Sunday, July 13, 2014
The problem with schools
A California judge has ruled that the California law that establishes tenure for teachers in public schools in the state is unconstitutional. He accepts the view that the law protects teachers, both good and bad, from being fired arbitrarily. Therefore, the law makes it almost impossible to fire an incompetent teacher. He argues that children, especially children in poor neighborhoods deserve good teachers. At present, bad or incompetent teachers are transferred from good schools to schools in poor neighborhoods.
It's all very true. In my mind and according to my experience and observation, good schools are created by good students, not by good teachers. The only way to improve a school is to improve the quality of the students. Good students - that is, students that are eager to learn and are curious enough to learn by themselves - have little problem in coping with bad and incompetent teachers. In my case, I had a physics teacher in high school who didn't know much about physics. He was the athletic coach and he knew about teen-age boys and games of football, baseball, etc. I learned physics on my own and went on to major in physics at university. One of my daughters - the one that attended El Camino Real High School - took the advance placement mathematics class. The teacher was a tenured English teacher. He didn't know much about math. The class was held in a room also used as an electronics laboratory. Some of the students spent time watching television programs. About a third of the students, including my daughter, hated this guy because he wasn't teaching them anything. My daughter went on to UCLA and majored in Physics (just like her old man) and graduated with the rank of No. 1 among the girls. That annoyed her. She wanted to be ranked among all the students and would have been pleased to be ranked No. 20 among all the students.
El Camino Real HS has a reputation nationally as being an outstanding school. It's because of the students. The residents of the area that provides the students are mostly college graduates and well-educated themselves. They provide smart kids for the school. Smart kids make a good school.