In a recent guest column, Charles A. Hagberg presented his historical perceptions, current views, and speculated about the future of public education. He offered a very sketchy and biased history of public education in my opinion. I found his attempt to paint a picture of the future of education interesting in much the same way a science fiction book holds my attention for a few moments. I guess I have more faith in the human "being" than to believe for one minute that parents will place the education of their children in the hands of a computer. In one regard Mr. Hagberg's own ramblings point to the fatal flaw of the very Internet that seems to fascinate him so. Somebody has to be responsible to monitor fact versus fiction.
Too much of what is available on-line doesn't pass even the most basic of accuracy of information standards. People can post whatever they want on-line and then unsuspecting browsers, or worse - students trying to obtain factual information on a given topic, read it and take it for fact. Folks who spend a lot of time on-line will tell you that you have to perform background checks on authors, or entities, posting information on-line before you an judge the validity of their information. I would argue the same is true of Mr. Hagberg based on his often slanted, and in this case inaccurate, description of American history in regards to public education.
Mr. Hagberg wrote, "Then came the teacher's unions which required contracts, in-step raises, and higher costs." It is a documented fact that the step and lane salary schedule was developed and implemented by two school boards (one in Iowa and another in Colorado) around the year 1940. To claim that teacher unions get the credit/blame (depending on your perspective) for the mechanism of paying teachers that quickly spread across the nation on its merits is simply not true. Members of these landmark school boards were in fact educated citizens who felt that paying teachers for increasing experience in the classroom and also for continuing their formal education was a proper blend; and in the best interest of the children they were charged with educating. These stewards of their children's futures realized that the invaluable life experiences teachers deal with every day in the classroom facilitate the teacher's growth as a professional educator who is better able to deal with the multitude of situations that can and do occur while working with students. So, they put in place incremental increases in salary for the first portion of a teacher's career to compensate him/her for this experience that can only be obtained while teaching. Today, many people actually perpetuate another misconception believing teachers get a step raise every year that they teach and this is simply not the case either. Such steps are in place initially and usually stop after a dozen or so years in the profession. Remember, always check the source of your information (this can be very difficult on the Internet) as repeating what you read may or may not be the straight scoop.
TIM EDINGER is a fifth grade teacher at Forestview Middle School.
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