I was listening to sports radio today when I heard a few callers demand that the head coach for USA soccer be fired. I thought, “why?” The United States is leagues away from even being a real contender in soccer on the world stage. It’s the 4th or 5th choice of most Americans when choosing a life-long team sport, and our best athletes don’t play soccer. The best athletes play soccer in Brazil, Argentina, Spain, Germany, and so on; however, our best athletes play football, basketball, hockey, and baseball.
Imagine if Bo Jackson, Herschel Walker, Michael Jordan, Cal Ripken, Jr., and others played soccer! If our best athletes of today played soccer, imagine the possibilities. How about Dwight Howard in the goal, or Kobe Bryant playing midfield, or Adrian Peterson as a striker. How would USA soccer change?
Ultimately, it comes down to this: is the coach going to be able to overcome the lack of having the top athletes in the country while others use only the best athletes?
When I thought this question in regards to soccer, I then thought about all of the comparisons made between the USA and other countries of the world. How about changing the question above to this: is the school system going to be able to overcome measuring all of the students in the country (not just the best) when other countries only measure their best students’ progress?
Years ago when I lived in Germany, students would take tests to determine which schools they would attend. Aptitude tests decided whether or not Gustav was going the university way or the trade school path. In Korea a buddy of mine detailed how he taught and a disciplinarian remained in the room at all times to assist, and that the schools there began to separate the kids from an early age into ability groups to decide their future schooling. In this way only the top students are assessed in the comparative tests. I’m sure not all countries do it this way, but many do.
So, who are the coaches in education? Those in charge making the decisions or those in the classroom, the teachers? This is a critical question.
However, I get the sense that the rhetoric is challenging the teacher rather than those in charge. From President Obama to my state legislature, the verbage seems to center on more stringent requirements for licensing teachers, more comparisons based on test scores to award pay, more competition between classrooms for pay, more raised standards for continuing education courses, and so on. Is the teacher really the crux of education’s woes?
I can’t say I have a definite answer, but I don’t know very many teachers who don’t give their all to their students. From where is this anti-teacher rhetoric stemming? Then, this rhetoric quickly turns into calls for competition in schools.
In fact, I’d say that the more competition brought into education, the more isolated classrooms and schools will become. If teachers and schools have to compete for pay, what happens to collaboration? Will you want to share your best lessons with your neighbor when it could cost you financially? Will schools share their best programs with neighboring schools? Will we begin to create schools of haves and have-nots?
The one thing I do know is that firing the coach may not change Team USA’s outcomes in soccer, and making it more difficult to hire and keep teachers is not necessarily going to improve student scores either.