NY Times: Teacher Blame

I have a short piece in the NY Times today. Feedback welcome!

Let me tack on 2 thoughts.

1. It's interesting how these NYT things work. You get very short notice and 300 words. A typical newspaper op-ed is about 600 or 700.

2. From the comments in the NYT, I realize that some readers misunderstand my point. "An Ordinary American in Texas" wrote:

March 7th, 2011 11:26 am

I think Goldstein has nailed it: "the gritty reality of low student effort." If we want to follow that fact back to its causes, then we'll see that the "education problem" is in truth a "culture problem," and the causes of that are complicated, indeed.

Of course I like when someone thinks I nailed it. However, that's not what I believe. Here's the extra couple paragraphs I wish I had room for.

I do think much can be solved at the teacher level. It's quite plausible for teachers to generate student effort.

The thing that blocks us from solving things "at the teacher level," however, is precisely this disagreement on the true job description of "teacher" -- and whether it includes coaxing or coercing effort from kids.

There are at least 3 other viewpoints:

a. No teacher can coax or coerce that much effort from reluctant kids: basically kids will only pursue what they wish to pursue, so you'd better adjust curricular choices accordingly. I'm going to call that the "Philip Waring" in honor of one of my funders and readers. Check out his blog.

b. Perhaps a teacher can coax or coerce student effort, but that's not the appropriate job of a teacher, it's the job of a parent or the kid himself.

c. Perhaps a teacher can coax or coerce student effort, but the system is not set up well for that, nor are they adequately compensated for that. The sort of time needed to do that work -- parent phone calls, before and after-school kid connections, rapid rewards/consequences for homework and assigned readings -- is high. This competes against other tasks expected of teachers they're not teaching.