Today’s complicated car engines often seem analogous to the working of a student’s learning brain.

Both mechanics and teachers do not get the credit they deserve. Compare yesterday’s cars and students with today’s cars and students and you begin to see how complicated both professions have become.

Years ago, teaching was far less complicated. Today’s teachers have to be specialized yet flexible enough to teach students who have previously been exposed to many diverse approaches: public and/or private, hour-long versus block schedules, charter, arts-centered, home study, IB, technical schools etc.

As a student, I had only one neighborhood K-8th school to choose from. For years, our public school teachers taught the same curriculum to my brothers, sisters, etc. There  were no mandated curriculums or testing. The school year was about 180 days long. There was never any talk of reducing the school year due to a lack of funds. In short, educators  were revered, respected and No Child Left Behind  and its principles of teaching to the test were unheard of.

Conversely, our cars were equally uncomplicated. I could personally change the oil and do a tune-up on my 1971 Saab with little or no problem.

However, recently I brought my (new) car in for servicing. My mechanic, a man with very impressive credentials that hung on his wall, hooked up my car to a very pretentious looking machine. The entire experience was  computerized and seemed far more complicated than the cars of yesterday. The same can be said of the teaching profession. Today’s teachers are not only are required to have advanced degrees, but must possess certificates defined with important sounding acronyms called CLAD or SYDAE as well as  certificates required to teach to different student cultures. Car mechanics often must be trained to service a variety of foreign cars representing different countries, languages and cultures.

And let’s not forget cost. During my time in the 1960s , the cost to educate a high school student was about $400. Today, the cost is about $9,000. As for cars, a new Volkswagen  sold for about $1,999. Today the cost of the lowest price Volkswagen is about $19,195. Conversely, the cost to educate a child with special needs is extremely expensive, particularly if something goes wrong with the learner. I do not need to mention what I recently paid for a major engine repair.   

When you think about how complicated it is to service cars and teach students we must go back to my original premise and give credit to where credit is due.

When you look at the number of recalled cars and low student test scores, much of the blame should not go to the mechanic or teacher.

As you pick up your car, noticing the hook up systems to GTS, ABS ECU etc., remember that the simplicity of the teaching/student relationship and car/ mechanic has become a thing of the past. Recognize the mechanic for his level of expertise. The same should be said for your child’s teacher.

Our culture has made the work with students and cars a complicated, professionally demanding field and these professionals should be recognized as such. David Sortino, a Graton resident, is a psychologist and retired teacher. Email him at davidsortino or contact him through his blog: Dr. David Sortino – Santa Rosa Press Democrat.






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