January 20, 2012

Are schoolteachers as dumb as education majors?

It's well known that education majors in college have some of the lowest SAT / ACT scores of any major. The Education Realist blog points out, however, that a large fraction of those dumb ed majors fail to graduate, and that to become a public school teacher you not only have to have a college degree but then, usually, pass some kind of licensing exam, which can range from easy to rather hard for calculus teachers.

So, the people who make it through both college and then pass their subject area test tend to have higher SAT scores than the average Ed major. An ETS study of those who passed the licensing test in 20 states shows that, yes, gym teachers aren't all that intellectual, averaging about 960 on a 400 to 1600 scale. Elementary school teachers average a little over 500 on both Math and Verbal. High school teachers tend to be sharper, with math teachers averaging just under 600 on Math. Here's a graph from ETS of SAT scores for each subject area.

Overall, public school teachers are pretty average for college graduates. It looks like they average about a quarter of a standard deviation lower on college admission tests than do average college graduates. But then college graduates are above average. With the exception of high school math teachers, teachers tend to score higher on the Verbal / Critical Reading section than on the Math section. That's their job: to use words to explain stuff. But it also explains why they have trouble dealing with the flood of data that's been incoming in recent years: thinking about statistics isn't their strong suit.

My guess is that smarter teachers would probably be a good thing, so we ought to be thinking about ways to make the job of teaching more attractive to smart people. In general, smart people don't like dealing with knuckleheads, so forcing teachers to carry most of the burden of discipline, a growing trend in recent decades, is a good way to keep smart people out of the business. You can instead use some of those gym teachers to run after school detentions instead of delegating most of the disciplining down to the teachers as happens in so many public schools desperate to avoid disparate impact lawsuits by not generating a paper trail of discipline actions carried out by the administration.

Of course, the Obama Administration is actively working to make teaching a less attractive profession to people who like thinking about The Great Gatsby via their sweeping investigations into the mystery of why black students get suspended relatively more often than other races. Thinking statistically is not the Obama Admin ed experts' strong suit either, evidently. 

69 comments:

RandyB said...

The intellectual quality of teachers has plummeted in the last 50 years, because the private labor market no longer discriminates based on sex. Back then, becoming a teacher was the epitome of professional accomplishment for half the working-age population. But the women who would have become the best teachers two generations ago, are now doctors, lawyers and accountants. You can't get your best and brightest to accept bottom-half salaries under a free market.

Eivind said...

They're dumber than they used to be anyway. A trend that probably follows the decline in status and salary of being a teacher.

Kjell G. Salvanes of NHH here in Norway recently published a study where they'd statistically analyzed IQ versus prefered job from 1950 to 2008 for Norwegian men. (men only because military service is compulsory in Norway, and the standardised tests given to everyone in front of this, gives an excellent data-set for IQ over time, no such data-set exists for women)

In 1950, the average male teacher was smarter than 87% of the population - which is smart enough to be in the upper-part of college-graduates. In 2008, he was smarter than 62% of the population, which means teachers are now dumber than average college-graduates.

Sinch IQ correlates between siblings to a large degree, they also estimated the iq of female teachers, by using the scores of their brothers as a proxy, this is less accurate, but the results where the same.

Steve Sailer said...

Also, because there were so few jobs teaching college until post-WWII, it wasn't uncommon for genuine geniuses to be high school teachers in Europe. The famous "Men of Mathematics" has lots of stories about great mathematicians who could only find jobs as schoolteachers. Waugh and Orwell were schoolteachers in their 20s, while today they'd probably be creative writing adjunct professors.

josh said...

In VA, it seems pretty unusual for a teacher to have been an education major and a masters is more or less a requirement in Fairfax County (though its a total BS Masters of Ed.) Still, there are definitely some dummies.

From my own observation (as a Government teacher), the fact that civic and history education is dominated by women is a much larger problem than the intelligence of the teachers.

Anonymous said...

"High school teachers tend to be sharper, with math teachers averaging just under 600 on Math."

Are you serious? High school math teachers?! A 590 is awful for someone TEACHING MATH.

eh said...

Widespread use of the term "bad schools" -- instead of the more accurate bad students, largely imported via immigration-driven demographic change -- has led to scapegoating of teachers and thus has made teaching a far less attractive profession than it used it be (it was never lucrative). Simple as that. Before -- at least when I was a student in the '60s and '70s -- people had respect for teachers. No more ('Those who can do, those who can't teach').

slumber_j said...

Wittgenstein taught school too--although that was partly a gestural sort of self-flagellation. He ended up flagellating his students some too, about which he became very ashamed. I guess dealing with knuckleheads turned out not to be a lot of fun for him...

Georgia Resident said...

There's not really any way to make dealing with a bunch of unruly and unteachable NAMs attractive to smart people, nor would having smarter teachers probably help much, since our NAMs seem to stack up relatively favorably, in educational achievement, against NAMs internationally.

Ed said...

Don't you need a degree in Education to become a teacher?

Anecdotal, but I know someone with a Masters in Education who is trying to get hired as a teacher, and I've looked into the same for myself. My impression is that the barriers to entry, visible and invisible, are actually quite high (in short, public schools are a union shop and with private schools you have to know someone). It could be that the current low status of the job disguises what is actually an attractive gig in terms of hours and pay, so the barriers to entry have gone up.

I just want to throw out the possibility that one reason the quality of teaching is so low is that the current teachers know they have it good, and have found ways to reduce competition and keep fresh talent from entering the trade.

Anonymous said...

A pair of married public school teachers with some amount of seniority can easily be in the 1%.

I work as a software engineer (highest salary tier in my company) and I regret every day I didn't go into teaching. Id rather be teaching match, cs or history than deal with the challenges of globalization.

I saw teaching as a low status position because it seemed like such a hodge podge of intellects and temperaments that go into it. But generally the private secctor is very similar. And contrary to conventional wisdom outright firings for incompetence are rare int the private sector, so you can work with some real dolts as well.

Kylie said...

"My guess is that smarter teachers would probably be a good thing, so we ought to be thinking about ways to make the job of teaching more attractive to smart people."

This is more of your sly, dry humor, isn't it?

Anonymous said...

The whole field of education will change when bio-engineering allows us to genetically tweak all babies to be smart.

Anonymous said...

The part about dealing with knuckleheads making high teaching unattractive is definitely true for me. I had always liked to teach - and had tutored through high school and was a teaching assistant as a grad student. But, teaching a college class there was no issue of having to discipline students.
I had considered becoming a high school teacher, but the idea of having to deal with bad behavior completely turned me off. I liked to teach, not to be engaged in a battle of wills and wits with some teenage jerk - especially if I have no authority to punish or at least remove the miscreant from the classroom.

Anonymous said...

Speaking of genius high school teachers. Hermann G√ľnther Grassmann is probably the most underrated mathematician in history. His work is slowly transforming all of mathematics.

Anonymous said...

Of course, you could make the argument that teaching school is MUCH smarter than going to grad school these days (and possibly ending up as a creative writing adjunct):

http://100rsns.blogspot.com/2011/12/75-you-can-make-more-money-as.html

Lucius said...

My deplorable excursion into Education (part of a "Sure, Ma, I can get a job even though I'm majoring in Philosophy" gambit), was sad for a lot of reasons, but though I eventually shrugged my way out of there (with the odd prompt from faculty), I can say that, prior to taking the Praxis I test, Ed profs went out of their way to encourage students that it was *not* a big deal if you flunk it the first try.

In my callow, sarcastic mind I thought after that test: man, anyone who didn't pass that doesn't belong in 6th grade, much less teaching it!

Maybe that was exaggeration, but I'm fairly confident nobody who couldn't pass it belongs in college.

I also took the Praxis II in Social Studies. My prep consisted of H. G. Wells's "Outline of History" (cranky, and also terribly outdated on pre- and early history, but a fun read, though I barely cracked Vol. II) and daydreaming over a ten dollar Hammond atlas. I was completely illiterate in economics. I scored a 200, the highest score granted.

I wouldn't make much bragging rights of that. Anyway, the required 'passing' score's rather lower.

Anonymous said...

"Also, because there were so few jobs teaching college until post-WWII, it wasn't uncommon for genuine geniuses to be high school teachers in Europe."

I thought it was the 60's when college enrollment ballooned and professorial hiring took off. It was easier for young men seeking to avoid the draft to hide in the groves of academe than flee to Canada.

JW Ogden said...

Well since we have that data I wonder if we could see how strongly being smart correlates with being a good teacher. I would guess that the correlation is weak.

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Aaron B. said...

If you want more smart people to teach in the government schools, especially the nerdy math/science types, you'll have to do a few things:

Get rid of most of the bureaucracy. As Steve says, smart people hate dealing with stupidity, and there are few things stupider than a school bureaucracy. This is impossible since the bureaucracy is now the main reason the schools exist, so we might as well stop there and forget it, but let's pretend...

Get rid of the kids who aren't interested in learning. A good teacher loves a kid who struggles but wants to learn; he's the one you can help the most. But smart people aren't going to babysit brats and call it teaching.

Get rid of the artificial age-segregated, one subject per period classroom method. It might have worked great for the Prussians who invented it to churn out lots of smart little soldiers. It didn't work too badly for mid-1900s white Americans who were all in agreement about what they wanted kids to learn. It's an efficient way to pass on a particular set of basic knowledge and beliefs to a large number of reasonably homogeneous people (until you let the unions load the schools up with layer upon layer of bee-watcher-watchers and other unnecessary costs).

But it's not really a very good way to educate people, if that happens to be your goal. Real learning involves exploration, and one subject might be better done in 15-minute blocks twice a day while another should take an entire day every few weeks. A kid who's struggling with math that's "appropriate" for his age might be ready to charge ahead in writing.

Of course, none of that variety can exist within the usual school paradigm (and private schools are really no better, except for weeding out the worst discipline problems), because you can't have different subjects taking different time frames and different combinations of kids going to different classes. It's just not logistically possible. It's hard enough already to keep everything under control in a factory-style school now.

So the only way to get more smart people to teach is to get rid of the schools. You might still have something you call a "school," but it wouldn't resemble what we have now. More likely it would be a combination of home-school or co-op, with some hired teachers for tutoring and advanced subjects (we have private piano lessons; why not calculus lessons?), and more labs than classrooms. That sort of thing is starting to form around some homeschooling groups already, in states where the laws permit.

Anonymous said...

Check out GRE test scores for teachers.

http://www.ncsu.edu/chass/philo/GRE%20Scores%20by%20Intended%20Graduate%20Major.htm

Accountants seem to be the worst. Education is broken into separate groups but mostly on the lower end.

Doug1 said...

Only partly on topic.

It’s a mystery to me why calculus is taught in the last year of high school for better, AP track students, rather than statistics. Actually I think statistics should be taught to most high school students.

Statistics is actually useful and involved to at least some extent in most jobs you needed to go to college to actually qualify for. It's also useful in understanding the social world to a large extent, e.g. the concept of overlapping bell curves.


Calculus is only used in some of the sciences and some engineering.

alonzo portfolio said...

Gym teachers used to keep troublesome kids in line, but that was 40 yrs. ago. Jewish lawyers have long since made any school discipline impossible, so it doesn't matter how smart teachers are.

Professor Hale said...

...that a large fraction of those dumb ed majors fail to graduate, ...

But that is also true of the other majors. Without standardized testing of graduates, you don't really know. Other professions with licensing requirements also have people who fail to achieve, depite a degree. You can make some good guesses based on the population characteristics that started and the graduation percentages. It isn't always the dumbest who don't complete. Sometimes it is the poorest. And sometimes it is those who wise up that college is a scam.

Anonymous said...

My guess is that smarter teachers would probably be a good thing


By definition there can only be a finite percentage of smart people to go around. If more of them are to be teachers, what area is going to lose them?

Besides, I'm not at all sure that smarter (meaning here "higher IQ") teachers would be a improvement. The problem with teachers is that they are left-wing, meaning that they are more interested in indoctrinating schoolchildren to their ideological beliefs than in teaching them reading, 'riting, and 'rithmatic.

Once you understand what their primary purpose in life is you have to concede that they are actually pretty good at it. They only appear amazingly incompetent if you're misguided about what it is they are trying to do.

ERM said...

Also, because there were so few jobs teaching college until post-WWII, it wasn't uncommon for genuine geniuses to be high school teachers in Europe. The famous "Men of Mathematics" has lots of stories about great mathematicians who could only find jobs as schoolteachers. Waugh and Orwell were schoolteachers in their 20s, while today they'd probably be creative writing adjunct professors.

Among other interesting responsibilities, Gregor Mendel was a high school natural sciences teacher, and indeed his students were among the first in the world to learn of Mendelian inheritance.

elvisd said...

Steve is pretty much on the money about the rapid increase in avaiable college jobs for the ones who would otherwise be the top tier secondary teachers. One aspect I've never managed to figure, though, is the social one. Those theoretical top tier high school English teachers who now have the option of being an adjunct at some branch campus-how would they handle a high school environment now socially, as in discipline and the expanding political minefield that is public education? How would they measure up in such an environment? I wonder if those people would tremble in their Birkenstocks, or toughen up knowing that failure would knock them out of education altogether. There is a social skill set now that wasn't needed a half-century ago.

Anonymous said...

Trust me Steve (34 years in teaching). Teachers aren't now, nor have they ever been given a "flood of data."

When teachers push back against the latest idiotic program or policy, the admin scurries about trying to produce social science pablum that supports their latest directive. You know the kind of stuff I'm talking about.

On occasion, those teachers who are really pissed off will go in search of data themselves, produce it, present it to site admin and/or district admin, and they will, of course, be ignored.

Meanwhile, there are kids to be taught, papers piling up, a local, state, and national conspiracy of silence about the truth...and eventually either helplessness or apathy sets in among many.

Reading is Fundamental said...

I'm not convinced undergrad ed majors flunk out at statistically higher rates than other majors.

Directional public universities like Southeastern LA State Univ probably pump out more undergrad ed majors than other colleges and universities.

Here are the 6yr graduation rates by major department for the 1999 cohort.

16.4% Communication
11.8% History/Poly Sci
04.3% Music/Drama
10.1% Psychology
04.7% Soc/Criminal Justice
17.9% Visual Arts

vs

21.8% Teaching/Learning

SFG said...

I always wondered about the role of American anti-intellectualism in all this.

That said, there are quite a few very bright women who are relatively feminine and hence have little personal ambition, so they're happy teaching Hamlet to bright high school kids in the suburbs. I can think of worse fates.

S.Anonyia said...

Undergrad education programs actually attempt to discourage people from other majors from switching into it, and they also make it difficult for people to get a masters to teach unless they majored in education in undergrad. I've always interpreted this as a way of protecting themselves from competition.

The truth is, someone who gets an undergraduate degree in English is way more qualified to teach high school English than an Education major. Education courses are laughably easy, yet the students still taking them still have mediocre GPAs...

Geoff Matthews said...

At the University that I teach in, the college of education has the lowest average ACT and the highest average GPA. It isn't uncommon for education classes to have a 4.0 average (that is, everyone gets 'A's).
The college that has the highest ACT and lowest GPA scores? Science & Health.

Bill said...

My guess is that smarter teachers would probably be a good thing, so we ought to be thinking about ways to make the job of teaching more attractive to smart people.

IQ makes you better at everything. Does that mean we need smarter janitors?

I'll bet it would be better to adjust the schools to the teachers than to adjust the teachers. Adopt curricula that 1) work and that 2) even a coke machine could teach. Drills, repetition, memorization.

peterike said...

Where to start on this...

I'll stick to two things (out of about a hundred).

1. Even if you have inherently smart people entering education, what they learn in terms of pedagogy from the education schools is not merely useless, but positively destructive.

Education colleges are hotbeds of pure Lefty insanity. In my Comprehensive Plan to Reform Education, the first thing I do is close every Ed school in America.

Like so much else, we have lost the notion of apprenticeships. That's how you should teach teachers.

2. Our worst education failure is how we fail with our brightest students. Egalitarian insanity insists that preference be given to the dummies.

We need tracked classes, where smart kids are put together with smart kids. The teachers for those classes -- esp at the high school level -- should be subject matter experts (MA or better in the subject, not bullshit Ed degrees).

All the biggest numbskulls should also stew together in the same room (and you could have 50 kids in a class because whatever, nobody's going to learn anyway). And we should give up all pretense of "academic" education for the dopes. Teach them skills, teach them a trade.

Discipline will never return to schools until teachers are once again allowed to instill fear and/or humiliation/shame. It would help, however, if strict uniforms/dress codes (including personal hygiene requirements and hair restrictions) were introduced, and classes (not necessarily schools) were gender separated. Needless to say, none of this will happen.

Anonymous said...

"But the women who would have become the best teachers two generations ago, are now doctors, lawyers and accountants. You can't get your best and brightest to accept bottom-half salaries under a free market."


Let's not overstate the case. Women who are at the top quit at a very high rate because often they marry high performing men. Female doctors quit at 4x the rate that men do. Also, women get preferential treatment. It is not a free market. Women can sue employers for not hiring or retaining them. If women were so dang great, employers would just plain want them for their performance, but they don't. They hire them under duress.

Anonymous said...

"They're dumber than they used to be anyway. A trend that probably follows the decline in status and salary of being a teacher."


Yes, they are dumber. A lot dumber, but it is also due to the crappy working conditions. Far less discipline and far worse/dumber/meaner kids. Private school teachers are smarter and nicer and so are their students. They also make less money because they don't get a hazardous/undesirable conditions adjustment like public school teachers.

Anonymous said...

"Before -- at least when I was a student in the '60s and '70s -- people had respect for teachers. No more ('Those who can do, those who can't teach')."


Even the simple will respect what is respectable. If you are a bright kid in say middle/high school how could you possibly respect a math teacher who can't get more than a 590 on the math SAT? That is the average. A huge fraction are lower.

Anonymous said...

"But the women who would have become the best teachers two generations ago, are now doctors, lawyers and accountants."

I have found this to be true.

Anonymous said...

While I agree that teachers today are taken from a pool who are not as bright as those from yesteryear, may I remind you that really high IQ does not a great elementary or high school teacher insure.

I'd love to throw most of you into today's classroom and see how you fare. Do you really think the kids would find you interesting?

Bad parents make bad students. Bad students make bad schools. Talented teachers simply don't overcome that scenario in all but the rarest of cases.

Anonymous said...

"I liked to teach, not to be engaged in a battle of wills and wits with some teenage jerk - especially if I have no authority to punish or at least remove the miscreant from the classroom."


I was a master of getting kids expelled. When I had a jerk in my class, I set in my mind that my goal was not simply to get him out of my class, but to get him out of the building. My first job teaching as a long term sub, I got e kids expelled from a decent public high school in the first semester. I wrote them up constantly and told the administrators they needed an environment in which they could be successful and this school was not that environment.

Anonymous said...

I knew a lawyer who quit practice at 35 to become a Catholic nun. She figured this would give her an opportunity to follow her true passion: reading classic novels and writing in her book journal. I bet she ended up teaching English in a parochial school.

corvinus said...

My observation is that teachers nowadays tend to be dippy liberal women. Not necessarily dumb, but definitely not the top of the barrel.

Stan said...

"That said, there are quite a few very bright women who are relatively feminine and hence have little personal ambition, "


Why is wanting to be a teacher not ambitious? Most teachers in public schools make very good money and they would be lucky to make the same money if they had chosen to work for a company.

Anonymous said...

Did you ever think about what a high percentage of teachers are really bad?

Everybody remembers the one or two truly excellent teachers they had, but they stand out becuase the others were so mediocre. [I went to private school and a super college (Stanford) in the 50's and 60's -- and I had 2 super teachers and about 8 pretty good ones in total--and that's including all the art teachers, gym teachers, etc.)

My conclusion is that teaching so that you really inspire students is hard. A few people are inspired, and care, and work hard. But there just aren't very many who can do it well, even in the best of circumstances.

Maya said...

"Undergrad education programs actually attempt to discourage people from other majors from switching into it, and they also make it difficult for people to get a masters to teach unless they majored in education in undergrad."

What are you talking about??? Every metropolitan area I looked into has, at least, two establishments of higher education that offer first teaching credentials in the for of Master's in Teaching to people with backgrounds other than education. They usually require a 3.0 in undergrad, passing scores on the state's first licensing exams, 2 recommendations and an interview. Those who wish to be certified in a subject area (rather than elementary or special ed) usually need to have a bachelor's in that subject OR a specific number of credit hours in that subject OR a high passing score on the subject area licensing exam before the start of the program.

Oh, and while I do remember all those education majors I'd run into while in undergrad, I'm not sure what happens to them. With the 3 notable exceptions of my sister's kindergarten teacher, a local school's elderly 2nd grade teacher and a troops-to-teachers 5th grade teacher, every other teacher I've ever met had a bachelor's degree in something else. I assumed that female elementary school teachers are mostly former education majors, but, nope, not in my experience. They tend to be psychology/art/English/Spanish/communication/generic business majors who didn't know what to do with themselves, liked kids and went back for a Master's in Teaching.

Maya said...

Steve,
About French people of superior intelligence who did and still often do teach high school...

In France, they have a 2 tier higher education system: the private/public universities that accept, pretty much, everyone, and the small upper crust of the Ecoles Normales Superiors (literally- Standard Superior Schools). The elite upper crust accepts students by having them compete with each other. Each year, those who wish take the entrance exam, and those with the best scores are accepted- a number equal to the seats available. Interestingly, the students don't even get to choose which elite institution they get to attend, though they take the exam for a specific set of majors. The students who enroll in the Ecoles Normales Superiors sign a contract and become servants of the state. They actually get a salary while they study instead of paying for their education. In return, they serve the state for 10 years upon graduation. Their service takes the forms of government administration jobs, college teaching jobs and high school teaching. The thing is, France has 3 tiers of public high school education- work prep, skilled labor prep and academic prep- and the teachers who graduated from one of those elite Ecoles Normales Superiors only ever get sent to work with the upper crust high school students in the academically focused high schools. Sounds like the right thing to do.

Whiskey said...

Back before "diversity" teachers did not have to swallow noble lies. They simply went about teaching their subject matter. Now, they have to swallow ridiculous lies. So, you get a much lower quality of teacher, in addition to dealing with troublesome students who have no discipline and an entire civil rights revolution on their side.

Cicatrizatic said...

Maybe if the profession was de-unionized and the compensation changed to peg pay level based on results. Smart people know they can make money elsewhere.

Anonymous said...

It’s a mystery to me why calculus is taught in the last year of high school for better, AP track students, rather than statistics. Actually I think statistics should be taught to most high school students.

Statistics is actually useful and involved to at least some extent in most jobs you needed to go to college to actually qualify for. It's also useful in understanding the social world to a large extent, e.g. the concept of overlapping bell curves.


Calculus is only used in some of the sciences and some engineering.


This blog is pretty outstanding in the (seemingly) intelligent people saying impossibly stupid things, so there is a lot of competition.

Nonetheless, this statement represents a truly remarkable level of ignorance.

There are very few things that have made the modern world what it is to the extent (the) calculus has. I'm not sure what else there is to say, it is like arguing about gravity or something.

No, I'm not a math geek.

Maya said...

"Maybe if the profession was de-unionized and the compensation changed to peg pay level based on results. Smart people know they can make money elsewhere."

Ah, more of that. And how would you measure those results, dear? Let's say we sent Bill Gates and the late Steve Jobs (pretend he's alive for the sake of the argument)to double team an inner city classroom. Fourth grade? Math? Elective business class? You choose! Do you think the crack babies, 13 year old mothers, 23 year old high school juniors and the rest would find these two, undoubtedly, smart men interesting and inspiring enough to sit down and shut up? And once BG and SJ figured out how to organize and run a prison camp classroom, in order to make it somewhat safe, how much, do you think, they'd be able to teach the little darlings?

The truly smart people aren't staying away because of the money. The pay is decent enough for a job that is meant to be emotionally/spiritually rewarding and with ample vacation time. The truly smart are too smart to get into a situation where YOU blame, demonize and threaten them for the severe shortcomings of other people. Smart people would rather become dentists, for example. A dentist doesn't get blamed for his patients' cavities nor is it ever suggested that a man getting his teeth broken in a bar fight is his dentist's fault.

Anonymous said...

Everybody here is wrong about why smart people don't want to teach.

The ugly truth is that it is no fun teach morons who are dumber than you. As a matter of fact, it is downright depressing, like treating terminally ill people.

Some supermen are cut out for it, but not most.

I'm a smart person. In college, I thought I'd make money tutoring, well, calculus. Being a smart person, by the third student I saw the pattern, which was that people who hire tutors in college generally are well on their way to a horrendous train wreck.

In no way was this uplifting or satisfying.

I went back to a part time job as a pizza cook. The money wasn't as good, but it was fun and there was an endless supply of new coed waitresses to chat up.

Anonymous said...

I went back to a part time job as a pizza cook. The money wasn't as good, but it was fun and there was an endless supply of new coed waitresses to chat up.

cool story, bro.

Cicatrizatic said...

Results are unmeasurable, inner-city kids are unreachable. Teaching isn't about money. Does that sum up your sententious response?

Aaron B. said...

During my one semester of college at a school that was heavily skewed toward engineering, it was common knowledge that if you were a guy who couldn't keep up with the engineering curriculum, you would switch to marketing. If you were a girl, you'd switch to education. Those were known to be the easiest to sail through if academics weren't your thing (this was before Women's Studies and the like caught on).

I wonder if calculus tends to be taught in the last year of high school because, at that point, the class only includes kids who like math and are pretty good at it, so the teacher goes for what he thinks is the hardest math subject that he's capable of teaching. Or maybe they do it to get some revenge for being put through it themselves.

To the person who said calculus underpins civilization, that's true, but it's not the point. I took calculus and liked it, but I don't use it in everyday life -- I don't build bridges, I just drive across them. I *do* use statistics and probabilities, multiple times a day. Everyone does, without knowing it. A lot of stupid decisions, from big political ones to small personal ones, are based on a complete misunderstanding (or avoidance) of probabilities.

Anonymous said...

Nonetheless, this statement represents a truly remarkable level of ignorance.


There are very few things that have made the modern world what it is to the extent (the) calculus has. I'm not sure what else there is to say, it is like arguing about gravity or something.


You might as well say that "There are very few things that have made the modern world what it is to the extent electricity has". It's equally irrelevant. The point is not how important calculus or electricity is in the modern world, the point is that in the modern world we only need a miniscule fraction of people who understand electricity and calculus.

The percentage of high-school students who will one day use calculus at their jobs is insignificant, perhaps as low as 0.0001%. Which raises the question of whether it makes any sense to try to force feed calculus to everyone.

The point of teaching children reading, writing, and arithmetic is that these are skills which we reasonably expect that almost every adult will need. But what's the point of teaching them calculus?

Anonymous said...

Sometimes the biggest boost to human conduct is simply perceptual feedback. Public schools are public and there is no sound reason that classrooms can't be equipped with audio/video cameras, redundantly, all the time. Such footage should be accessible online (with enough delay and reviw to allow untoward incidents to be expurgated). It then becomes obvious when teaching is being significantly successful, marginally successful, or not successful at all.
Just allow anyone who can survive on camera under the scrutiny of the public ( and especially of parents and ofother teachers) to be "certified"

Anonymous said...

Was it Mencken or was it Thurber who pointed out that since teachers are teaching children, they don't necessarily have to be much smarter than children, and maybe shouldn't be? We see with college students that sometimes bright professors aim too high and can't understand how dumb the students actually are.

Whoever I'm thinking of gave the example of a teacher he knew whose mind was so limited she was obsessive about grammar-- and hence was a great teacher of it. The trick in any operation is to know how best to use employees of limited talent, and not to waste your high talent on easy tasks.

Anonymous said...

In my country we have the saying, "He who is able, does; he who isn't, teaches; he who is too stupid even to teach, develops educational theories"

Charles Frith said...

Despite the empty claims the State has no business in having a well informed and analytical electorate. Nobody has the guts to say it here but I will. Inferior teachers make inferior pupils and the strategy is not only deliberate but effective too. The time to relinquish breast fed nanny state stories that government loves you and mistakes are unfortunate incompetence are fairy tales.

Truth said...

"Back before "diversity" teachers did not have to swallow noble lies."

Like the Social Studies, Civics, and Psychology teachers you had who told you that you qualified to pass their classes?

NOTA said...

Charles Frith:

You are hardly the first person to propose that theory, but I've never seen a mechanism for it to work. The same people who benefit from sheeplike voters and taxpayers would also benefit from harder workers who were more competent in other areas. And schools are substantially run locally--how does a senator or a lobbyist for some company that wants sheeplike voters get from thst desire to making schools produce sheeplike voters? And how does the payoff work, given that it must take decades to work?

There is a propaganda function of public education, but it doesn't explain the illiteracy and innumeracy of students, I don't think. My guess is that the political part of the problem is simply that there are few rewards to politicians to improve education, relative to the rewards available via using the school system as a source of political patronage jobs, contracts, and rhetorical attacks on the other side. The work of making schools effective is mostly boring stuff that doesn't show up on TV and is unspectacular--getting rid of troublemakers, keeping the kids on-task, and kids doing lots of homework.

rob said...

Lots of us "HBD types" think there's an optimal IQ range for leadership. Someone too much smarter can't communicate effectively with his underlings. [though we could be wrong]

I would not be surprised if the same was true for teaching. Feynman was a fantastic physicist. Would he have been very good at getting slum Africans to add fractions? His problem-solving strategy of look at the problem, think really hard, and then write down the answer is not transferable to most physicists, much less average and below average people.

Anonymous said...

I am a public school teacher. I earned a 750 on the verbal section of the SAT and a 740 on the math. I also scored a 790 on the analytical section of the GMAT. Truthfully, these feats of standardized testing skills just enabled me to earn a bunch of money tutoring students for these very tests.

I work with some pretty smart people...really. However, the disparity between the intelligent and the norm is fairly striking and depressing all at once. I taught in private schools for many years and EVERYONE was incredibly intelligent.

Is this a mystery? TEACHER=no money
Why would any intelligent college grad with other options want to do this to themselves? Idealism, coupled with the desire to pursue a carer that would enable me to be an involved mother, led me to education. Private school at least offers a measure of prestige that is absent from the public school scenario.

The smartest grads will not become teachers if their is neither a financial or social payoff. Period.

Kylie said...

"I am a public school teacher. I earned a 750 on the verbal section of the SAT and a 740 on the math. I also scored a 790 on the analytical section of the GMAT. Truthfully, these feats of standardized testing skills just enabled me to earn a bunch of money tutoring students for these very tests...

...Idealism, coupled with the desire to pursue a carer[sic] that would enable me to be an involved mother, led me to education...

...The smartest grads will not become teachers if their[sic] is neither a financial or social payoff. Period."


Ouch.

The first spelling error may well have been just a typo. But the second?

Anonymous said...

Why teach Calculus instead of Stats?

Because Stats is a dead end math course.

You NEED Calculus to do Diffy-Q's,
Fourier Methods, Functions of a complex variable, Mathematical statistics(not the kind taught in HS), math modeling, Boundary value equations, need I say more?

In my book, statistics majors are those who couldn't cut it as math majors.

Anonymous said...

Teach Stats instead of Math because it is much easier to see it's application than pure math. I know lots of Pure Math professors who dread teaching Statistics because they aren't used to the concept of variability and uncertainty. Of course they CAN teach it but it's not as easy as you think.

howard18 said...

My guess is that smarter teachers would probably be a good thing


By definition there can only be a finite percentage of smart people to go around. If more of them are to be teachers, what area is going to lose them?

The world's population was 2 billion in the 1920's. Now it's 7 billion. More smart people are being born everyday.

Jesse said...

Oh my goodness, can we just stop this silly debate about Calculus vs statistics.

Students should be able to study both! By the way, those of you who are saying statistics is much more relevant than calculus seem to have never taken more than 1 statistics course in your life. The foundations of statistics are rooted in calculus. You ever tried to find the probability of an interval of a continuous distribution?? Its the area under the curve!!! Integration...HELLO....

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