Teaching in 2020: The Triumph of 'the Slow Revolution?'
My wife Judith is a 4th grade teacher, and I teach graduate seminars. At the dinner table, conversation often turns to the problems and challenges of teaching. We talk as equals, teacher and professor, about the common challenges we face in the classroom, as if we were members of the same profession. Our experience has taught us that the fundamental acts of teaching and the central questions all teachers confront are essentially the same. But professors and precollege teachers are not seen as members of the same profession. Why should that be?
The work is essentially the same, but the conditions, status, and pay of one profession are vastly different from those of the other. The work is institutionalized in different ways. Yes, professors have more training and do more research. The fact that professors are still mostly men and schoolteachers are mostly women is also a large part of the answer.
Male patriarchs dominated both professions at the end of the 19th century before the massive expansion of the educational system in the United States took place. Both were top-down systems. College presidents hired and fired the faculty and dictated the curriculum, as did most school superintendents. The power of the presidents was absolute. My wife's great-grandfather, Melancthon Woolsey Stryker, was the president of Hamilton College in upstate New York in the 1890s. Like most college presidents then, he personally interviewed the faculty, told them what courses they would teach, and did not hesitate to tell them what color trim they could paint their houses on College Hill. Similarly, school superintendents wrote the manuals for teachers to follow and specified the appropriate length...
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