[plt-scheme] Perplexed Programmers

From: Todd O'Bryan (toddobryan at mac.com)
Date: Sun Aug 26 23:13:17 EDT 2007

On Sun, 2007-08-26 at 18:51 -0400, Matthias Felleisen wrote:
> My answer/question was a bit flip but it came straight from the heart  
> of someone who has taught freshmen a dozen times since 1992. The  
> "product" I get to see is so under-educated that I have to think that  
> the many many more billions that parents and taxpayers spend on  
> public schools are even more wasted than the $95M that the LA ISD  
> spent for a partially correct program.
There are several reasons for the problems in American education. 

Perhaps the most important is that, for a very long time, schoolteaching
has been a profession dominated by women. Until the 1960s/70s, smart
women had very limited choices about what they could do with their
lives, mostly limited to teaching and nursing. As a result, society
could underpay them grotesquely and take advantage of their lack of
options. Once very smart women had other choices, the positions they
used to fill became filled by less qualified men and other women.
Because salaries still haven't been increased to attract the quality of
scholars we could count on earlier, I'd guess that about 25% of public
school teachers shouldn't be teaching. 25% may not seem like a lot, but
even in the best-designed engine, if 25% of the gears are broken, the
engine is not going to run well. I think we can all agree that public
education is not a particularly well-designed engine.

In much of the rest of the world, this has never been the case. George
Boole was an English schoolmaster. Several prominent German
mathematicians taught in gymnasiums. High school teachers in much of the
rest of the world have always been considered scholars. Here, that
hasn't been the case, even though many of the women who taught in high
schools wouldn't have been out of place in university departments. As
they moved on to those university departments, we replaced them with
people who were not their intellectual equals.

What do we do about it? I don't know. I have ideas, but they're fraught
with difficulties.


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