From cop to teacher

The Teacher of the Year for 2009, Anthony Mullen, spent 21 years as a New York City police officer before starting a second career as a special education teacher working with the kind of would-be tough kids he once arrested. He hopes to focus on lowering the dropout rate by encouraging options. Teacher Magazine has a great interview with Mullen, who’s focusing on dropout prevention.

It’s important that every student gets an academic background, but we’ve lost vocational education. Most of our high schools are geared towards getting students into college. And yet we have this population of students—millions of students, literally—who want to do what our ancestors have done for thousands of years: They want to work with their hands. They don’t want to sit in a desk all day. They want to build, they want to create, they want to design. And we’re losing that because we’re so concerned that they take the extra science, the extra math, the extra history and all these things to go to college when all these vocational opportunities are passing them by.

Speaking of cops in the classroom, Los Angeles is seeing high graduation rates at its police-affiliated magnet schools, reports City Journal. Most students come from low-income Hispanic families.

Discipline is strict, a communal priority. Reseda organizes cadets into squads of five to eight, each supervised by a student leader. The leaders make sure that their cadets get their work done, keep their grades up, behave in class, and dress neatly.

So far, few graduates have gone on to become police officers, perhaps because there’s a three- to four-year gap between high school and eligibility to join the force.

About Joanne


  1. SuperSub says:

    The oft-cited cause of teen gangs is the desire to be part of a family because many of these teens are coming from broken homes or homes where the parent(s) are necessarily working all day (and night) long.
    The squad idea takes advantage of this and forms a surrogate family for the students.

    Mullen’s comments about vocational education are spot on too… not every student is interested in staying in academia or is fated for college, so why force them that way?

  2. All students are forced toward college because it’s not PC to suggest that some aren’t suited to college either intellectually or by interest. It’s like Lake Wobegone, where everyone’s child is above average.

  3. We had an ex cop try to be a teacher in our inner city school and he lasted one semester. He had been accustomed to respect and people doing as he requested. Didn’t happen in his classroom. I’m always interested in hearing about others who have left the police force to be a teacher.

  4. >All students are forced toward college because it’s not PC to suggest >that some aren’t suited to college either intellectually or by >interest. It’s like Lake Wobegone, where everyone’s child is above >average.

    There’s something to this, of course.

    But it’s also the case that there aren’t a lot of good vocational-type jobs available anymore, and for those decent vocational jobs that are available – plumber or electrician, say – there is usually a lengthy (4-5 years) apprenticeship program required to enter the field, plus a licensing exam. (Which is why Joe the Plumber isn’t…)

    I don’t think that there’s anything meaningful that schools can do to get these jobs or jobs in other skilled trades. So I’m not really sure what they should do about these students.

  5. Richard Aubrey says:

    Dirty little secret is that these jobs take a lot of brain power.
    It’s just that classroom seat time has been awarded the status of brain work and everything else is not.
    I was in a laborers’ union hall some time back and was interested in the dozens of posters offering classes (don’t know who paid for them) in various kinds of equipment. Clearly, the more certs a guy had, the more employable he was.
    The difference between this kind of education and the traditional type is in the latter, if you screw up through a moment’s inattention, probably nobody dies.
    The history of the race shows us how little time we’ve spent expecting kids from six to eighteen to spend six hours a day behind a desk. Are we evolved that way?
    Vocational ed can be a good deal for the guys who are equipped to take it to the professional level.
    For the rest…can’t hurt. Except for fingers and eyes and stuff.