Letters to the Editor
What a disappointment for teachers present and future who accept James M. Banner Jr.'s conclusion that it is not worth the effort to make teaching a true profession (Commentary, "On Transforming Teaching Into a 'True Profession,"' Oct. 23, 1985).
Unfortunately, Mr. Banner focuses on a required command of a body of learning as the most important professional element missing from teaching. If it were, we could turn to our colleges of teacher education for change. He fails, however, to emphasize the client (student)/teacher relationship, which is the basis of the professional's work.
True, the teacher needs specialized knowledge. But why? So that the teacher can participate fully in the decisionmaking processes that affect the needs and the learning environment of the students.
The denial of the right to a true professional relationship between teacher and client is the result of administrative intransigence and outmoded hierarchical controls over the present school organization that directly affect the decisionmaking process.
For teaching to be a true profession within an organizational setting (like that' of doctors within a hospital setting), administrators must be willing to turn over significant powers to teachers. This includes giving teachers the authority they must have to diagnose student needs and to design and implement effective educational remedies and alternatives adapted to the range of student ability and achievement within the individual classroom.
In the process of drafting my dissertation proposal, on the topic of teacher collegiality, I had the privilege of meeting Everett C. Hughes, author of Men and Their Work. Mr. Hughes, then 82, was still analyzing the role of the teacher as a professional. I mentioned to him that some people in the field say encouraging professionalism among teachers would just create "trouble-makers" for the administration, second-guessing, and questioning of authority.
He told me of a school with which he had been affiliated for many years: "These teachers were professionals. Did they make trouble? Yes, wonderful trouble."
Yet, he said, out of heated discussions, disagreements, and critical analyses of student needs, he and his teachers created an alive, vital learning environment from which came new solutions and a commitment to student learning that brought tremendous rewards for both the clients and the teachers.
Until administrators are ready to relinquish the reins of power to teachers--as professionals who have the specialized knowledge needed to make informed decisions--the teaching profession will continue its decline to civil-servant status.
Mr. Banner writes of the community as the external pressure that currently molds public opinion about what a teacher should be. Administrators stand between teachers and the amorphous community and have the authority to re-examine those factors within the school organization that affect teachers' roles as professionals. Administrators can also implement significant changes to create a climate in which teacher professionalism can flourish--to the benefit of the students and, ultimately, of the community.
Elizabeth Frothingham Lammers Doctoral Candidate New York University New York, N.Y.
Integration, and the Delta
To the Editor:
This is to assure you that all is not bleak in Greenville, Miss. ("Of Time, Reform, and the River: A Mississippi Delta Town Struggles With the Currents," Sept. 25, 1985).
The Greenville Catholic schools, which are older than the city's public schools, began integrating sooner and have been quite successful.
As a matter of fact, enrollment in the Catholic schools of the entire Diocese of Jackson, Miss., is 50 percent minority. In a state with a Catholic population of less than 3 percent, that's impressive.
Brother Donnan Berry, S.C. Director of Development Catholic High School
Baton Rouge, La.