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'Making Better Teachers'

March 27, 1988

Your series on the teaching profession brings to mind the historical truism that the more things change the more they remain the same. On my desk is a report compiled in 1850--almost 150 years ago--by then-commission of education for Connecticut, Henry Barnard. He found that all nine normal schools in America (two in Canada were included) were deficient because:

1. Pupils are admitted without adequate preparatory attainments and without sufficient test of their "aptness to teach."

2. A majority of pupils do not remain a sufficient length of time to acquire that knowledge of subjects and methods.

3. There are no endowments to reduce the expense of a prolonged residence to a class of poor but promising pupils.

4. They are not provided with a sufficient number of teachers for the number of pupils admitted.

His report included an analysis by and from each of the schools with many statements that could have been included in The Times series without changing a word.

Two years later, in 1852, Susan B. Anthony stood up to speak in a meeting of the New York Teachers Assn. after several men had led the discussion over a vital topic of the day, the question of why the profession of teacher had less respect than that of doctor, lawyer or minister. There was shocked silence when she arose, according to minutes, and a half hour's debate to decide whether a female should be permitted this privilege.

What did she say? "It seems to me that you fail to comprehend the cause of the disrespect of which you complain. Do you not see that so long as society says that a woman has not brains enough to be a lawyer, doctor, or minister, but has plenty to be a teacher, every one of you who condescends to teach tacitly admits before all Israel and the sun that he has no more brains than a woman?"


Professor, Child Development

San Diego State University

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