Should Teaching Be Made into a Profession?

May 4, 1990

Report Outline
Special Focus


Educational reformers contend that the United States can no longer afford to tolerate the failure of American schools to educate so many young people. The way to improve schools' performance, reformers say, is to improve the nation's teaching force, and the way to do that is to turn teaching into a full-fledged profession. Not everyone is persuaded.

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Back in the early 1980s, when a national commission was decrying the “rising tide of mediocrity” emerging from American schools and an educational reform movement was coming into being, few people with experience expected the movement to last more than a few years. Gary Sykes, now a professor of education at Michigan State University, was then just starting to write about the subject, and he remembers being advised to “capitalize on this stuff now, because it won't last very long.” The voice of experience, however, turned out to be wrong. “I think it's caught everybody by surprise that the intensity of the effort has persisted now for nearly a decade,” Sykes says.

The movement began with the National Commission on Excellence in Education, appointed in 1981 by President Ronald Reagan's first secretary of education, Terrel H. Bell. In its 1983 report, A Nation At Risk, the commission warned that “our very future as a Nation and a people” was threatened by the failure of U.S. schools. “Knowledge, learning, information and skilled intelligence are the new raw materials of international commerce …,” the commission declared. “If only to keep and improve on the slim competitive edge we still retain in world markets, we must dedicate ourselves to the reform of our educational system.”

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Apr. 10, 2015  Teaching Critical Thinking
Aug. 24, 2001  Teacher Shortages
Oct. 17, 1997  Teacher Education
Sep. 29, 1995  Teaching History
May 04, 1990  Should Teaching Be Made into a Profession?
Apr. 20, 1984  Teachers: the Push for Excellence
Sep. 12, 1975  Education's Return to Basics
Jan. 25, 1961  Teaching by Machine
May 01, 1957  Teaching Resources
General Employment and Labor