02/14/2011 03:15 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Respecting Education

Here in America, it's time we treated the people who educate our children with the same level of respect. -- President Obama, State of the Union Address January 25, 2011

Respect. That was a key word in the President's State of the Union speech last month. Respect those that educate our children. Respect the challenges, respect the effort, and respect their knowledge and skill. But in short, respect the profession of teaching.

It's something we haven't been doing too much of lately.

Other countries do it and do it well. Many of those same countries that are cited by the President and the Secretary of Education -- such as China, Singapore, Finland and Canada -- heap praise, recognition and support on their educators. They don't merely promote education as a key and integral part of national growth, they also subsequently encourage, involve and support teachers as they teach, grow and develop their schools.

It doesn't matter how much money you invest, it doesn't matter how much you want change -- you won't get results unless you enlist your teachers in the cause of better education.

We have worked hard to build a positive, working relationship with our teachers. We do not engage in inflammatory rhetoric. We do not use our teachers as a political punching bag. Public bickering undermines public confidence.
Dalton McGuinty, Premier of Ontario, Canada

[T]here is widespread understanding both in society and the press that criticising the teachers will have an impact on the country as a whole.
Saravanan Gopinathan, head of the international education think tank at the National Institute of Education in Singapore

Ultimately, the quality of education is decided on the ground. It is shaped by thoughtful school leaders, whom teachers trust to lead them in the midst of change. Teachers must have leaders -- principals -- who inspire teams, and give them ownership over their teaching.
Lui Tuck Yew, Minister of State for Education

If education is the cornerstone for the nation's development, teachers are the cornerstone for education.
Wen Jiabao, Premier of the State Council of the People's Republic of China

Premier Wen Jiabao also stressed the need to provide even better treatment and more respect to teachers, so that teaching could be the most-wanted job in China. The most wanted job in China.

And what happens in the U.S.?

Five to 10 percent are not remotely capable. It's easier to prosecute a capital-punishment case in the US than terminate an incompetent teacher.
Joel Klein, former Chancellor of the New York City Department of Education

[O]ur discomfort as a society with criticizing anyone who chooses this noble and difficult profession -- has left our school districts impotent and, worse, has robbed millions of children of a real future.
"How to fix our schools: A manifesto" by Joel Klein, Michelle Rhee and other education leaders

Add to this the recent appointments of non-educators to senior educational positions, and the proposal of bills that have been promoted as "anti-teacher" in several states, and it doesn't paint a very supportive, respectful environment.

Where might this be leading us? Well, while Finland, Singapore and Canada all have a surplus of people wanting to enter the teaching profession, we in the U.S. have seen a rapid decline. In the largest state, California, the number of graduates seeking to become teachers has plummeted by 45 percent over a seven year period - from 77,705 in 2001-02 to 42,245 in 2008-09.

And that was BEFORE this most recent round of teacher bashing began in earnest.