A Broken System: Einstein Wouldn't Have Been 'Qualified' To Teach High School Physics
from the time to fix things dept
We’ve argued for years that many professions that require certain forms of “licensing” are often more about restricting supply. That’s not to say those who set up the licensing effort didn’t have the best of intentions, but the end effect often doesn’t actually do much to benefit the public. I’m reminded of this after reading economist Charles Wheelen explaining why Albert Einstein technically wouldn’t have been “qualified” to teach high school physics after retiring from a distinguished career at Princeton. And, for Wheelen, it’s not just hypothetical:
When my wife tried to make a mid-career switch to teaching math in the Chicago Public Schools, I no longer needed a hypothetical example. I realized that licensing had the potential to be every bit as harmful in practice as I’d been saying it was in theory.
My wife Leah graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Dartmouth. She was a computer science major with an emphasis on math. She worked in the software industry, built a company, and then sold it. She seemed, in every respect, perfectly qualified to teach middle-school math.
She found a job at a school adjacent to a public housing project on Chicago’s South Side. On about day three of that job—after she had met the students, decorated the classroom, and started teaching—the principal informed Leah that she did not have a “middle-school math endorsement,” which the State of Illinois requires.
Amazingly, this happened a second time as well. She did get the “math endorsement,” but then lost a job teaching algebra because she didn’t have a special “algebra endorsement.” And yet, she’s clearly qualified to teach those subjects. And, even more importantly, Wheelen points to research showing that students with “certified” teachers don’t do any better than those with “uncertified” teachers — suggesting the whole process has little to do with making sure students get the best education.