This idea came to me as the result of some kind of weird harmonic convergence. I read a series of news stories, supposedly disconnected, and suddenly a light came on in my head. The news stories?
- Another in the endless reports of company layoffs.
- A story about the education components of the recently passed stimulus package.
- An interview with Tony Dungee about his new passion: stemming the dropout rate in Indianapolis’ public schools.
- Bill Frists’ new Education task force.
Well, I have an idea for Dr. Frists’ task force. We’ll call it the Education Corps. Nationwide, we have a huge pool of people who were recently taken out of the workforce, who had, up till they got laid off, used their training and skills in real world applications.
It is here that I must pause and say that I think the world of teachers, that they have undertaken a noble calling, and are just like in any other field, highly competent in what they do.
It is here that I must pause even further, and let you in on a secret: in my very short college career, once I discovered that pursuing a music degree was the height of stupidity for me, I turned my attentions toward a degree in secondary education. My discipline was to be American History.
As a totally unrelated side note: Lintilla (whom I was dating at the time), had a degree in elementary education, although she had quickly discovered that the classroom was not for her.
Anyway, it was at this point in my life that I discovered that Education degrees were the opposite of what I had thought. I had been under the mistaken impression that one majored in what they wanted to teach, and minored in Education. It’s the opposite (at least it was in 1986). How to teach, how to run a classroom, the different ways children learn, navigating the education bureaucracy – these are the highest priorities, the actual subject matter to be taught is important, but secondary.
Y’all tell me if things have changed since I was young, back in the stone age.
Let me again stress, I admire teachers, and believe they mostly do an heroic job. But, what if we gave them some help? What if we took a pool of people recently taken out of the workforce, and put them in the classroom, not as teachers but as Subject Matter Experts?
The idea of SMEs is widely used in the private sector. Many of us are designated as SMEs, although we are also asked to do this in conjunction with our regular duties. I expect no such efficiencies from the public school systems, so let’s work with what we have.
Let’s face it: materials and subject matter are often years out of date in the classroom; in my field, for instance,being that far behind means the teaching is worthless beyond the general theory level.
Could a computer class not benefit from the knowledge of a recently laid off programmer or network engineer?
Could an English Composition class not benefit from a recently laid off journalist?
Could an Economics class not benefit from a recently laid off investment banker? (liberals, don’t answer that 😉 )
I am suggesting the Education Corps, not as a replacement for teachers, but as a supplement. The classroom would still be run by the teacher, but she will have an extremely valuable resource sitting right there in the classroom with her.
Because it would be a combination Education / Unemployment Relief program, each position would be a one-year contract. This keeps Republicans happy with the huge amount of new spending this would require, because none of the Corps members would be sucked into the NEA. They would be contract workers, and everyone will understand that the SME will one day re-enter the higher paying private workforce.
Because nothing in life is permanent, each year’s Corps members would be replaced by the next wave of laid off workers. Some hard cases would, of course, carry over from year to year.
Neccesity is the mother of invention. We have a need to put skilled people to work, we’ve had a serious lack of worldly-wise Subject Matter Experts in schools for a very long time.
If we are going to spend humongous amounts of money on schools anyway, why don’t we try something truly innovative and helpful to hurting workers and students alike?