Wednesday, April 03, 2013

Is teaching really a profession?

There are those (including one of the teaching unions) who say flatly that it can't be, because professionals don't strike. That strikes me as a bit reductive: after all medicine is undoubtedly a profession, and doctors have been out on strike (albeit not most of them). What constitutes a profession is in fact rather woolly. Does it mean you have to have passed qualification exams? If so, then teaching may not pass - many of my best teachers never did their PGCEs (but then, I was at a private school).

Anyway, whether teaching is a profession or isn't, the teaching unions have a funny idea of what professionalism entails:
Gove intends not only to introduce performance-related pay and increase pension contributions but also to revolutionise, at breakneck speed, the content and format of GCSEs, A-levels and the national curriculum. As teachers see it, he is de-professionalising them, squeezing the autonomy and creativity out of their work. In effect, teachers are being told to forget how they were trained and teach in a different way.
Do teachers really think that they should go through their careers forever calcified at the moment they went to college? Let's carry that across to the other professions: doctors refusing to prescribe any treatment that wasn't current in the early 1980s; bankers acting as though FSMA never happened, and working on the basis of pre-Big Bang City practices; lawyers advising only on legislation and case law that was around when they were at law school. That's as ridiculously unprofessional as it's possible to get. If teachers are genuinely appalled at the prospect of updating teaching methods and philosophies learned 20 or more years ago, then they're less members of a profession, and more members of a cult.


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