Calling today’s undergraduates privileged or spoiled is similarly reductionistic. Certainly, economic diversity remains a persistent problem in American higher education. But one can find numerous examples of students who, despite growing up in poverty and navigating tragically under-resourced schools, persevere to become the first in their family to attend college. These remarkable individuals are among the most likely to pursue careers in social work, community organizing, or public health with plans to return home and give back to their communities.But they do not want to become teachers.
But finding candidates to fill this role, especially good candidates, may be more difficult than policymakers are willing to admit. Despite their clear interest in public service, the students I meet betray little enthusiasm for teaching as it now exists. And I see even less indication that major trends in public education—standardization, the proliferation of testing, the elimination of tenure and seniority, and expansion of school choice—have made teaching any more attractive as a career option. Prospective teachers, much like the young educators already working in schools, are especially skeptical of accountability measures that tie a teacher’s job security or pay grade to student test scores. And many are bothered by the way teachers are blamed for much broader social problems.