Part One: A Definition
(From LibertarianTeacher.com) As I have alluded to in a previous post, one of the important definitions to be made is in regards to the term ‘professional’ as it relates to teaching. Before we turn to the dictionary for a suggestion of meaning, we need to understand that this term is very vague. Professional implies that something is done as a profession (i.e. a career). It also, connotes a sense of high quality – the result of specialized knowledge and skills. In modern usage, it also has come to include the idea that there are rigorous credentialing processes that insure that only the best individuals attain this status. (Would that such a thing were a guarantee!)
Now, let’s see what the dictionary says, keeping in mind that dictionaries are often simply a reflection of current understandings rather than absolute clarifications of meaning. (In other words, definitions can change over time.)
In a Google search of what the term ‘profession’ means, we are given two very interesting definitions. The most relevant is “a paid occupation, especially one that involves prolonged training and a formal qualification”. Here are the elements of career (paid occupation), specialized knowledge (prolonged training), and credentialing (formal qualification). Interestingly, the term is also defined as “an open but often false declaration or claim”. While I’m sure we can agree that this is not the meaning we’re looking for, it still gives us pause to consider that sometimes a person who calls themselves a ‘professional’ might involve a bit of self-aggrandizement.
The real question is whether those three elements (career, specialized knowledge, and credentialing), as applied to teaching, should be controlled by a government. Why is it that doctors, lawyers, architects, and accountants don’t require state-based licensing as a rule? Are they less professional? Do they handle interests which are less important? Do we not care if medicine, law, construction, and finance are not at the highest of standards? The fact is that this is an unnecessary distinction. There is no reason that teaching should require state licensing when these other professions do not.
In my next post I will discuss what specifically makes teaching a profession even when it doesn’t act like one.