Well, so I'm fuzzy and behind the times. But even as fuzzy as I am, I can see that here in California whatever qualifying tests being given still allow coaches with degrees in PE to teach algebra (done in my local school)... I don't remeber calling you fuzzy. Also you seem to have a great deal of animosity to teachers who expand out of their original content area. Have you investigated the curriculum that this Gym Teacher is covering? Have you seen the test for certification he (or she) passed? Are you even aware that teachers are required to go for continuing ed as part of the recertification process. Did this dumb jock spend a couple semesters worth of his (or her) free time at the local community college mastering the finer points of high school mathematics. Does the school system now formally recognize that this gym teacher has done exactly as you tell us what the widget makers must do. "If a decade later some new technology makes widgets obsolete, the widget engineers are canned unceremoniously, or are forced to go back to school to learn the latest new technology." With the national push to reduce gym class time and eliminate recess I believe this PE teacher has taken the steps to protect his (or her) job exactly as you describe.
As to firing incompetent tenured teachers, please don't make me laugh. HOW MANY TENURED PUBLIC SCHOOL TEACHERS HAVE BEEN FIRED OVER THE LAST YEAR NATIONWIDE??? We're letting one go at the end of this year. I think that you will find it to be maybe one or two. Out of how many tens of thousands of tenured teachers? Read Chapter Five of John Stossel's recent book "Myths, Lies and Downright Stupidity" to see what it takes to fire a teacher in New York--it takes a four page flowchart to outline all the steps. But it can in fact be done. It is not as you describe "virtually gauranteed for life". There is just a well defined procedure, it is described in a four page flow chart in a book that you've read. It seems that NYC is a statistical outlier. In reality it is so much easier then you imply.
I am not arguing that we should throw money at teachers--it is the contrary. I'm saying that to talk about paying them as much as we pay engineers is ridiculous, because they don't work under the same conditions. Engineers aren't facing 30 screaming children all day long. We're not being paid for our ability to erect a bridge we're being paid for our salesmanship. Teaching is nothing more then a sales job. The product sells itself when the buyer is motivated. Unlike other sales jobs we're not only expected to sell knowledge but see to it that the buyer keeps that knowledge long enough to pass a test, often several years later. Any fucking engineer can build a bridge that doesn't fall down. In fact, my 13 year old students are going to build a bridge out of spaghetti and hot glue that can hold up a 5 kilogram weight. (10 pounds)
And I am not saying strip them of tenure--just recognize that tenure is a juicy perk that engineers don't get. As to the public school system, I advocate vouchers--which would allow parents to choose schools where they feel teachers are good, and allow teachers to choose schools where the students and parents care. That is what we have on the college level. It's not a "juicy perk" it's a matter of protecting a working team from bad political decisions made by a possibly hostile and politically temporary school committee. Vouchers will only work if the selectivity goes both ways. If the school can't reject bad students then the classroom dynamic won't change. It would be great to have only a handful of motivated students. The reality is that schools aren't free to dismiss students who don't want to be there. Students who don't want to learn are not free to stay home. It is not a "free market" problem. You cannot apply free market solutions.
But I appreciate your feedback. Sincerely--Gary Jason Thank you. I've enjoyed our discussion.