In the midst of budget seasons everywhere, education protests are flying high as many states propose slashing teachers from their school systems. Let’s first acknowledge that these outrages are nothing new — every year teachers’ unions dust off their posters and argumentative speeches. But in pointing that out, let’s realize that this happens every year. Pretty soon, there really won’t be enough teachers to go around, and we need to understand that gutting the education institution is not a cash-strapped answer.
I’m not touching collective teacher bargaining or tenure with a 20-foot stick. I’m talking one thing and one thing only: the students. In the deep throes of financial crisis, we are cutting … education? Because we shouldn’t throw ourselves into smartening up the next generation so they don’t repeat our mistakes? Are we crazy?
The one absolute is that fewer teachers equal larger classes. That means less intimacy, less focus on personal development and more students either fighting for a teacher’s attention or fading into the background. There are those researchers who would deny it, but a class of 30 cannot possibly attain the depth that a class of 18 can. The students are the ones with the most to lose.
In place of the 750 teachers it could lay off, a bill in Idaho would require completion of online courses in order for students to graduate high school. As someone who has taken four high school classes online, I can honestly admit they are a slacker’s heaven. Less work, no real tests because no one is leaning over your shoulder, virtual correspondence with classmates you never hear and a teacher you never see. Six years later, I can’t remember the name of a single course.
But then again, where is the additional logic on top of that? Aside from being a poor learning environment, wouldn’t someone have to lead those classes too? Presumably, teachers lucky enough to have escaped the pink slip, now carry an additional course load of their own so the government can cut their colleagues.
What is worse, cutting teachers to this continuous degree threatens the foundation of education: that someone with experience will teach those without. Yes, every industry in America is condensing its work force, but we depend on teachers to shape kids starting at 5 years old. What happens when today’s undergraduates realize their underappreciated future selves will collapse under the weight of overpopulated classes? We need people who want to teach.
And it’s not just the teachers getting angry. Rhode Island, Florida and Idaho all have students that are walking out of schools and up to city halls and capitol buildings, demanding consideration from lawmakers. They want to keep their teachers. Who can’t look back and say one or more teachers were influential in shaping the person they’ve become? In the face of great deficits, budget cuts have to come from somewhere, but they’ve got to come from somewhere else.
So, cut somewhere else and save our future.
Courtney Miller is a senior journalism major. E-mail her at email@example.com.