Those Who Can, Do – Those Who Can’t, Teach

I’ll explain this in a minute.

Last week I celebrated Thanksgiving with friends and family in California. At dinner I was introduced to a former public school teacher. She was competent, dedicated, and loved kids. But she quit last year. She had had enough. Years before she had entered the profession because she loved kids, and now she was leaving for the same reason.

The quote, “Those who can, do; and those who can’t, teach.” is attributed to H.L. Mencken (1880-1956). As cynical as this statement sounds (and professional teachers have raged against it and to this day continue to take offense), there is truth to be gleaned if we can just relax long enough to appreciate the caustic sarcasm. Mencken’s point may have been that teaching separated from application is next to useless. It has little relevance to the real world. Just a big mouth getting paid to move a lot.

The teacher I met last week could no longer tolerate the endless testing and measuring; grades on report cards had been replaced with dozens upon dozens of “academic outcomes” she was required to evaluate and document. She could no longer tolerate the shelving of her previous professional training and classroom know-how, not to mention common sense honed by her life experience (that’s right, she over 40) with a rigid lesson plan passed down from on high that required every teacher at the same grade level be on the same page of the same book on the same day or certain sanctions would be applied. Spontaneity and curiosity were all but outlawed. Besides, there wasn’t time, and teachers would get in trouble if caught using an unauthorized book. She knew this wasn’t good for the kids, and in good conscience she couldn’t continue. She quit.

Don’t think such administrative nonsense is limited to secular education. Years ago I was made aware of a major Christian institution and textbook publisher that was training new administrators in the same assembly-line approach to education. Sounded more like a car factory to me. They also sold textbooks to home schoolers. You’ve probably bought and used them. So have I, because they are good books, just needing some modification. One of my mentors taught me years ago to not be afraid to “fillet the fish.” This is especially true if you use some secular books in your home school.

All this to say that to expand your children’s thinking, to insure their education is more that the result of simply a “moving mouth”, you must ask questions that require them to apply what they’re supposedly learning. They may need more than paper and pencil in order to respond correctly.

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