John A. Davison for Governor of Vermont
I am entering the race for governor of the State of Vermont. I have borrowed my campaign slogan from Vince Lombardi, the great coach of the Green Bay Packers. He said: "Winning isn't everything -- it's the only thing!" I say: "Education isn't everything -- it's the only thing!"
America is facing a crisis of enormous dimensions. Our public school system has failed us. Desperate times require desperate measures. The difficulty resides in the faulty assumption that teachers have to be taught how to teach. No two teachers teach the same way, and we can thank God for that. There is only one thing that really matters: the teacher must have mastery over the material he presents to his students. For example, if he is a mathematics instructor, he should have a solid background in mathematics, and it should not matter how he acquired that background. We are degree-happy in this country, and that too must change. Some of the dumbest people I know have the same degree I have, and some of the most brilliant people I know have no degrees whatsoever.
What then must be done? Here is what I propose. Teachers' colleges and the College of Education in universities should be eliminated. I realize this will not happen overnight. Nor can it be accomplished directly. However, if the following steps are taken, the end result will be the same. Aspiring teachers should be given rigorous and progressively more difficult exams in their field of study. Only the best of these should be allowed to enter the wonderfully rewarding world of the classroom. I predict that the Education majors will not be able to compete with those who have concentrated their efforts in the field of their choice. This is one half of the equation. The other half is the student. The student must also take exams to determine his level of proficiency. For both student and teacher, the only consideration must be competence. Such a system would allow each student to proceed through the curriculum at a rate determined by his own talent and motivation.
I have never cared for the word teaching. The really important word is learning. It is interesting to note that in University mathematics courses today, students may be given partial credit on an exam or homework if they use the right method but get the wrong answer. I find that concept absurd. If they used the right method, they would get the right answer, wouldn't they? I tell the students in my Quantitative Biology course (Biology 202) that I don't care what method they use as long as they get the right answer. Isn't that what the real world is all about -- getting the right answer?
There is another aspect of education which these suggestions address: the problem of student boredom. I am convinced that many students, especially the better ones, are simply bored by their experience in the classroom. A bored student is likely to get into trouble. Here is another place where the public school system has failed. Problem students are typically suspended for a few days. That is ridiculous. I have personal knowledge of high school students who deliberately did something stupid on Wednesday so that they could enjoy a four day weekend! The solution is not suspension but confinement, preferably in a windowless room, with a specific assignment which must be completed before reentering the classroom.
Finally, let me offer one more perspective on education. A good teacher will inspire his students to learn. The greatest tribute I ever received as a teacher came in the form of a six-word statement in an anonymous student questionnaire: "He made me want to learn."
In order to implement these changes, we must stop supporting a school system that has so obviously failed us. In the City of Burlington, Vermont, the school bond issue was recently returned to the voters three times. It passed the fourth time, probably because it was a rainy day. I cannot imagine a better demonstration of the dissatisfaction of the electorate with the performance of the public schools. I further propose that no citizen should be forced to pay taxes earmarked for the public school system unless that citizen has children enrolled in that system.
George Bernard Shaw once said: "Those that can, do -- those that can't, teach." That too must change.
I am convinced that implementing these measures will serve to stimulate the emergence of a school system vastly superior to that which we now have. That is what I want to accomplish for the great State of Vermont. God bless you and I appreciate your support!
|John A. Davison, Ph.D.|