Thursday, January 5, 2012

Have things changed much since 1872 for educators?

During the holidays, I unearthed a framed copy of a document called "1872 Rules for Teachers." It's not an original but a reproduction, apparently reprinted some years ago by the Student National Education Association. One hundred thirty years later, as we begin a New Year, the rules imposed on education professionals bear reviewing:

Teachers each day will fill lamps, clean chimneys.

Each teacher will bring a bucket of water and a scuttle of coal for the day's session.

Make your pens carefully. You may whittle nibs to the individual taste of the pupils.

Men teachers may take one evening each week for courting purposes, or two evenings a week if they go to church regularly.

After ten hours in school, the teachers may spend the remaining time reading the Bible or other good books.

Women teachers who marry or engage in unseemly conduct will be dismissed.

Every teachers should lay aside from each pay a goodly sum of his earnings for his benefit during his declining years so that he will not become a burden on society.

Any teacher who smokes, uses liquor in any form, frequents pool or public halls, or gets shaved in a barber shop will give good reason to suspect his worth, intention, integrity and honesty.

The teacher who performs his labor faithfully and without fault for five years will be given an increase of twenty-five cents per week in his pay, providing the Board of Education approves.


A simple interpretation of these rules might be summed up thusly:

If you choose to commit yourself to a career in teaching children in a school, you will also be given responsibilities that do not involve teaching children; neglect them and you may be fired.

You will be responsibile for supplying your own teaching materials; fail at this and you may be fired.

Your activities during the ten-hour-long school day will be defined for you; vary from them and you may be fired.

Your freedom outside the school day will be heavily restricted, and you will be watched; violate these restrictions and you may be fired.

What you read may be monitored; read questionable content and you may be fired.

Whether or not you attend church regularly will be noted.

It will be your responsibility to save much of your meager earnings for your own retirement, so no one will be forced to take care of you when you are no longer of use to your employer.

If, as a consenting adult, you choose to engage in a relationship with another consenting adult, you will be fired; if your behavior may be interpreted in this direction, you will be fired.

And if, after choosing to commit yourself to a career in teaching children in a school, you live obediently by these imprisonments of the mind and soul, you will be rewarded with a very tiny increase in your pay every sixtieth month, so long as your local Board of Education approves it.

Question to discuss: So, have things changed so much in 130 years, at least here in South Carolina?

Educators in traditional public schools are certainly still given responsibilities that do not involve teaching children -- bus duty, hall duty, lunchroom duty, extracurricular expectations and committee assignments. Thanks to the failure of lawmakers to fully fund school needs, educators are still expected to supply some of their own teaching materials, and lawmakers grumble annually over appropriations for teacher supply funds. Educators have no control over the length of their school day, and very little freedom to deviate from teaching to a test.

What about the freedom of educators outside the school day? Depending on the community or the district, it's woe unto the teacher who sticks the name of a candidate for public office on her car bumper, though the candidate fights tooth and nail for greater school funding and saving education jobs. And woe unto the teacher who questions aloud the appropriateness of religious ritual -- or open evangelizing -- during school functions.

And economic concerns? Indeed, educators have no control over the setting of their salaries or their pension benefits -- all of that power is held by legislators.

For all the advancements in knowledge and technology over the past 130 years, it seems that not much has changed at all for education professionals.

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