Fran Tarkenton says teachers must be more like NFL players, American education is broken

Published: Friday, Oct. 7 2011 10:00 a.m. MDT

"I disagree, however, with Mr. Tarkenton that the root cause of this country's declining academic performance rests primarily in bad teachers," Crotty wrote. "Rather, I think the root cause lies in families of origin, where the critical thinking, reading, and listening skills so essential to success in a global high-tech economy, need to be modeled from the earliest possible age. When parents engage in lifelong learning, their children follow suit. There's only so much a star athlete, star coach, and star teacher can do to achieve excellence when those he is working for, or working with, do not share the same no-excuses commitment to excellence."

Everyone agreed the problems in education do require asking tough questions, like those raised by Tarkenton, said a writer for the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, based in Michigan.

"While our country excels at football," Jarett Skorup said, "the education system as a whole leaves something to be desired."

Skorup referenced a report from the National Center for Education Statistics, which shows that inflation-adjusted spending per student has more than tripled since 1970 and at the same time scores have remained flat, a statistic Tarkenton mentioned in his piece.

John Stossel wrote about this phenomenon last month, saying, "While most every other service in life has gotten faster, better and cheaper, one of the most important things we buy — education — has remained completely stagnant, unchanged since we started measuring it in 1970."

"Why no improvement?" Stossel asked. His answer: "Because K-12 education is a government monopoly and monopolies don't improve."

One commenter on Tarkenton's story at the Wall Street Journal's website, William Drose, wrote: "Mr. Tarkenton, I like you. I've watched you play many a time. But anybody who really thinks football is tough, try being alone in a closed room with 30 kids on a routine basis, then keeping their parents happy, too. ... I'm not a teacher, never have been. But I've known several and have never envied one; they've got one of the most trying gigs on the planet. And one of the very dumbest gigs on the planet is leveling consistent attacks upon those who have the ears of this nation's children every day."

Yet another said teachers should not take this as an assault on them personally. "The system needs adjusting," Chris Wery wrote. "Teachers need to stop taking criticism of the system as attacks on them and the students."

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