February 25, 2007
Teachers Don’t Get No Respect
This is from an essay by Troy Headrick, an American who teaches at a Turkish university. The excerpt below gets to the real reason why all of our school-improvement schemes end in failure: teaching is not an “important profession” in America.
In America, I’d have to make a very large salary — far larger than 90% of all teachers make there — to match what I’m currently able to put away. I know this sounds implausible, but it’s true. It’s possible because Turkey understands that teaching is an important profession, and so it provides many perks to those who do it.
Posted by Jerome Doolittle at February 25, 2007 06:15 PM
For example, Bilkent University gives me the option of living on campus or off. If I choose to live on campus, it pays virtually all of my rent and almost all of my utilities, making it easy for me to pocket all that extra cash.
It also supplies free bus transportation from campus (the university is located just outside the city limits) to several points in the city center. Of course, this means that I do not need to own a car, nor incur all the related expenses that come with possessing one of those odious contraptions.
Additionally, the university provides me with a booklet of food coupons each month, which can be redeemed at any restaurant on campus and can even be used in most of the eating establishments in Ankara. These coupons allow me to eat two meals a day away from home without incurring any sort of personal expense whatsoever.
And as if that weren’t enough, I pay reduced prices at all cinemas and at most other entertainment venues. I also pay less for train and bus tickets and even at some hotels. All I have to do to get these reduced rates is prove that I’m a teacher, which means showing my university ID card. This same thing is true for all teachers at all educational levels throughout Turkey.
Thanks for the great suggestion! I'm definitely sending my kids to college in Turkey.
The point isn't that Turkish universities are better than ours, although for all I know maybe they are. The point is that our own schools will never improve until the society respects teachers and, by extension, the life of the mind. In fact, we are so blissfully wedded to ignorance that we are suspicious of both teachers and what they teach. It is political death in this country to be considered intelligent. Reagan and George W. Bush were not elected and reelected in spite of seeming stupid but precisely because they appeared more stupid than their opponents. The constant political trope of running "against Washington" really dissects out to boasting of your own lack of experience and knowledge -- which is to say your ignorance. The political culture of an entire region, the South, is built upon passing for stupid. Once the rest of the country wises up to the act it's generally too late; our pocket has been picked again.
That said, however, I have to say that Nugatory appears to be the real article.
Turkish universities are quite good, actually. Education was one of Atatürks main concerns, and to build universities western style he employed the cream of German scientists and lecturers exiled by the Nazis in the 1930s, who thus found refuge in Turkey.
A friend of a friend teaches in Turkey. He comes back to the United States from time to time, but not so often recently, because he says people are so unfriendly anbd hostile in the United States it's like back when he visited the Soviet Union during Brezhnev's day. Anyhow, the perks mentioned above for college teachers mostly apply at the secondary school level too, with the exception that secondary teachers don't get room and board priviliges (they are, however, highly paid, and do get discounts and such).
The biggest difference, though, is respect. I was teaching at the time when I met him, and basically we compared notes and he told me that he wouldn't teach in American schools, because there was no respect for teachers in America. I agreed. I left teaching.