Letter from a Teachers' Teacher
By Bryan Caplan
I recently received this email from Jared Lucas, who teaches a class for aspiring teachers. Reprinted with his permission.
Hello Mr. Caplan,
My name is Jared Lucas, and I teach American Government as well as a seminar class for students wanting to become future teachers. I teach at a vocational school in Newark, OH. While in college, I listened to your lecture when you came to Bowling Green State University, spoke with you briefly afterwards, and have since purchased your book. I wanted to send you this email to thank you for your work and to tell you what impact it has made on my students (yes, my students) this year. This 9 weeks in my Teaching Careers Seminar, I have been going over numerous controversies in education, and implemented a lesson that spanned a few days over the signaling theory of education. My students were enamored by the subject. I must say that in my 3 years of teaching, I have never had such a passionate discussion burst forth out in my classroom. It was like I unlocked something in their brain that had been dying to reveal itself, yet they didn’t know why. For two days, they discussed a myriad of topics such as abolishing compulsory education, making all high school classes electives, and completely overhauling the mandated curriculum. They spoke from experience how bored they were in school and often wondered what the point was, and perhaps for the first time in their existence, someone presented a plausible answer that made sense to them.
I introduced the topic by asking them questions from lower grades directly from the Ohio state standards, things that theoretically if they passed on to the next grade, they should know. None of them could answer the questions. I asked them: “So what was the point of learning that?” I then gave a brief introduction of the signaling theory and showed them your interview with Reason. They drove the discussion from that point on. At the end of the 9 weeks, I let them write a paper on one of the controversial topics we discussed and to give their position, counter argue the opposing views, and offer up a practical solution. Almost all of them chose the signaling theory of education and many of them wrote FAR beyond the minimum I required.
Since I let them drive the topics we learn (inspired in part by your book), they have proposed that they conduct a survey of the student body with questions inspired by the signaling theory, contact our state representatives, invite them to come in, and advocate that education is DEFUNDED (some contend completely, some say to a degree haha) to prevent academic inflation. I am in awe at the response and zeal they possess to make some change. While I am realistic as to the immediate impact a small group of juniors in high school can make on the entrenched political & institutional structures of our state, I’m hoping my class is only one example of a plethora of other future potential examples of the impact your research may have sparked. Again, thank you for your work!