and the Common Core Standards have sought to—using the check book of the American people as a lever—strong arm states into adhering to a watermark that is level across the country even if the minutia, culture, and circumstances of people and groups are not even across the country. To be clear: a national education system in a country as populous and culturally, economically, geographically, and ethnically diverse as the United States is a proposition doomed not only to failure, but to almost immediate failure.
The argument towards nationalization has come from misguided bureaucrats and politicians who look at the systems of other nations where test scores are high and systems are successful. Unfortunately, these shadowy powers that be that occupy faceless chairs on school boards miss the point that these nations are generally smaller than the United States, hold a cultural and national weight to the education of youth, and are additionally ethnically and/or culturally congruous at a very high percentage; the bosses and puppet masters in education take all the wrong cues from these systems by looking at the quantitative success of these international systems but not the qualitative ones. Successful school systems internationally have a high impetus on the arts and music, they treat their teachers with respect and pay them in direct relationship to that respect. These systems maintain high standards but also appreciate the humanity and the humanities required for a successful school system to exist. It’s a cultural piece that must change here—where teachers are treated as valuable members of society and not parasites living off of the youth and under-privileged. Until the qualitative part—the culture and spirit of the art of education over the cold and uncaring science and economics of education—are addressed in this country our students will never be global contenders again.