Response to recent conversation

Commenters on the AJC Get Schooled blog debated why some districts and states are experiencing a teacher shortage. Here is a sampling of comments:

4PublicSchools: I could never in good conscience encourage anyone I cared about to go into public school teaching anymore. Although money is important, especially our pension, it is more about working conditions and respect. I think we are seeing the demise of our public schools.

PhysicsTeacher: Wow. Vilify teachers for an entire generation, and people quit going into the field. I'm shocked! Shocked! One of my former parents and I shared a laugh a few weeks ago. About five years ago, I asked her daughter, a senior in my class, what she was going to be "when she grew up." She responded, "A teacher." I screamed at her not to waste my efforts, and to go into a job with prestige — one that paid a living wage. Her mother, a fellow teacher, said her daughter was astounded at my reaction. But her mother also told her she would disown her if she went into education. We had a good laugh about it. By the way, the young woman is graduating this year with a doctor of pharmacy degree. Her mother (and I) are extremely proud of her.

Smith: It's the "reforms" that are killing education. Everyone seems to know how to "fix" it, but they are seldom the ones in the trenches every day who actually love the children and know what is best for them.

Critic: Education has consistently gone downhill. Just when one thinks it can't get any worse, it does. Discipline is nonexistent, administrators offer no support, the media bashes teachers constantly, and student apathy is rampant because they know they will be granted endless do-overs and extensions and be guaranteed a passing grade. Highly qualified veteran teachers are being forced out as they are targeted by crafty and devious administrators who plot to hire younger, cheaper and not necessarily better versions who are allowed to come in and dictate what they want to teach (with little or no experience or advanced degrees).

Hopeless: It is the same problem facing police departments in this country. They are almost impossible jobs done for and by people who don't really give a rip. Raising salaries may fix it, but supporting the people who believe they can make a difference in other ways, like some teaching of our own kids and respecting law and order, is what is missing.

Watsu: The teacher shortage is a symptom of what is not good about education. Low salaries for college-educated people, benefit packages that miss the mark entirely, all the bad-mouthing of teachers and their union by politicians and greedy businessmen, unruly kids and their unruly parents, and little input on curriculum. Then, there is the "accountability" piece. Accountable for what? Teachers cannot overcome poor parenting, violence and drug use in the home, poverty and hunger, and preference for letting sports jocks slide by. Then, there is the college debt so many new teachers have. Treat teachers with respect, and they might rethink their options in education.