Why do university graduates go to teachers college? The answer to this question is not about the benefits of the job – salary, holidays, the ability to shape the next generation might appear on that list, you can debate the order – but pure economics.
At least that’s how many Globe and Mail readers see things. Almost 1,000 comments followed this week’s pieces on changes coming to teacher education in Ontario that will lengthen the time it takes to earn credentials to two years from one year. A vast number wondered why – given that a third of teachers from Ontario and U.S. border colleges do not find work (10 times more than in 2006) – anyone would invest in any training of any length that delivers such poor returns.
Yuni Kim, a new teacher quoted in a column by Margaret Wente, exemplifies the problem: She is in debt, with little chance of a paid job in Canada. But while she wonders why schools accept more students than can be employed, readers were less sympathetic.
“Ms. Kim should have done some research before jumping in. … Don’t blame the government!” one commenter wrote, summing up the sentiment that an education in education is another example of how liberal arts degrees fail to lead to paid careers. (Good news: The rates for plumbers should come down in the next decade if students start acting rationally.)
Another persistent strain among commenters was animosity toward older teachers, particularly retirees who take on supply or long-term teaching contracts. Readers saw this group as opportunists who are “double-dipping, robbing both the pension fund … and the next generation of teachers.”
In fact, the age discrimination that readers often rail against in other careers was boldly advocated for teachers. Readers wanted to know if retirees’ “greedy sense of entitlement” could be curbed by moves to “stop schools from hiring retired teachers so new graduates can find work.”
Two years ago, after a Globe investigation into how much school boards were spending bringing retired teachers back to the classroom, the province did change the number of days they can work. In a bit of math magic, the number was increased and reduced at the same time, to 50 a year from 95 every three years, with the goal of limiting retired teachers’ access to long-term contracts. Such contracts are often the last marker for new grads on the road to permanent jobs.
The scrapping for jobs does stress one obvious fact: There are far too many teachers for the slots available. Expect to see more of them, young and old, at your local Home Depot before it all shakes out.