To the Editor:
Regarding “Reaching Beyond the Ivory Tower Into the Classroom,” (April 4, 2012) forgive my skepticism, but I doubt the authors’ suggestions will be either heeded or, if followed, effective.
The authors’ suggestions are either ways to steer more money to the university (sending students to take classes there during high school) or take control of the school programs by “our greatest minds.”
Here is a news flash. The best teachers in this country are not in our research universities; nor is that where the greatest minds are when it comes to teaching adolescents. Those teachers and minds are in the vast majority of our elementary and secondary schools, where highly skilled teachers engage, motivate, and teach all who enter their doors. Unlike universities that screen students for admission, require particular grades for continued matriculation, and charge for the privilege of attending, teachers in our public schools take all comers, regardless of perceived talent or ability to pay, and work wonders.
Twenty years ago, I left the “ivory tower” for what was to be a two-year stint as a fill-in principal. The excitement of working with outstanding teachers and kids has kept me here and provided all the research and design opportunities I could ever want. One thing I have learned is that the last thing our schools need is another batch of experts showing up trying to tell us how to do our job and then retiring to watch from the sidelines as we work on the front lines.
If C.L. Max Nikias and William G. Tierney really want to get beyond the ivory tower, a couple of seminars for college-bound kids will not cut it. Instead, they would do better to leave their president’s office and tenured chairs and take on teaching alongside those they would instruct. The lessons would be invaluable.
Federal Hocking High School
Forum for Education and Democracy
The writer was previously a tenured professor of education at Ohio University in Athens, Ohio.
A version of this article appeared in the May 09, 2012 edition of Education Week as Best Minds Are Already in K-12 Schools