Few if any jobs directly impact the lives of children as does teaching. Exemplary educational instructors have a lasting, profound influence for good. Utah is fortunate to have many in that camp.

However, those who are at the rock bottom of their profession should voluntarily pursue other lines of work or face removal, as they would in most employment arenas. They exert too much sway over young minds and emotions to continue the infliction of mutual misery that accompanies extremely negative teacher-student relationships.It appears to be that thinking that moved Gov. Mike Leavitt to call last week for removal of incompetent instructors. Speaking to higher- and public-education officials and the Legislature's Education Interim Committee, he was correct in noting that group is extremely small.

Leavitt is not talking about the mainstream who have their normal ups and downs, good days and bad, accompanied by inevitable run-ins with incorrigible students and their sometimes difficult parents. He apparently intended the very few that - subjective evaluation criteria aside - are widely known among students, responsible parents and even fellow faculty and staff as lemons. The folks who themselves are miserable in what they do and who do nothing to improve their skills, attitudes or to find another line of work.

This is the tiny group that would, in most other professions, be gently or not-so-gently removed for ineptitude, but which is too often coddled in an over-protective educational environment. Most everyone knows one or two teachers who fit this description, who cause great distress due to their positions of significant leverage in the lives of youngsters and inability to be effective.

If heeded, the governor's encouragement to eliminate a "cultural phenomenon" of protectionism in schools by nudging grossly inferior teachers out the door would enhance the profession in the eyes of a demanding public. It would inject more realities of the free, competitive marketplace that students face upon graduation. It could enhance Utah's educational product and should lead to greater financial incentive and rewards for the many good teachers.

Excellence should be rewarded; mediocrity should be grudgingly tolerated while providing inducement for change; but awfulness should be expelled. That is only fair to children who enter public education eager to learn but who often lose that love due to many factors including, occasionally, terrible teachers.