Mary Grabar

But this is the kind of thing that teachers learn in education schools at the undergraduate and graduate level. It was displayed by an education professor from Clayton State University, who responded to a local test-altering scandal in an op-ed, in which she questioned the importance of knowing such things as the dates of the Civil War.

As I learned from perusing her and other education professors’ syllabi, teacher education students are expected not to know the subject matter they are teaching but to think and feel “deeply.” The class requirements consisted largely of journal entries, “response” papers, and “deep” discussions in the classroom.

What most of us would see as a topic for discussion over a couple of margaritas is the basis for certification and then the advanced degrees that catapult teachers into higher salary brackets. The other way to get a pay raise is to just stay on a job that is protected fiercely by the union. Nice work if you can get it.

Merit pay alone will not right a topsy-turvy system. As in politics, we need more citizen activism. There needs to be much more oversight of curricula. Teachers themselves should be tested on the subjects they teach, for studies show that their knowledge translates into student success. We should take advantage of technology—not the attention-inhibiting, expensive razzle-dazzle “learning” programs—but cameras in the classroom. In addition to being able to view classrooms on tape, citizens should be invited to sit in on classes and evaluate.

Teachers unions will object loudly, citing such concerns as privacy, the First Amendment, “professional standards,” etc. But other employees know that even their email correspondence on the job is subject to scrutiny by employers and that their raises are based on performance. Why should it be any different for teachers?

Mary Grabar

Mary Grabar earned her Ph.D. in English from the University of Georgia and teaches in Atlanta. She is organizing the Resistance to the Re-Education of America at Her writing can be found at