Letters To The Editor
I enjoyed reading "Brownbagging It Means Paying More for Fewer Nutrients" (Aug. 25, 1982). Particularly, I was amused by something I read in the second paragraph: "... a turkey sandwich on a role."
I'll admit I've known some people who have reminded me of turkeys in their roles of student, teacher, administrator, or education critic. What I didn't realize is that you can make sandwiches out of them!
James A. Boytim Assistant Professor Psychology and Education Dickinson College Carlisle, Pa.
Editor's note: We regret our mistake, but we appreciate your rye sense of humor. And we're glad you didn't criticize us ad homonym.
For some, Robert C. Hawley's "A Lesson From Paper Mills, Where the Client Comes First" (Commentary Aug. 18, 1982) may have had appeal, but to the rest of us it revealed a clear lack of understanding of the hierarchy that exists both in the educational sector and in the industrial sector. It is futile to compare the format of industry with that of education.
I have been a teacher for the last 15 years, after spending 27 years in industry. The two areas are worlds apart when one seeks to define a definite path toward evaluation (quality control) and accountability.
I do agree with Mr. Hawley that large measures of time, effort, and expense have been directed toward evaluation, setting objectives, and so forth, all to no avail.
Has any thought been given to the notion that evaluation procedures are fine and that the difficulty lies in our implementation of them? It seems characteristic of our society that, when something doesn't seem to give us the answers that we want to hear, we are ready to change the rules first, rather than examine ourselves to see if we have complied with the initial directives. Mr. Hawley's view that "quality assurance" is better than "teacher evaluation" provides evidence of this behavior. But a rose is a rose no matter what the name. The task is performed as it should be, or it isn't.
Mr. Hawley would place responsibility for ineffective evaluation at the doorstep of the building principal. Mr. Hawley's friend in the paper mill seems to be competent in his role as a quality controller, but a quality controller is not the administrative head of the company. He evaluates a product (a single task); the building principal is responsible for a multitude of duties, and the evaluation of personnel is only one of them.
I am not a principal nor am I an administrator, and I do not speak for them (I doubt that they need my assistance). In effect, I am the "client" of their services. When I entered the classroom, I received more help from building principals than I thought that I needed. That was one of the first errors in my new career. I approached the classroom with the notion that it was simply another work assignment (I, too, thought that education and industry were alike), and my building administrators helped me through the troubled transition that confronted me.
Students, I found, are not like the products in industry, nor are they like those who work in it. Now every teacher knows that, but at the beginning, I didn't. The format that was successful in industry with my subordinates in no way worked in the classroom. For example, one day when a student managed the impossible and did everything wrong, I inadvertantly said, "You are fired." The student looked up at me and retorted, "You can't fire me, Mr. Marsella, you are not in industry any more. You have to show me how not to get fired when I enter industry." The transition between the workplace and the school can be a frightening experience.
With all the assistance that I received from building administrators, I never realized fully what their jobs entailed. I thought that they were there simply to assist me in my new role (how is that for being nave!). Principals seemed to be simply other superiors. But, unlike the quality controller in the paper factory, the principal was responsible for every activity in the building and anything that pertained to it, from instruction to the plant to parents. It is the principal who justifies a failing grade, with our grade book in one hand, to irate parents, long after the teachers have left for the summer.
And teachers have an advantage that those in industry do not; representation by one of their own at termination hearings if they have been accused of being incompetent.
Anyone who suggests that education and industry are alike either has never worked in industry or has forgotten what the conditions were like.
Education provides fascinating and challenging opportunities. Innovation and imaginative approaches to new problems seem commonplace in education when compared with industry. It is one of the few professions in which practitioners are expected to be innovative and to generate and implement new ideas when they won't know for years whether they were successful.
Let us not seek to change our procedures until we examine what part we play in the "ineffectiveness" of the system. And above all, let us not fall prey to the useless exercise of assigning new titles to existing formats. In addition, we should remember that when we compare ourselves with those in other fields, our problems seem small. This may be one reason why, with all the clamor about teacher accountability, none of these efforts seems to leave the ground. The advocates of teacher accountability, rather than proposing new directions that apply to teaching, attempt to use methods that derive from other fields.
There is one similarity that exists between educators and those in the workplace and I am surprised that Mr. Hawley did not address it. Not all in education and industry are accountable--fortunately, the majority are.
William Marsella Instructor, Technical Architecture W. Tresper Clarke High School Westbury, N.Y.