A libertarian inclined blog for teachers and learners of all ages. Comments, emails and links to other educational stuff welcome.

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Next entry: Their funeral?
Previous entry: Do parenting and teaching conflict – for some parents?
Sunday April 20 2008

Speaking as a more-or-less completely (assuming a mere degree doesn’t count) unqualified sort-of teacher(’s assistant), I am having a lot of fun reading all the comments on this piece.  (Sorry, this link to the TES blog doesn’t work properly.  If you really want to find this piece and all its comments, without a lot of nonsense about subscribing, you have to go to where it says “Home”.  When there, go to the column with “Community” in blue at the top, go down to where it says “Blogs”, and click on where it says “Should unqualified people be teaching in our schools?” I kinow.  Ridiculous.  You’d almost think it was designed to keep casual onlookers away.)

When you finally get there, what you encounter is qualified and unqualified teachers furiously trying to convince one another, or perhaps third party onlookers like me, of their educational excellence, both sides often using English that is badly spelt and rather ungrammatical.

A persistent idea emerges, in the form of protestations from qualified teachers that unqualified persons aren’t allowed to perform brain surgery, therefore unqualified teaching should be similarly forbidden.  This is very silly.  No non-surgically-qualified parent performs brain surgery on his child either, yet parents who are “not qualified to teach” constantly teach their own children, often very successfully.  If the comparison held up, parents who were (a) not qualified teachers but who (b) ever taught their children anything would have to be done for child abuse.  (I know.  Don’t give them ideas.) I mean, when did you last hear of a child dying, straight away, because – and only because – of incompetent teaching?

Associated with the brain surgery meme is the constantly repeated statement that if you are not a qualified teacher, you aren’t a teacher.  It’s an on-off thing, like being pregnant or not pregnant, and if you don’t have the relevant capital letters after your name, you ... are ... not ... a ... teacher.  (Their punctuation, not mine.)

The reason only “qualified surgeons” are called “surgeons” is because “unqualified surgeons” don’t get to do any surgery.  If they did it adequately (which is a very big if - but if) they’d also be surgeons.  Just not qualified surgeons.  But this is very rare.  Teaching by “unqualified” teachers, on the other hand, happens all the time.  I know this.  I do it myself.

However, the strength of a case is not determined by how silly are its silliest proponents.  I am sure that some schools do indeed economise by hiring bad unqualified teachers instead of good qualified ones.  But the cure for that is not to simply pass a law forbidding the hiring of unqualified teachers, bad or good.