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Published in Print: September 1, 2004, as Letters

Passé Professors

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Anne Fairbrother’s essay "Minding the Gap" [Comment, March/April] was so timely and full of truth that you should have devoted a special issue to the subject [of] the great disconnect between what goes on in education schools and what actually happens in our public institutions of primary learning. Ms. Fairbrother makes a lot of sense, but she is dreaming when she envisions "discussions between professors, education researchers, and classroom teachers, meeting as equals." Most people who are in the field of education but work at a college are there because they don’t have the stomach to deal with students, parents, administrators, or school boards—although I am guessing that it is mostly the students. Docile, hung-over undergrads and work-exhausted nontraditional students are much easier to be with in a classroom on a bright spring day.

I have been teaching for 15 years, and the closest an education professor has been to my classroom was to pick up a stipend check for some tedious (and worthless) inservice at my school. When Ms. Fairbrother suggested that education professors return to the public school classroom to teach, I had to laugh out loud. I am willing to bet that most of them would rather cut off an appendage than keep a roll book again.

I think state universities should force them back into classrooms, possibly in at-risk school divisions, to maintain their credentials and hold their jobs. As it stands now, "educators" who do not spend the day in buildings full of children are siphoning off federal and state education money, for which the outcome is a minimal return at best and robbery at worst. Someone who has not taught daily since the Reagan administration has nothing to offer me, or a prospective teacher, on any professional level. They are going to teach us how to have our kids do better on NCLB high-stakes testing? How could they, since the vast majority of them have never been in this situation themselves?

Real teachers who deal daily with real students will never be able to meet equally with the university variety of "educator," no matter how many E’s and D’s [the latter] have after their names. We are just that much more important than they are.

John McMahon
Fredericksburg, Virginia

Vol. 16, Issue 1, Pages 7-12

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