The reasons for these failures are many. When the American workplace was desegregated along sex lines, the subsidy of cheap female labor that American K-12 schools had received disappeared. Teacher salaries have not kept up, and the low-to-mediocre pay society provides to teachers is answered in the quality of education that society receives in return. Teaching is no longer a womanâ€™s profession â€“ a feminine analog to the legal field â€“ but an artisan craft â€“ in which apprenticeship counts for more than theory. Teachers are not professional who are entrusted to work without supervision for the best interests of their clients. Rather, they are artisans â€“ skilled laborers â€“ who use practical expertise and learned talent to practice their craft
In a recent column in The Atlantic, Education scholar Paul T. Hill voices similar thoughts:
Public education struggles with two conflicting facts. First, public schools are small craft organizations that require close teamwork and constant adaptation to the unpredictable development of students. Second, they are government agencies always subject to constraints imposed through politics and legal processes.
In the more than half-century since Brown v. Board of Education, the second set of facts has dominated the first. Public schools have been subject to court orders about how particular students must be educated; federal and state regulations that dictate how money is used, students are grouped, and teachers work; and labor contracts that force schools to employ teachers who are poorly matched to the needs of students and the strengths of other teachers.
Dr. Hill is on the advisory board of the National Council of Teacher Quality and a distinguished fellow at the Hoover Institution. It’s cool to see my article (inadvertently) echo one of his thoughts!