Credentials Aren’t Everything

The portly professor always dragged his feet when he entered the classroom, usually five or ten minutes late. He rarely shaved, his shirts were wrinkled, dirty, and half tucked in, his gut hanging out from the bottom. He taught a class on leftist propaganda with a gummy British accent, categorized I guess under Sustainability and Ethics in Business. He docked points for arguments he disagreed with, saying the logic “doesn’t follow.”

He didn’t maintain his posted office hours; walking on the street when he should’ve been at work, he could easily be mistaken for a half-literate hobo.

In a parallel class, another instructor always wore professional attire. Her grading was tough but fair; she provided her home and office phone numbers on all her materials, and was often seen well past office hours with students needing help. Her material was fresh, relying not on dusty textbooks and her own doctoral thesis from the 1970s, but recent case studies on the failures and successes of businesses like Apple and Google.

She had years of experience managing a credit department, an MBA, and took the job as seriously as any professional striving for results. Unlike the first educator, this person wasn’t a professor but a lecturer – thanks to limited-term contracts, her position was tenuous, not tenured. She also made approximately half of what the tenured professor who rarely bothered to tuck in his shirt.

It’s true that in higher education, many of the best educators aren’t tenured professors who by virtue of their Ph.D. grace us with their intellect, but professionals who have spent most of their career in the private sector. A case for these lecturers to make more money is worth making, but that’s not my point here.

Gov. Walker’s proposal that professionals be able to have the opportunity to teach in grades 6-12 is also exemplified by the case study of these two real people. The professor has the curriculum vitae and likely took some pedagogy courses during that long education. Like people with education degrees, some come away having learned good teaching methods, and some come away not giving two philosophy degrees about being an effective teacher.

Professionals with real-world experience have something unique to offer – a diverse and unique perspective that came from an industry other than education. Seeking a second career or new opportunity, they deserve a shot.

There should be rigorous standards before they can jump in front of a classroom. Professionals looking to teach should be required to go through tough training, like anyone looking to work at the lowest echelon of a call center. They should have to student teach. And if they fail, they should be rejected – like in any other enterprise.

But the education industry is simply crossing its arms, puffing out its lower lip, and seems on the verge of tears over the simple idea that there might be teaching talent out there that was imparted by a career, rather than a professor of education at some university.

About the writer: Chris Rochester has worked in communications and finance for a state Senate and congressional campaign, consulted on numerous Assembly and local races, and has held leadership roles in his local Republican Party. He's communications director for the MacIver Institute. Commentary here is strictly his own.