Foreign teachers might smuggle in some knowledge

June 16, 2005|by TIM ROWLAND

-- Commentary

Saddam's looking remarkably lifelike these days. Admittedly, not as robust as in his salad days of torturing soccer teams, but still pretty good, considering that the last two times we saw him, he was looking like a doomsday prophet in a spider hole, and doing laundry in his underpants.

Not much place to go from there but up.

In court this week, he looked fragile - not Michael Jackson fragile, more Mia Farrow fragile - but relatively dapper in a dark, chalk-striped suit, trimmed, graying beard and jet-black hair and eyebrows that's kind of Burt Reynolds, circa "Smokey and the Bandit."

He could have been a foreign filmmaker, or a foreign olive broker, or for that matter a Washington County schoolteacher.

The Washington County Board of Education raised eyebrows earlier this month when it agreed to hire 10 teachers under the International Faculty Program in an effort to address classroom teacher shortages.


Predictably, the common clay of Washington County was molded into a model of agitation because the move combined two of its most-hated things, those being "foreigners" and "education." People could not have been more outraged if Willie Mays himself had been brought in to teach phys ed.

Superintendent Betty Morgan justified the board's action, saying, "We have a moral obligation to our students, to our parents, to ensure ..."

Unfortunately for the superintendent, I lost interest about halfway through that sentence, which I felt myself under no moral obligation to finish reading. It's a good thing. Got it. Next item.

According to press accounts, Hans and Franz will be hitting the classrooms in the fall, and will be signing on for three-year tours. (And no, there is no truth to the rumor that the Maryland DMV has already sent them their emissions-testing notices). School administrators say it's not an ideal situation - they would prefer American teachers - but teacher shortages have left them with little choice.

The next logical question would be, Why can't Washington County attract domestic teachers?

But this is not a logical column. Instead, I would like to address this foreign teacher situation with the following reaction:


Even if we didn't have teacher shortages, I would be all for it. I think any kind of contact with foreign cultures is productive - unless you find yourself sitting blindfolded in front of an Arabic slogan, of course.

If I'm a student, I'm loving it. Nothing against nonimported teachers at all, but face it, to a kid, different is good. A foreign teacher is interesting and new, like Mountain Dew Code Plaid. Besides, boys have all summer to fantasize that their next science teacher will be Sophia Loren.

Besides, a foreign science teacher presumably would be able to actually teach science, unfettered by all these American notions that science, where inconvenient, does not exist. In fact, that could be the first culture shock, telling a teacher from France that acid rain, stem cells, global warming and evolution have to be checked at the door.

"Really? Porquois?"

"Just because, OK?"

"Vous've got to be kidding, non?"

Oh, let's leave that alone. No sense getting the public worked up in thinking these teachers might want to teach something that hasn't been approved by a minister or Dick Cheney.

Besides, there are other, happier reasons to support foreign teachers, including one we can all relate to: They will save tax dollars. Foreign labor? Cheap? No doubt. Instead of a Christmas bonus, we can just give them a shiny new donkey. And benefits ain't no thang. Being from overseas, they will either come from a country with universal health care or one where the dentist and the farrier are one in the same. Either way, it's not hard to expense out.

Shoot, Americans go overseas to teach all the time, so this really shouldn't be any big deal. What's a few more people sitting around the Schmankerl Stube singing "Schn ist die Welt?" And no, I don't want to hear any jokes like - when you see some grainy footage on the nightly news of someone in rags scrambling across the Rio Grande in a dusty spotlight - "Hey, here comes our next geometry teacher."

After all, bringing foreign teachers here is a lot better than sending our kids overseas - or is it?

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