Friday, March 17, 2006

Schools of Education

I've often blasted schools of education. Don't believe me? Use the search engine at the top left corner of this window and search for "dispositions". I've also discussed "social justice" and "cultural competence", buzzwords that spew forth from schools of education like so much pollution from a smokestack. Unfortunately, all I can do about it is write and inform so others can beware.

One man did something about it.

It is not unusual for conservatives to complain about schools of education. Well, not to toot my own horn, but I have actually done something on this score: I closed one.

It's a small victory, but a bigger one than I can hope to achieve at this point.

He says the very things I've been saying in this blog:

I wanted my little college to cease feeding the monster. Schools of education mis-prepare would-be teachers in many ways. They deprive those would-be teachers of the opportunity to learn more important, substantive things during their undergraduate years; they require students to take hugely time-consuming courses of dubious intellectual value; and they inculcate would-be teachers in the educrats’ pernicious ideology. It’s an ideology that insists that virtually all of America’s social problems derive from institutionalized prejudices; that most knowledge is “socially constructed;” and that children are best taught by allowing their natural creativity to flourish, rather than by actually trying to teach the habits of self-discipline and mindfulness. Substantive knowledge and real skill in areas like mathematics, reading, and writing are clearly tertiary concerns at best for most teachers, because they are less than tertiary concerns for SOEs. (schools of education--Darren)

I don't make this stuff up, folks; it's true. Every last word of it.

Granted, California doesn't offer undergraduate degrees in education anymore; would-be teachers here can take a "liberal studies" curriculum (or something more focused, if they desire) and then spend a 5th year, a year beyond the bachelor's degree, in a school of education pursuing the pablum that Mr. Wood describes above. Either way, it's a bad deal for students.


Amerloc said...

I watched my dad rearrange an abandoned foundation into a beautiful sandstone retaining wall*. He labored and sweated as he moved those stones with his wheelbarrow, but in the end, something old was new again.

We don't need shutting-down. We don't need boarding-up. We need reinvention. Rearranging. Recreation.

You're suggesting the Phoenix. I'm not sure we have to go that far.

Darren said...

Perhaps not. But we do need total reinvention.

And as I've learned, sometimes it's cheaper to replace the whole building than it is to retrofit it. Perhaps the same goes for these schools. They're so rotten inside....

Robert said...

One of the main problems here is that most small colleges (like the one at which I'm a faculty member) have grown so dependent on SOE's that to shut down or even radically reinvent them would mean certain death for the entire institution. I think something like 20% of the students at my college are education majors of some sort -- the nearest runner-up has something like 4% of the students. So tinkering with the SOE in a serious way, even if it's necessary and justified, is an enormous risk to the livelihoods of everybody here. I'm not saying this is a good state to be in, but it's the truth; so I think incremental change is what we'll have to settle for, for now.

On the other hand, it just takes one college somewhere to reinvent the education program that makes it better AND attracts more students, and then other colleges will follow suit.

Darren said...

Robert, thank you for your view from the inside.

How can that many people be in schools of education? Where are the engineering schools, the arts and sciences schools, etc? Are we really pumping out that many teachers or even just education majors? Wow!

Lori said...

It makes me sick to think about the year I spent getting my teaching credential. My first thought when done was to state that the process has to change. Nothing I learned served me in any way. Like you I teach math in Concord CA and what I have learned came from other teachers and yes my students. Not the best classroom. After 9 years I still love it but I would love to return to CSU East Bay and turn its teaching credential program on its ear and enrich it for the teachers not the teachers of the teachers.

Darren said...

You think, maybe, they could include one course about law? Maybe actually read certain sections of ed code, discuss the legality of certain acts and requirements? Or actually show a *real* roll book, and show people how to fill it out, since it's part of the mandated recordkeeping? Or go over the *real* differences between special ed requirements and Section 504 requirements?

Or how about spending less time on discussing how to make students activists for social change and more time on proven ways to make students more capable readers?

I could go on, but I think we all get the point.

Robert said...


We're a small liberal arts college, located in a rural part of Indina (well, actually just half an hour from Indy, but that's still rural!). We attract a lot of students who want to be teachers; at one point in the past we were a strictly teacher-training college (or "normal school" as they used to call it). And being small, we do not have a great diversity of programs -- no engineering, for example.
And for better or worse we attract a lot of students who do not make it (or try to make it) into the top-tier schools; they have not bought in to the intellectual life and are not attracted to traditional academic majors like economic, history, science or whatnot. (Yes, that means that they see the intellectual life and teaching as two separate things.) Our students are pragmatic, do not have a lot of ambition, and want mostly to live out a quiet, modest life right here in Indiana where they came from. Being teachers allows them to do that.

I'm in the math department, and the majority of our majors are math education majors rather than pure math, mainly because they were pretty good at high school math and they never really thought they could do anything with a math degree besides teach. Even after they've seen the plethora of career paths they could get, at a much higher salary and in a much more satisfying work environment, they still usually end up becoming teachers anyway -- or sometimes not even that, but just teachers' aides. Why? I don't know, but I think there's a deep aversion in them to anything that's sort of "beyond their station" -- that is, anything that might appear out of the ordinary for a good Indiana kid to do with themselves. Teaching high school math is "normal" in that sense whereas working for the NSA or becoming a statistical analyst is not.

cassandra said...

Now this really depresses me because it reminds me that when I went back to college at the ripe old age of 34, I would have considered being a teacher but I saw the lame coursework I had to take. And that's besides the ideology, which I knew nothing about back then. So I steered clear away from ed school and ended up in law. I think teaching would have been better for me.

Darren said...