The end of Education Schools?

Peter Wood has written a blistering essay for MercatorNet in which he predicts that

By 2036, the forms of teacher preparation that currently prevail in Western nations will have sunk into oblivion. We will have discarded schools of education, the pedagogies they teach, and the certification apparatus that they serve.

He goes on to note several societal and cultural factors apart from mediocre teaching that contribute to the poor quality of basic schooling today. But the main problem, he says, is that we don’t do a good job of getting truly talented people in the classroom as teachers, which in turn is a result of the way we train and certify teachers. Again from the article:

Generally schools of education recruit weak students. The average SAT scores for would-be teachers for decades have scrapped along among the lowest of all enrolled college students. The schools of education then proceed to endow these well-meaning but dull folks [Ouch! — ed.] with strangely mistaken ideas about how children learn. The wisdom on how to teach accumulated over several thousand years of civilisation is summarily set aside in favour of what some recent educational theorists have conjectured. The conjectures are typically backed by a form of social science “research” several notches less rigorous than the reader surveys in supermarket magazines.[ Ouch! — ed.]

And, of course, the students are diverted into studying “methodology” at the expense of learning much of substance about the actual subjects they will teach.

Go read the whole thing for Wood’s conclusion and what he predicts will take the place of the status quo. I will have more to say on that later.

Wood should know about the demise of education schools. Readers will remember that, as Provost and VPAA of The King’s College in New York, Wood singlehandedly dismantled the incipient education degree program at King’s before it got off the ground, using similar reasoning to what’s in this new article.

I find myself hoping that Wood’s vision comes to pass. Let me be clear: I have nothing against education majors or the education professors who teach them. But Wood is right — education majors do tend to attract the ones who cannot or choose not to deal with the depth of a major in a regular academic discipline, despite a few really good education students who buck the trend; and increasingly, the best of these bright students are abandoning the education degree for another major because they find the reality of their future as teachers to be shockingly bleak.

And on the other end of the spectrum, you wouldn’t believe some of the stuff I’ve seen from people who want to be in the critical area of elementary education — in GE 103, those were often the students that skipped class for two weeks at a time and engaged in the most blatant academic dishonesty. Read here (and the comments) for background. Somehow elementary education, which is really hard and takes an enormous amount of intellect and skill to do, ends up being the major for the bottom-feeders who just think teaching kids is about sitting around singing and making crafts all day.

Make teachers become experts in their fields and then give them financial and professional incentives to become teachers, and free them from the control of unions and the absurdity of licensure, and our schools will be transformed.

[Hat tip: Joanne Jacobs, and read the comments especially at her post.]


Filed under Education, High school, Higher ed, Teaching

7 responses to “The end of Education Schools?

  1. Robert, I went through ed school, and I had nearly the same number of classes that English majors took — they took 8 and I took 7. Actually, I wound up taking more than was required, which was 6. What was chipped away to make room for my English Ed. classes were core classes. I took two foreign language classes instead of the four the English majors took. I took two lab sciences instead of the three the English majors took. By the time the core was whittled down, I had more time to focus in my major areas.

    I think I’ll post about this myself when I get back from my workshop.

  2. JimMc

    “free them from the control of unions”

    I can hardly see what this has to do with improving teacher quality. Do unions in and of themselves suppress or diminish teacher? Actually, if unions do the job they are supposed to doing, they ensure and improve quality. Think plumbers, electricians unions, etc. When you are building a house, these are the guys you usually want to hire. It’s almost always worth the extra cost. This statement smacks more of a political agenda.

    For my money, teacher unions don’t emulate these other unions enough – in terms of training, mentoring, etc. Teacher union reform is more worthy than utter dismantlement.

  3. Eric

    “Do unions in and of themselves suppress or diminish teacher[s]?”

    I don’t have time right now to say a lot about this, but I can think of specific cases where this is true. For example, I have a friend who is virtually unmarketable because part way through his Ph.D. he decided he wanted to become a high school teacher. He has an M.S. in mathematics, which in conjunction with the fact that he has no prior teaching experience (other than his student teaching in college), has resulted in him having trouble finding a job. Why? He’s too educated with too little “experience”, and the union pay scale makes any school that wants to hire him fork over more money than they would have to pay for someone with a B.A.. He is less marketable because he is well-educated.

    I have numerous other stories from my father-in-law who was a teacher turned administrator, but I’ll save those for another day.

  4. Pingback: » My Thoughts on Teacher Education

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  7. JimMc

    Sorry, I meant to say “suppress or diminish teacher QUALITY”. Robert seemed to be implying that eliminating teacher unions would eliminate mediocre teaching candidates. That is just not the case. Hence, my plumber and electrician analogy.

    Being over-qualified for a pay scale is something else entirely and happens in lots of non-union occupations too.