The Case of the Illiterate Teacher

Here is someone who got through grade school, graduated from high school, graduated from college with an education degree, became a teacher, and taught in a high school for 17 years  all without knowing how to read! 

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • http://www.faith-filled.com Stephenie

    How about personal responsibility and integrity? I couldn’t call myself a teacher if I was illiterate. It seems he did feel guilt over it, but it took many, many years to build up enough to cause action.

    Why didn’t he take it upon himself to learn earlier in life?

    I read the whole story and although I do think the system let him down, I’m glad he finally “saw the light.”

    The system, the government will always let people down. It’s not fool-proof, no matter how you do it. This is where we need to be personally responsible for our family and our own education.

    We, as churches, also need to look out more for one another. Many are quick to condemn and slow to help (yeah, I know, I appear to fit in this category.)

    I would hope that someone would trust me with that kind of secret. It would be great to have helped him out of that pit.

  • http://www.faith-filled.com Stephenie

    How about personal responsibility and integrity? I couldn’t call myself a teacher if I was illiterate. It seems he did feel guilt over it, but it took many, many years to build up enough to cause action.

    Why didn’t he take it upon himself to learn earlier in life?

    I read the whole story and although I do think the system let him down, I’m glad he finally “saw the light.”

    The system, the government will always let people down. It’s not fool-proof, no matter how you do it. This is where we need to be personally responsible for our family and our own education.

    We, as churches, also need to look out more for one another. Many are quick to condemn and slow to help (yeah, I know, I appear to fit in this category.)

    I would hope that someone would trust me with that kind of secret. It would be great to have helped him out of that pit.

  • http://www.bikebubba.blogspot.com Bike Bubba

    Yes, there is personal responsibility, and then there is also the basic responsibility of other teachers to figure out what’s going on. Are we to believe that nobody ever noticed that there was no dust at the bottom of his chalkboard? That he was always asking for help grading papers?

    Sorry, but this speaks volumes about the government schools.

  • http://www.bikebubba.blogspot.com Bike Bubba

    Yes, there is personal responsibility, and then there is also the basic responsibility of other teachers to figure out what’s going on. Are we to believe that nobody ever noticed that there was no dust at the bottom of his chalkboard? That he was always asking for help grading papers?

    Sorry, but this speaks volumes about the government schools.

  • Carl Vehse

    Are we to believe that nobody ever noticed that there was no dust at the bottom of his chalkboard?

    And why didn’t the students notice? I doubt a teacher could have gotten away with that before the ’70s.

  • Carl Vehse

    Are we to believe that nobody ever noticed that there was no dust at the bottom of his chalkboard?

    And why didn’t the students notice? I doubt a teacher could have gotten away with that before the ’70s.

  • http://www.pagantolutheran.blogspot.com Bruce

    I’ve got to admit, I admire his pluck. If the story is true, he spent a lifetime outthinking everyone else he met. I realize the story is just demanding bursts of outrage, but take a look at what he accomplished without one of the most basic tools in modern civ. I’ll bet he was a great teacher, too.

  • http://www.pagantolutheran.blogspot.com Bruce

    I’ve got to admit, I admire his pluck. If the story is true, he spent a lifetime outthinking everyone else he met. I realize the story is just demanding bursts of outrage, but take a look at what he accomplished without one of the most basic tools in modern civ. I’ll bet he was a great teacher, too.

  • WebMonk

    I’ll bet he was a great teacher too. It sounds like he had his students doing all the reading and writing, and he probably graded based upon oral presentation or something like that. Those are really good practices for school teachers to encourage in their classes, even if the teacher can read.

  • WebMonk

    I’ll bet he was a great teacher too. It sounds like he had his students doing all the reading and writing, and he probably graded based upon oral presentation or something like that. Those are really good practices for school teachers to encourage in their classes, even if the teacher can read.

  • Bror Erickson

    I often wonder why we hype the importance of high school so much when obviously it doesn’t mean a thing when this stuff happens. That is why I “skipped” my last year and a half of high school. To get on with life, and stop having my time wasted. Never regretted that decision. But if you ever want to see a teacher union rep come unglued let them know you dropped out of high school and now have a masters degree. There whole life rests on the myth that you can’t do anything in life without a high school diploma.

  • Bror Erickson

    I often wonder why we hype the importance of high school so much when obviously it doesn’t mean a thing when this stuff happens. That is why I “skipped” my last year and a half of high school. To get on with life, and stop having my time wasted. Never regretted that decision. But if you ever want to see a teacher union rep come unglued let them know you dropped out of high school and now have a masters degree. There whole life rests on the myth that you can’t do anything in life without a high school diploma.

  • Bror Erickson

    That said I find it ironic I’m now on the board of directors for a high school. Go figure.

  • Bror Erickson

    That said I find it ironic I’m now on the board of directors for a high school. Go figure.

  • fw

    #7 Bror

    and your sermons betray no lack of erudition and wisdom might I add, and , unlike many … they are humbly all about Christ the crucified One.

    Education is a useful tool .

    it can be an end unto itself to bring pleasure and a sense of fullfillment and understanding.

    But usually it is a means to an end. It is those ends that usually matter.

    Cool background on you Bror. thanks!

  • fw

    #7 Bror

    and your sermons betray no lack of erudition and wisdom might I add, and , unlike many … they are humbly all about Christ the crucified One.

    Education is a useful tool .

    it can be an end unto itself to bring pleasure and a sense of fullfillment and understanding.

    But usually it is a means to an end. It is those ends that usually matter.

    Cool background on you Bror. thanks!

  • Bror Erickson

    I don’t want to disparage education far from it. But for many High school can be a complete waste of time. When ou wake up and realize your college professors are going to reteach you every thing your learning in high school because 90% of the kids sitting next to you are not bothering to learn a thing, but will get the same diploma and go to college with you, then you begin to wonder couldn’t I just skip this and go to college so I only have to be bored with it once? When you understand that half the football team will be graduated despite their grades, and will do the same thing at college, probably at an Ivy League where they will waste there scholarships playing Nintendo between games, you begin to realize the high school diploma isn’t worth a thing, and shouldn’t be able to get you a job at McDonald’s. Why should it be more than that your teacher might not even be able to read?
    My teachers use to tell me that high school was all about learning to socialize, about learning to stick things out, etc. It was all b.s. We don’t pay teachers to teach our kids to socialize. We pay the to teach reading, writing, math, and science. No one takes a bio class to learn how to socialize. I knew how to do that anyway, and don’t think it would be bragging to say I did a better job of it than my teachers.
    Education should be about more than a means to an end. If that is all it is lets stop wasting time and teach the kids a trade. But alas, that is what it has become. go to school so you can be rich. Well I’ve gone to plenty of school now, don’t see me getting rich anytime soon. Don’t really care to be much richer than I am. I am rich, but that is a matter of perspective. My auto mechanic makes more than me.
    This article exemplifies everything that is wrong with the public education system.

  • Bror Erickson

    I don’t want to disparage education far from it. But for many High school can be a complete waste of time. When ou wake up and realize your college professors are going to reteach you every thing your learning in high school because 90% of the kids sitting next to you are not bothering to learn a thing, but will get the same diploma and go to college with you, then you begin to wonder couldn’t I just skip this and go to college so I only have to be bored with it once? When you understand that half the football team will be graduated despite their grades, and will do the same thing at college, probably at an Ivy League where they will waste there scholarships playing Nintendo between games, you begin to realize the high school diploma isn’t worth a thing, and shouldn’t be able to get you a job at McDonald’s. Why should it be more than that your teacher might not even be able to read?
    My teachers use to tell me that high school was all about learning to socialize, about learning to stick things out, etc. It was all b.s. We don’t pay teachers to teach our kids to socialize. We pay the to teach reading, writing, math, and science. No one takes a bio class to learn how to socialize. I knew how to do that anyway, and don’t think it would be bragging to say I did a better job of it than my teachers.
    Education should be about more than a means to an end. If that is all it is lets stop wasting time and teach the kids a trade. But alas, that is what it has become. go to school so you can be rich. Well I’ve gone to plenty of school now, don’t see me getting rich anytime soon. Don’t really care to be much richer than I am. I am rich, but that is a matter of perspective. My auto mechanic makes more than me.
    This article exemplifies everything that is wrong with the public education system.


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