What do teachers want?

This question is the headline for a Bridging Differences blog.   Diane Ravitch discusses two social science studies of what teachers want.  According to her, the MetLife Survey of the American Teacher “showed that teachers across the nation are demoralized and that their job satisfaction has dropped precipitously since 2009.”  She asked,

What has happened in the past two years? Let’s see: Race to the Top promoted the idea that teachers should be evaluated by the test scores of their students; “Waiting for ‘Superman'” portrayed teachers as the singular cause of low student test scores; many states, including Wisconsin, Florida, Louisiana, Michigan, Indiana, and Ohio have passed anti-teacher legislation, reducing or eliminating teachers’ rights to due process and their right to bargain collectively; the Obama administration insists that schools can be “turned around” by firing some or all of the staff. These events have combined to produce a rising tide of public hostility to educators, as well as the unfounded beliefs that schools alone can end poverty and can produce 100 percent proficiency and 100 percent graduation rates if only “failing schools” are closed, “bad” educators are dismissed, and “effective” teachers get bonuses.

Is it any wonder that teachers and principals are demoralized?

Another survey, released about the same time, has not gotten the attention it deserves. This one conducted by Scholastic and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is called Primary Sources: 2012. It contains valuable information about what teachers think.

You can read the studies, or bemoan low teacher morale; but skip the commentaries at the end of the Bridging Differences blogs.  Even though commenters want to improve education as much as I do; they wage war on each other, instead of bridging differences.  (I love the irony.)  They illustrate what we get when we believe pride is a virtue and humility a vice.  We can’t even communicate with each other because we are so busy being proud of ourselves.

To hear what teachers want, go to my video interviews with teachers.  There you will see humility, instead of ugly pride.

Do Diane Ravitch and I agree?

On her Bridging Differences blogsite (the one shared with Deborah Meier), Diane Ravitch wrote:

I am reminded that at the end of Experience and Education, John Dewey said that we need to think less about “progressive education” and “traditional education,” and think instead about good education. Who today even talks about “good” education? Instead, we are entrapped in empty discourse about meaningless data, and more and more children go through their schooling without any real engagement in the arts, science, history, projects, activities, or anything else that does not raise their scores in reading and math. (November 2, 2010)

Are Diane and I devoted to the same thing? Certainly she does not think it possible to talk about “good” education without first defining what it means to be educated. But I should not put words in her mouth/keyboard. My education colleagues believe it is unnecessary to define “educated;” she may believe that, too. Besides, she is a historian, not a philosopher.

I will let her think about this, while I ask readers:

Can we talk about “good education,” without first defining what it means to be educated? What would that conversation sound like? Where would it start? Where would it end?

When educators agree that defining “educated” is a prerequisite to a conversation about “good education,” the need for the conversation goes away. The ideal of the educated person inspires good teaching, good learning, “good education.” No conversation needed, just a meaningful, useful definition of what it means to be educated.

Which of the six virtues do you not want your child to develop:

Understanding? Imagination?
Strong Character? Courage?
Humility? Generosity?

Which virtues would you teach, instead?