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'Making Better Teachers'

March 27, 1988

I see that once again teachers are being made the scapegoats for the crisis in education ("Making Better Teachers," by Anne Roark, Part I, March 13-16), while the politicians and so-called "statesmen" who are elected and charged with the responsibility of providing an adequate educational system are let off the hook. These people in Sacramento and Washington, the George Deukmejians and the (Secretary of Education) William Bennetts, think that their platitudinous rationalizations are sufficient excuses for the scant funding and failure of leadership at all levels of public education. And it is we "ignorant" teachers who are at fault for the sad state of our schools.

To "prove" this argument The Times offers some figures that confirm another cliche about the ease of misleading people with statistics. We are told that "Those planning to major in education ranked fourth from the bottom on a list of about two dozen intended college majors." The reader is left with the idea that these are the only people who go into teaching. There is even a chart provided showing the top-scoring majors: mathematics and languages and literature, with SAT scores respectively of 1077 and 1055, while the education majors' scores average 845. We are supposed to conclude from this that all those going into teaching now are at a lower academic level. What is not pointed out is that many, perhaps even most people who are now teaching (I have no projections for the future here), took academic majors in college. I teach at Alhambra High School. As an undergraduate I majored in English; I have a master's degree in American studies and I just completed a doctoral dissertation in U.S. history. And I am hardly unique.

The plight of American education will not be solved by scapegoating those who have to do the educating in overcrowded classrooms (California is at the bottom in teacher to student ratio), where we are confronted with unprecedented discipline problems no longer being dealt with in the home, where we have to address the varying educational needs and skill levels of a multiplicity of students from differing cultural backgrounds, and where we fight an uphill battle against the anti-intellectualism and contempt for teachers fostered by our own culture.

It is not surprising to me that the teaching profession faces shortages, nor that teachers are subject to burnout. Not only are we overworked and underpaid, and held solely responsible for the lack of adequate funding and societal commitment to education that is at the root of its problems, but our intelligence and academic prowess is slandered as well.

CHUCK CHURCHILL

Los Angeles

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