Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Too May Teachers Not Enough Students

I want to start by professing some of my ignorance here: I have never been a teacher, I have never studied "Education", so I may be way off base here.

I think we have too many teachers today.

Specifically I think we have too many bad teachers.  I recall a friend of mine back in High School who related his experience in a Geometry class where the teacher didn't understand anything past the first half of the book - so his class was basically converted into a "study hall" for the second half of the year.  This teacher had many years in service, I assume she effectively had tenure, and I am horrified to think of how many young folks she injured by failing to do her job.  [anecdotal, and second-hand as well, but I'm using this to illustrate where I'm coming from, not as evidence to support my conclusions]

For my time as a student, I rarely cared a wit about getting individual attention from the teacher for the vast majority of the time.  I could have had 10 classmates, 50, or even 100 (and I did have some classes in college with around 100 other students) and yet in all cases I was able to absorb the information being sent from the instructor as well in each case.  The information spoken or written could be heard and seen the same no matter how many students were present.

I will admit that I enjoyed smaller classes more.  I did enjoy being able to get more individual attention from the instructor.  But the purpose of a school (especially one largely supported by funds forcibly confiscated from the citizenry) is not the pleasure of the student, it is for the education of the student.

I am not opposed to making the experience pleasant, but I believe that any effort towards that end should only be done after the core purpose of educating the students has been accomplished.  I also believe that any cost for non-core activities should be paid for voluntarily by people who want those improvements.

So what are the benefits of fewer teachers and a larger class size?

With fewer teachers to pay, we will be able to pay them more money.  With higher salaries, teaching will become more attractive to those who are most capable, those who by their very nature are able to do many things will be more inclined to choose to teach.  More people will want to become teachers, so the bar to entry can be raised to exclude those least able to teach.

With fewer teachers to administer, we will need fewer school administrators.  These administrative positions are overhead - they have no direct influence over the education of the students.  If we assume that the goal of the school is to educate its students, then it is to the benefit of the school to reduce its overhead to devote more of its resources to the declared goal of education. 

If we had a limitless supply of resources to devote to every worthy enterprise then none of this would matter.  That is not the world in which we live.  Though we can print money, we cannot print wealth (we can at most only dilute it by the printing of more money.)  If the goal of education is to educate people, then I believe that we need to direct our limited resources to the funding of only the best teachers we can get.  For educators: raise their standards, raise their pay, thin their ranks.

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