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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Column: We’re at a loss for teachers and a desire to become one

In high school, I had a pretty great and eccentric enrichment teacher, who also served as career adviser to each of her students. While I’ve always been set on filmmaking, she made a pretty strong case for going into education.

“The world will always need more teachers,” she would say. “Of course, smart kids like you, you don’t want to be teachers.”

Therein lies perhaps one of the greatest catch-22s of the American educational system. The public needs smart, charismatic people to become teachers, but smart, charismatic people typically want to go off and pursue their own specialized careers. This is not to say that there aren’t any good teachers right now. Of course there are. There just aren’t enough.

At the UA, our most popular majors are the usual suspects: business, marketing, biological sciences and bowling management. Education tends to fall further down that list. And yet, according to research done by the Arizona Daily Star, Arizona had 217 vacant teaching positions as of July 17. No such statistic exists indicating a lack of business professionals or medical professionals or, least of all, filmmakers.

Ostensibly, the major deterrent to a career in education is the paycheck. The last National Education Association study has the average Arizona educator making around $45K a year, which is just at the average. On top of that, working in education is often a thankless job.

The current Davids v. New York lawsuit, filed in July 2014, sees the New York Parents Union suing to remove several tenants of the state’s education laws protecting teachers. Regardless of the actual merits of this case, it represents the volatile nature of the teaching profession.

If students fail, then parents criticize the teachers first, rather than first assessing whether the students themselves, or perhaps the broader educational system, are the problem.

That’s hardly an enticing advertisment for the profession, though. In many ways, it points to what is actually so interesting about the education field. In today’s world, working in say, an elementary school, means encountering challenges related to race, mental health, parenting and, of course, politics. University students could hardly ask for a more exciting occupation.

I grew up and received a truly wonderful education in Overland Park, Kansas, despite our governor, the probably evil Sam Brownback, cutting education funds at nearly every opportunity. Now that I go to school in Arizona, I like to say that I’ve survived being educated in the two states with the worst possible governments.

Despite this joke, I feel a legitimate sense of dread for the public institutions that I owe so much to, gutted as they constantly are by greedy conservatives who want nothing more than to see education privatized. Such an event would prove devastating to the nation, with students being forced into learning only what private interests deem appropriate.

With that in mind, the mission then falls squarely in the lap of the current generation. We need young people who are willing to look past the material gains of more lucrative professions and commit to ensuring that future generations have the teaching support they need. Beyond this, the country needs teachers who truly see their work as a calling, who will endure budget cuts, lack of resources, problem students and problem parents.

Otherwise, the public education system faces a dark, uncertain future.

While university students are certainly free to pursue whatever career they choose, they might stop to look back once in a while and consider that the place they are most needed might just be the very place that started them on their current career path.


Follow Greg Castro on Twitter.


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