Jeff Murray is the Ohio operations manager of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute’s offices in Columbus. He read an essay by a high school English teacher who was offended by Governor John Kasich’s proposal that teachers should be required to shadow business people if they wanted to be rectified. Murray was disturbed when a high school English teacher objected. The teacher wrote: “I believe, as a professional English teacher that vocational training is neither my role nor my responsibility to my students.” Murray wrote in reply: “But I want to tell him that he’s wrong.”

Murray says the high school teacher is wrong. Every course he took in high school, he says, taught him job skills. Is that the same as “vocational training”? I don’t think so.

Murray wrote:

Everything about my high school and college experiences helped me to become a successful employee. Math teachers gave me the skills to measure work areas and assist in computing price quotes. History professors helped me understand why a developer was converting this former manufacturing plant into apartments. Communications instruction helped me hone marketing pitches to boost business. And, yes, I used every ounce of wordcraft I had studied and obsessed over in Brit Lit and Sonnet Seminar to write newsletters, clarify job specs, and interact with customers. It wasn’t Fitzgerald, but it was clear and direct and helpful to business. They didn’t know they needed an English major until they got one.

Maybe he actually is agreeing with the high school teacher. Maybe he doesn’t think he is wrong, after all. Surely, Murray didn’t want vocational training in his English class instead of reading Fitzgerald or Ellison. I assume he would have preferred reading and writing about “The Great Gatsby” to learning how to write a business letter. He realizes now that studying literature and writing prepared him for whatever career he chose. Does he really think that his English teachers and his history teachers would have been better if they had been required to spend a week in a factory or a department store?

My most beloved teacher taught us adolescent ruffians to read and appreciate Keats, Shelley, Shakespeare, and Blake. The only job skill I learned from her was the importance of accuracy.

A friend of mine, a lawyer who won a Supreme Court case knocking down voter suppression in Georgia in the 1970s, once told me that he met the Chancellor of the Exchequer in London, the highest financial official in the government. He told my friend that once a boy has mastered “the greats,” he can do anything.

Teachers do not need to shadow people in business. People in business need to shadow teachers. Kasich’s bill, by the way, was dead on arrival.