Thursday, January 02, 2020

It Just Might Work

In recent years, a number of states have mandated that doctors perform abdominal or transvaginal ultrasounds on pregnant women seeking an abortion and that those women must not only view the ultrasound, but also listen to the heartbeat if there is one. This is problematic on a number of fronts, one of the most disturbing being the intrusion of government into the private lives of women and the professional judgement of their doctors.

From the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists:

Absent a substantial public health justification, government should not interfere with individual patient-physician encounters . . . Laws that require physicians to give, or withhold, specific information when counseling patients, or that mandate which tests, procedures, treatment alternatives or medicines physicians can perform, prescribe, or administer are ill-advised. Examples of such problematic legislation include laws that prohibit physicians from speaking to their patients about firearms and gun safety; laws that require medically unnecessary ultrasounds before abortion and force a patient to view the ultrasound image; laws that mandate an outdated treatment protocol for medical abortion; and laws that prescribe what must be communicated to patients about breast density and cancer risk, contrary to current evidence-based scientific data and medical consensus.

I am not a medical professional. I rely upon my doctors' experience, education, and professional judgment when I or one of my loved ones is sick or injured. It worries me that public officials, people whose medical knowledge is comprised of doctors' office visits and Google searches, are forcing physicians to perform medically unnecessary procedures (sometimes invasive ones), procedures that "may in fact cause harm", not to mention laws that require doctors to provide false information or withhold information. The medical profession is right to fight these measures on every front and we should all be concerned, whatever our views on abortion. If we can't be confident that our physicians are treating us according to evidence-based scientific data and medical consensus, then we are all at risk.

I am an education professional. The parents who entrust me with the care and education of their children rely upon my experience, education, and professional judgment. I've always worked in settings in which I was respected as a professional. I create my own curriculum based upon what I know about the children I teach and the current evidence-based scientific data and educational consensus. Parents trust me to stay informed, to think critically, to be inventive, and to provide them with all the relevant information. Sadly, in this, I'm one of the few lucky teachers. Most education professionals are not so fortunate.

Most American teachers spend their days adhering to schedules and curricula passed down from policy-makers and billionaires. Deviations from the program are frowned upon and often punished. There is very little room for individualization, for professional judgement, and heaven forbid that someone question the validity of one of those standardized tests or expensive out-of-the-box curricula. And for the most part, what we are doing in public schools is not evidence-based, nor does it reflect the educational consensus. It is rather based upon the whims and guesses of people who are not education professionals. If the medical profession, or any other profession for that matter, was treated this way, no one would trust them.

And guess what? American public education is widely distrusted. Oh sure, people might trust their own child's teacher, but when it comes to education in general, we are generally quite dissatisfied, which is part of what motivates the ever-increasing intrusion of policy-makers and billionaires who place their own judgment ahead of professional judgment, creating a vicious cycle of even more distrust. The bottomline in all of this is that our education professionals, our teachers, are forever being viewed as well-intended little puddin' heads who must be micromanaged from school bell to school bell, told what to do, where to go, and how to do it every minute of every day. The one thing we don't seem to want are for these professionals to actually think for themselves. Heaven forbid they plan their own curriculum (something they have been educated to do) or assess their own students' progress (something they have been educated to do) or, in fact, do anything that smacks of professionalism. We would not tolerate this situation in any other profession, but when it comes to educating our children, we take it for granted that the amateurs get to run the show.

We have been trying to "fix" public education since well before I was born. The amateur hour "solutions" have almost always been in the direction of less professional autonomy. For whatever reason, however, we seem to bizarrely conclude, time and again, that the answer is to further restrict the ability of professionals teachers to teach according to their education and experience. Maybe it's time to turn the educational professional loose on public education. It's a radical idea, I know, but it just might work.

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