As bad as public education is when seen from the outside, it's even worse on the inside; you see the problems and the stupidity up close and personal. The system is broken and it's not going to be fixed; it's massive bureaucracy and entrenched interest groups make meaningful change extremely difficult to achieve.
One of the many issues that deeply disturbs me are the numerous barriers that are placed in front of potential teachers. I've mentioned it before, and I had numerous issues getting into the system myself. I still remember being told I'd need to demonstrate that I was strong enough in math to teach at the high school level. When I reminded the bureaucrat I had 3 degrees in math from accredited schools I was rebuked, "You're not qualified unless I say you're qualified.". That meant, among other requirements, taking a multiple choice test which required the purchase of a graphing calculator. The level of the questions was below what I had experienced in high school and yet it is the only acceptable measure of my math qualifications. Why aren't degrees from accredited schools recognized? Whatever the reason, the result is more time, effort, and money to become certified. And remember, top private schools don't value a teaching certificate, they care about the having teachers with advanced degrees.
The accumulation of barriers typically adds about 2 years of extra garbage to go through if you want to enter the public school system. I was reminded of that yet again with 2 recent articles. The first is article, "The Repurposed Ph.D." gives you a look into the poverty of a group: "Most held doctorates; a few were either close to completion or had left before finishing"..."One attendee recalled scraping by on $9,000 a year.". They've had to abandon academics because they can't make a living wage. But more than just the personal, anecdotal information, the statistics are staggering:
- "According to a 2011 National Science Foundation survey, 35 percent of doctorate recipients — and 43 percent of those in the humanities — had no commitment for employment at the time of completion."
- "Fewer than half of Ph.D.’s are expected to land tenure-track jobs."
- "In this view, Ph.D. programs, with their false promises, lure students to serve as cheap labor, first as teaching assistants, then as poorly paid adjuncts when tenure-track jobs elude them."
What's not mentioned in the article are these academics going on to the high school level. That's almost certainly due to the fact they can't because of the various barriers I've experienced first hand myself; barriers that take time and money to overcome for people who, in not having a job, lack the financial means to pursue. Qualified to teach freshman at college for slave wages with no benefits they are completely unable to teach students one year younger in the public school system because of the certification requirements.
The second article is "From Welfare to Tenure Track" on the Chronicle of Education's website. The person at the center of the article had a Ph.D. in medieval history and was unable to get more than an adjunct position where "Her adjuncting brought in $900 a month, $750 of which went immediately toward rent. To make the remaining $150 last longer, she learned tricks familiar to those with little room for financial maneuvering: stretching two pounds of hamburger meat over six meals, reminding her daughter to use a washable rag instead of paper towels, asking friends if they had an extra roll of toilet paper when she ran out. At times she borrowed her mother’s car to drive to campus—about 100 miles round trip—because she couldn’t afford to fill up her own gas tank"...."[she] ended up relying on food stamps and Medicaid, barely scratching out a living for herself and her 17-year-old daughter. When she wasn’t grading papers, or worrying about keeping the lights on and the hot water running, she was trawling the Web in search of articles about the brutal academic job market and colleges’ use of adjuncts.".
Again, the anecdotal information is buttressed with statistics: "She had a point, and she wasn’t speaking just for herself. Between 2007 and 2010 the numbers of Ph.D.-holders receiving aid more than tripled, from just shy of 10,000 to 33,000.".
If the public schools are interested in getting "experts in the field" to teach at the high school level, there is a huge supply of people who would be willing and able to teach, if given the chance. But the numerous nuisance barriers (such as making someone with a graduate degree prove they have mastered their subject, or passing a test on the US Constitution to teach math) on top of the legitimate barriers (background check) make it onerous for people with limited financial means to pursue. Making it easier for these people who are passionate and knowledgeable in their field to teach in a public school without the nuisance barriers would tighten the supply of people qualified to teach at the college level and ultimately force colleges to pay a more reasonable wage. During these tough economic times, it's even more imperative. But nobody in the system wants that; that would make a teaching certificate less important if it could be replaced by actually being knowledgeable in the field.