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“What If We Treated Doctors The Way We Treat Teachers?”


What If We Treated Doctors The Way We Treat Teachers? is the headline of a good piece in The Huffington Post by Shaun Johnson, an associate professor of education.

Here’s an excerpt:

What if we indeed held doctors and other professionals to the same bloat and condescension that we currently hold teachers? I can predict some of the responses that physicians might make: “We can’t control what our patients do or eat outside of our offices to maintain minimum levels of health…. And one other thing, you can’t expect us to be evaluated based on all patients equally, regardless of family history, poverty, and other complications.”
His points make sense to me. I’d be interested in hearing from readers what you think of what he wrote….

Author: Larry Ferlazzo

I'm a high school teacher in Sacramento, CA.


  1. My first reaction after reading the post is that the comparison is weak from the beginning. I appreciate his point on accountability, but physicians don’t see their patients for 7 hours a day, 9 months a year, for 13 years straight. We as educators play a much greater role, or should, in the lives of our students. I don’t appreciate my students being analogized with sick patients, whether they are on grade level or not.

    Although I do think there is an analogy as to our new roles as testing facilitators instead of teachers. Maybe we should look more like the medical world and when we notice a student is lacking knowledge or skill in some area we could send them to the “education doctor” to diagnose exactly what the issue is and prescribe the needed treatment.

    Then we might look more like a health and wellness facility instead of the bland, scary hospitals we often resemble now – spending most of our time telling our students to set goals to “get well” while hammering them with tests designed to prove that they are all sick and sad in some way.

    Basically, it is frustrating that we do often look like the medical profession instead of an educational institution. Spending more time diagnosing problems and treating symptoms instead of preventively creating a healthy environment for learning.

  2. It’s a cute idea and it points to a lot of problems in education, but the metaphor does fall down if you think about it. For example: If we treated teachers like doctors, they would only get paid if they (or their school) agreed to a set of standards set up by a private education-paying company.

    That company would list and routinely audit all materials and approaches used by teachers and their purpose and pay or withhold payment based on whether they approve the usage of those materials.

    So a EMO (Education Maintenance Organization) could refuse to pay a teacher if he uses apples to teach countable and uncountable nouns, but apple use is allowed for teaching food vocabulary.

    Depending on the EMO, teachers might have to provide different teaching methods and materials for different students or charge each student different rates.

    Furthermore students who want to learn English in order to watch DVDs would not be reimbursed by their EMOs and have to pay themselves. Students who want to learn English to get a better job would be able to pay for free.

    Teachers would be expected to document every treatment they apply (which would probably amount to every section of a lesson) and that documentation would be open to review by the whole school, and possibly the whole educational industry.

    Teachers would also be open to the possibility of being sued for millions of dollars for malpractice.

    Teachers would be expected to interrupt regular classes to teach emergency lessons and would also be expected to be on-call at all hours.

    It goes on and on.

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