18 May Teaching as Competitive or Cooperative?
The last week or so, I’ve had ideas thumping around in my head that I just can’t seem to wrestle into a cohesive stream of consciousness. So, I’m just going to start blogging and see if they resolve themselves.
I’ve long struggled with the idea of teaching becoming a competitive profession. While competition is appropriate in a free market society, I think it’s wrong to treat education like a business. I admit that competition can be healthy and motivating for some individuals, however, imagine a system where teachers are hoarding their best lesson plans, unwilling to share ideas or manipulatives, because they want their students to have the highest test scores in the school. Imagine a system where teachers close their blinds and lower the shades, for fear that a colleague might see a new strategy that they “steal” in order to advance their position or salary. Is this what best serves the needs of all students?
I believe that teaching was meant to be a cooperative profession, and through cooperation, we will help all students to succeed. But….
Maybe I’m wrong…. maybe teaching must evolve into a industry in order to undergo the major shift that must take place for our teachers, students and school systems to reach the next level.
Point one, we complain that teachers are underpaid, and that our profession does not attract the quality of student we seek. Top performing students from high school and college generally seek out professions with large incomes and education does not provide that. So how can we change this? Public schools funded with sponsorships from private businesses? State pay scales that include increased income for level of education, national board certification, certification in specialities or additional areas, mentoring…?
Point two, in public education we serve the masses, a general population with curriculum geared to the “average” and who attend in large numbers. Industries specialize, they take people who are passionate about their cause and help them to become the best they can be in their field. In our current system, we educate kids in a liberal arts style, and provide them with very little opportunity to explore their passion.
I’m starting to feel that we need to do more as a society to focus on educating individuals, not masses. Don’t misunderstand. I’m not saying that we don’t educate all, I’m saying that we need to focus our education system on meeting the needs of each person, not the constraints of a budget. We need community schools that are much smaller, with class sizes of 10 and 12, not 30. We need schools that are specialized, and enroll students that are passionate about the focus, rather than in attendance because the law mandates it. We need systems that ebb and flow with the needs of the community rather than swing with the pendulum of curriculum reform.
So wait… maybe it’s competitive and cooperative at the same time. I’d love to hear some feedback on the idea of education being a competitive industry. Would this be the start of a brilliant new beginning for the US education system, or its downfall?