A U.S. school district has to go to the Philippines for math and science teachers…

June 10, 2009
I used to listen to a certain super liberal radio talk show host who got sent off to prison for being a pervert, but that last part is beside the point, the point is that he used to end his show with the phrase: “remember, it’s always easier to ask for forgiveness than permission”. And that leads me to stray from the point again and wonder if he is doing just that down in the Lompoc home for wayward souls (okay minimum security federal prison), asking for forgiveness — well he was trained as a Catholic priest, so I guess he should know how to do that.
 
Back to the point: when he was free and still on the air, he explained once what he meant by that little forgiveness tag line. He said that sometimes in a big organization or bureaucracy it is hard to make changes because of the inertia and resistance to change and the just downright built-in slowness of it all. So, if you really want to get something done, it’s far easier to just go ahead and do it and then ask permission later and when you get scolded or into trouble for exceeding your authority or bucking the chain of command you can explain yourself and apologize and ask for forgiveness.
 
And my real point: that’s just what some school administrators did in a Birmingham, Ala. School district. Without consulting the board they went to the Philippines to recruit math and science teachers because they could find none, as in zero, available in the United States. Gee, maybe that’s why we are so far behind the rest of the world in our math and science instruction, at least through high school.
I note that a story in the Birmingham News (upon which I’m basing this) noted that the starting salary for the recruited Philippine teachers is $36,780 per year (and remember, a school year is less than 12 months). Now I imagine that is a great opportunity to someone from the Philippines where opportunities for teaching and wages are far less. But I would think that would not be a bad opportunity for someone in the United States, either just beginning a career or possibly changing careers or retiring from another one or whatever. I have no idea what the cost of living is in Birmingham.
Probably the relatively low salaries accounts for the dearth in domestic applications for math and science teachers. And I imagine eventually the motivated and ambitious Philippine teachers may outgrow their positions. Maybe the district can then recruit a new batch.
The demand for teachers over the past many decades seems to have gone up and down like a roller coaster. First you read there is a tremendous demand (I guess that was back in the original baby boom) and then you read that teachers can’t get a job, and then the cycle is up again and down again, and the last I heard is that there is a prediction for another jump in demand in the near future. Ironically in some places, such as my home state of California, even though there is a strong need for teachers (well depending upon the locale) the state is running out of money to pay them, and since local districts long ago ceded their authority and power of the purse to the state government (willingly or not), there is not much of an enticement to go into teaching. And though there is a need for qualified teachers, without money there is no way to fill it.
 
Perhaps the voting-eligible public, the only ones who can do anything about the whole mess, will one day wake up and pay attention and elect people to government who will have their priorities straight.
Something tells me that the so-called emerging nations in the not-to-distant future will have emerged and some enterprising school district official in, say, the Philippines, will solicit teacher applications from the USA — but would there be any qualified applicants?

P.s.

I strongly support the concept of enticing career changers and retirees from what I call the real world to be teachers. They of course should have to get some kind of certification but that certification should be based primarily on the need for standards in the mastery of the subjects they would teach. The entrenched education establishment seems to have put an over emphasis on teaching methodology over actual ontent, kind of like putting style over substance.