Those Who Can and Those Who can’t

22 Aug

One day in class I was grading papers and it had been a long day and I was getting tired and… well, I thought it might be a good idea to ask a student to help me. So I asked, and an eager student raised her hand to volunteer. I handed her a stack of papers and an answer key and off she happily went. Later that evening as I was preparing to place the grades into my grade book I noticed that my helpful student had dutifully graded all of the papers that I had handed her. In fact, she was so diligent that she even graded the answer key! And it got an 87! So of course I had to stay up late that night rechecking all of those papers.

One of the things that can make being a teacher so difficult is that very soon after you take the job you realize that even though you’d like some help, you’re really on your own.


…And now a word about Jesus, Buddha, Mohammed and Confucius.

Oh wait! Come to think of it they were all teachers! Was that because they couldn’t do? I am so tired of hearing that one. People who teach can do just fine.  It’s just that they also love to teach. That saying, “Those who can do and those who can’t teach.” And there are many derivatives, comes from a play by George Bernard Shaw. So the first person to actually say this was a fictional character! And those who have said it afterwards in real life said it simply to be mean and insulting or to make a poor joke in bad taste but never meant to be enlightening in any way.

George Bernard Shaw himself was apparently not a lover of teachers and schools simply because where he grew up in the mid-19th century in Dublin Ireland schools, to paraphrase his own words, were more like prisons than places of education and teachers more like prison guards, and in his Treatise on Parents and Children, he said that he considered the standardized curricula, deadening to the spirit and stifling to the intellect. He was also not a big fan of the use of corporal punishment, which was common in his time. Not surprisingly many of the schools he attended were parochial in nature or influence.

            Today’s schools and teachers are of course quite different from the ones that existed over a century ago and when you consider what America’s public schools have to offer in the way of staff, services, professional expertise, opportunities, activities, equipment and technology they have to be among the greatest centers of knowledge of  all times! And every community has one and they are all available to the public with no charge for tuition since local, state and federal governments fund them through taxes paid by citizens. All public schools must take all children. There are no exceptions, no matter what race or creed and including students with special needs. In addition Public schools must abide by all federal, state, and local laws when it comes to the education of children. There are laws about funding, program development and curriculum. The schools must follow curriculum guidelines that include math, English, reading, writing, science, history and physical education and most schools include extra curricular activities in music and art. Plus, State certification is required to teach at a public school which ensures the parents that the teacher has gone through the required training necessary to teach the curriculum by the state and that the teacher can not only DO but teach as well!

            It has been proposed by some, including the governor of New Jersey, that teachers need not be certified and that more privately run charter schools should be approved and opened allowing instructors who are not certified by the state to work there. No doubt this proposal is an effort to make schools cheaper by driving down the cost of labor, first by employing non-certified personal to teach at a lower wage and then by using those lower wage earners as leverage to force certified teachers and their unions in public schools to accept lower wages or risk being replaced by more non-certified personnel. This is a typical strategy used in our country by corporations to drive down labor costs. unfortunately it also drives away well trained and skilled American workers and replaces them with foreign, or overseas or illegal workers. And it raises this very important question: Would you give up your job in order to lower your taxes? Would you give up someone else’s? Corporate and wealthy professionals know the answer to this question. It’s no! And if they say that I’m wrong then I propose that we begin opening charter law offices with un-certified lawyers who understand the law but who just don’t have a degree. I’m sure those “lawyers” would not have to charge $300 to $400 an hour just for a consultation. We have a lot of ex-cons in this country who have done a lot of law study during their incarceration. I bet they could use a job. Or how about allowing charter medical centers to open, staffed with un-certified physicians who could treat the 45 million people in this country who don’t have health care but who would like some medical advice at a lower cost. I’m sure there are a lot of people out there with medical training and skills who just never finished their schooling to get that certification and degree. Wouldn’t charter pharmacies be nice? I’m sure they would drive down the exorbitant, constantly rising, cost of pharmaceuticals in this country. How about a charter oil company or two run by Venezuelan or Canadian entrepreneurs where gasoline prices wouldn’t always rise immediately after that storm in the Gulf or where prices wouldn’t always be exactly the same as all of the other “independent” oil company “competitors”? How about a charter bank where un-certified and amateur bankers with business savvy and a knack for saving a buck or two (you probably have a few of these folks in your family) are allowed to manage and keep track of your money? Do you think they could hold onto your money without losing it or misplacing it or making illegal investments and ill advised loans and then having to be bailed out by the government? I bet we could save a buck or two if we had competitive charter banking in this country. Maybe we could even get some interest while they hold onto our money for years at a time!!!

 Is it really necessary that we require the teachers of your children to be qualified and certified by the state?

 Consider the fact that students who have special needs are NOT excluded by the state from attending the public schools but rather are welcomed and evaluated and recommended for special and enhanced programs. Along with special education, there are also classes for the gifted and talented, programs for children whose native language is not English, specialists to help children, such as guidance counselors, nurses, speech or language teachers, social workers, and psychologists. Many public schools have sports teams, clubs and other scheduled extracurricular activities after regular school hours. Drug and alcohol-abuse prevention programs are located in every school district and in the high schools and these professionals can also refer students to more intensive programs if needed.  The public schools also offer the latest in computer technology and libraries and many if not all of these facilities are made available to everyone in the community because it’s public and because the people who do this work for your children and on your behalf are trained, qualified and certified to do so! How about the arts? Many children would never be exposed to the arts, the very essence of what helps define us as humans, if it weren’t for the public schools.

There are so many jobs that need doing and so many areas of expertise and of specialization that require a highly trained and technical staff.

So what about the price for all of these public learning centers? Many would have you believe that the cost to the public is outrageously expensive or over priced and that teachers receive too much compensation and too many benefits, and all at a cost that is crippling the American family and tax payer. But is that really true? How expensive and how outrageous are our property taxes in the United States of America? In the United States public schools are funded by public tax dollars. The average amount of property taxes paid by an American homeowner is 3,384.00 dollars per year. In New Jersey where I live the average is 6,331.00 dollars per year in property taxes paid but we must remember that property taxes pay for other services also, not just the public schools. In fact about 2/3 of all property taxes or about 67% go to the public schools. That means that the average U.S. property tax payer pays about 2,267 dollars per year for the public schools in their district. That’s 43 dollars a week!

Or we can put this in perspective and say…1 carton of cigarettes! 3 cases of beer! 4 tickets to the movies! 2 tickets to a professional baseball game! (Maybe) NO tickets to a professional football game! 8…count them…8 minutes with a lawyer! 14 gallons of gas! 4 years of interest on 10,000 dollars in the bank! (Yes, that’s right! If you keep 10,000 dollars in a savings account and don’t touch it for 4 years you’ll have 43 more dollars!)  Could you expect to pay for a visit from a mechanic or plumber or electrician with 43 dollars where you live in America? Even in New Jersey where property taxes are higher we’re still only talking about 80 dollars per week or so for public schools in your school district. That’s a little over 4,200 dollars per year.

How much do you spend in interest payments for the mortgage on your home each year? How much does the ownership of one car cost you each year? How much do you spend on food in your home or even for food outside of your home? How much do you spend on utilities like phones, gas and electric bills each year? The U.S. Department of Labor’s latest survey on the expenditures of the average consumer unit in America shows (As of October 2010) that we spend more money on each of those categories then we do on taxes for the public schools. We even spend more money entertaining ourselves than we do on our public schools! All things considered, what we pay for our public schools is quite a bargain, especially since the people we employ there are people who only teach and don’t really do anything, except of course spend every day in the company of your children and most likely spend more time interacting with your children than you do so why pay for those guys? Why certify them? Because we need to make sure that the people who take care of our children and who we entrust to educate and guide them are well educated, well intentioned and well paid.

There’s an old Greek saying that “To have a child is to send your heart out into the world unguarded.” Putting out tax payer money where our children and our hearts are can never be a bad investment and in fact is the only investment that will pay dividends way into the future and beyond.

Or you can forget about what I’ve had to say and just listen to arguably one of the greatest teachers of all time and do what he suggests.                            

“If you do not look after each other, who will look after you?”


76 Responses to “Those Who Can and Those Who can’t”

  1. mytiturk December 3, 2012 at 5:24 am #

    Began and ended my life in the teaching profession. In between I had a successful career in middle and top management. There is no form of work that I would rate higher than teaching in importance. What price would one put on a creative imagination? On a concern for values and ethical guideposts? The “educational system,” like any human construct, is far from perfect, but the best teachers make a huge, positive difference for many students.

    • gpicone December 3, 2012 at 6:40 pm #

      Thanks for reading and thanks for your comment. How many years did you teach. 33 for me 🙂

      • mytiturk December 4, 2012 at 3:20 am #

        Two as a volunteer in Trinidad where I was paid the local wage (1965-67), then 14.5 in Canada (1992-2007). Heart attacks in 2000 made me stop, with a much reduced pension, at 62 just in case. The profession “swallowed me up” when I resumed teaching in 1992. Loved it, but burned the midnight oil for years, constantly tinkering.

  2. drybredquips December 4, 2012 at 5:20 am #

    Thanks for liking “under pressure” and for sharing your thoughts. Both my daughters are certified teachers – one in New Jersey.

    • gpicone December 4, 2012 at 5:57 pm #

      Thanks for visiting my blog too! How do your daughters enjoy teaching? What have their experiences been like?
      I worked in Lakewood, NJ.

  3. dfunpen December 6, 2012 at 9:15 pm #

    Thanks for visiting my blog, enjoyed reading, though I’m not a teacher, I appreciate teachers. I am where I am nown because of them.

  4. morristownmemos by Ronnie Hammer December 16, 2012 at 11:13 pm #

    Wonderful blog; I think it should appear on the editorial pages of papers around the country.
    There is no better way to spend money than in educating our children. In fact, if there were a way to educate the children of the world we would have far fewer problems to cope with.

  5. irishroverpei December 18, 2012 at 5:34 pm #

    Thanks for visiting my blog, Merry Christmas

  6. Sandra Perdew December 20, 2012 at 4:57 am #

    Thank you for visiting my blog aginggraycefully. We can never pay our teachers enough!

  7. curlyadventurer December 22, 2012 at 6:18 am #

    Very True Words. I worked at a school last year and the public perception of schools is in a bad state. Teachers are some of the hardest working people I have ever met.

  8. Wildflower Women January 9, 2013 at 3:57 pm #

    We as a nation must be willing to invest our money in our future, our children. Somehow this all reminds me of a Native American quote by Chief Seattle, “we do not inherit the Earth from our parents, we borrow it from our children”. Thank you for being passionate and for teaching our children.

  9. emmylgant January 10, 2013 at 4:10 pm #

    Thanks for visiting my blog . Great piece in defense of teachers! They should be hailed as heroes and not scapegoats for everything that ails our society. Enough already!

  10. BarbaraBarbara Stanley January 15, 2013 at 2:30 am #

    I love reading your posts. I taught second grade and the developmentally disabled. My daughter teaches engineering. We relate.

    • gpicone January 15, 2013 at 5:34 am #

      Thank you so much. My son is a teacher also.

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