(The following is the complete version of my Huffington Post blog from earlier this week.)
It's time for term limits for teachers.
There is a simple solution to the educational crisis that has the United States on the brink of becoming a third world country.
It took me a long time to realize that my dozen years in the classroom had completed my conversion from the wide-eyed 43-year-old innocent I was when I stepped in front of my first group of middle school students to the decaying fossil, a symbol of the erosion of public schools, that I am today.
I don't know whether it should be set at eight years, or six, or maybe even four, but of one thing I am thoroughly convinced -- the time for teacher term limits is now.
Tenure, heaven forbid, the last thing this nation needs is to foist teachers upon unsuspecting children for decades then allow them to receive golden parachutes when they finally decide to call it a day.
Perhaps it was Teach for America that convinced me how absurd the current system is. What a novel concept -- six weeks of rigorous training and young, eager twenty-somethings, bathed in idealism, with the idea that they can make a difference in children's lives, find themselves in a classroom.
Of course that has to be a better system than having someone study for years to take a low-paying job (in comparison to other professionals). The old-timers also entered the teaching profession because they wanted to make a difference in children's lives, but look what it got them.
They are under constant criticism for their inability to convince children who don't care, who have parents who don't care, that their lives can be enriched by learning how to properly fill in the bubbles on a standardized test.
Our current crop of teachers, burdened with experience, are having even a harder time convincing the best and the brightest in their classrooms why they should care about taking practice standardized tests to prepare for other practice standardized tests that allegedly prepare them for the real standardized tests.
Term limits for teachers would also take care of those oddball teachers who start developing strange ideas as they accumulate years in the classroom. When all of our great educational reformers, those beacons of light in the cesspools known as public schools, have learned that the only way students can learn is for each teacher to follow the same script word for word, how can we tolerate these so-called educators who believe they have to abandon the script and try something new when the script is not working with the majority of our students?
In this enlightened day and age, we know there is no longer a place for the teacher who puts the textbook aside and creates lesson plans that actually resonate with the students. The day has long since passed when a lesson can be scrapped because something major, say the death of Osama bin Laden, occurs that presents an opportunity for children to develop a better understanding of the world around them.
And the last thing we want is some maverick who tries something that he remembers working 10 years ago in a similar situation. That kind of outdated thinking will be the death of education.
Obviously, the time for term limits for teachers has arrived.
Think of the advantages:
-Every year, schools would receive a fresh infusion of enthusiasm. The naysayers who point out why something won't work (and often provide advice on how to make it work) will be out the door, no longer providing an obstacle to educational innovation.
-No longer would administrators have to deal with the pesky problem of students returning to see those favorite teachers who made a difference in their lives. If the students want to see those teachers, they can talk to them when they are on their breaks at Wal-Mart.
-The absentee rate would have to go down, wouldn't it? With all of those young teachers, they wouldn't have had the time to develop the nagging problems that sometimes keep older teachers at home. (Don't pay any attention to the statistics that show that older workers have a lower absenteeism rate. We all know what they say about statistics.)
-With new teachers joining the ranks each year, we won't have people who have been there for years, who are invested in the system and the children, getting in the way of those who need to make the important decisions on what should be taught in our schools -- the politicians.
-Those same politicians would no longer have to waste precious time figuring out ways to lessen the impact years of experience and higher degrees have on school salary schedules. With that no longer on the table, they would have more time to devote to finding jobs for the unemployed, including all of the teachers who would be displaced by term limits.
Once we have the teachers in line, it is time we did something about those doctors. With a Cut for America program and six weeks of intensive practice, we can get a far more enthusiastic group of surgeons into our nation's hospitals.
It might take a while for this gospel of term limits to spread across the country, but there is nothing to stop us from trying it in Missouri. After all, we already have term limits in place for our legislators.
And they're the best group of politicians money can buy.