Friday, July 8, 2011

Why US Education Deserves Our Praise and Funding

John T. Harvey, an Economics professor at Texas Christian University, recently posted an excellent post to his Pragmatic Economics blog from Forbes. Here is an excerpt from that post:

"My immediate motivation for addressing this issue is the fact that over July 15-16, my wife, Melanie, and I will be attending the Save Our Schools conference in Austin. She has been a 4th grade teacher in Everman, Texas for 18 years, and I don’t know anyone who works harder than she does. I always tell people that she is the one with the real job. She gets up at 5:30am every morning, leaves the house about the time the kids and I are rising, goes in early to work to get things ready for the day, spends the school hours teaching lessons about mathematics, literature, science, civics, citizenship, friendship, achievement, disappointment, dedication, right, wrong, pride, humility, and more, and stays late to organize materials and set up special projects. During any given day, she may serve as instructor, mentor, counselor, intermediary, motivator, nurse, and disciplinarian. When she finally comes home around 5:30pm or 6:00pm, there are often papers to grade, parent calls to make, lesson plans to write, or other required (if not always important) tasks. To those looking for a cushy 9:00 to 3:00 job, this ain’t it. If it weren’t for the summers, when she finally gets to recharge her batteries and spend some quality time with the rest of the family, I would have begged her to quit years ago. Incidentally, she used to be a very successful (record-setting, in fact) office manager in the private sector. So much for, “Those who can, do, and those who can’t, teach.”

Melanie’s experience does not appear to be unique. Data from 2008 indicate that hours spent by teachers on instruction is higher in the US than in any other OECD country. And Christiana Stoddard and Peter Kuhn (2008) found that, since 1983, teacher on-the-job hours have increased by roughly one hour per week, while after school time devoted to work has jumped by 34%. It is also common for teachers to spend a not insignificant amount of their own money on materials for their students and there are at least a few training sessions they are expected to attend during the summers (on their own time).

One might interject here that there are plenty of jobs where the employees work long hours. Quite right. But teachers aren’t asking for our pity, only our respect. And this is something they sorely lack."

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