When Advocate reporter Will Sentell wrote this story about teachers who enter the profession through alternate certification, it was followed almost immediately by a letter from the right-wing Heartland Institute think tank.
That letter, from Heartland's Joy Pullman, created a context that did not exist in the original article, equating teaching to 19th century factory-style jobs. We now live in an age where young workers "switch jobs five times in their first 10 years in the workforce, " she wrote.
But as LFT President Steve Monaghan pointed out in this rebuttal, there is a difference between professions and jobs.
"Teaching, like law, medicine and engineering, is a profession," Monaghan wrote. "We can’t believe that Pullman would make the same assertion about physicians — that the idea of switching professions 'five times in their first 10 years' is a good one. "
For too many so-called reformers, it has become an article of faith that teaching need not be a true profession or calling - that teaching is something anyone can do for a couple of years before going on to a "real" job. All teachers really have to do, they reason, is prepare children to fill in the right bubbles on standardized tests.
That idea has been taken to cynical lengths by some politicians who see it as a way to create education systems on the cheap. No need for salary schedules, expensive health insurance coverage or pension plans as long as schools are revolving doors for idealistic young folks operating on a peace corps model.
Which should not be the point of alternative certification. As Monaghan wrote, "Of course, we appreciate the opportunities and advantages associated with making it possible for people trained in other disciplines to come into our classrooms. They can bring fresh perspectives and specialized information that can serve our students well."
Whether teachers enter our profession through traditional routes, or make a commitment to education through alternative certification later in life, they deserve the respect due to professionals.
"(W)e reject Pullman’s apparent belief that better education for children will be the outcome of a transitional teacher corps' Monaghan concluded. "Pullman’s letter is frankly insulting and does a disservice to honorable members of a most honorable and critical profession."