We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
Our Recent Essays Behind the Front Page
Wednesday, August 24. 2011
Grade Inflation for Education Majors and Low Standards for Teachers - When Everyone Makes the Grade (h/t reader via Insty via Inside Higher Ed).
One quote from the conclusion:
It's difficult for me to form a strong opinion on the grading topic because I have no idea what Education Majors learn or study. Maybe it's so easy and simple that anybody can master it readily, and all deserve As. Maybe they have full-semester courses in making Lesson Plans, and full-semester courses in Social Justice. Beats me.
However, it does not escape me that no profs in higher ed have ever taken a teaching course (outside of those profs in the Education Dept.). Furthermore, to the best of my knowledge, not one of my kids was ever taught by anybody with an education degree.
(A reader asked the question. Yes, very expensive private schools. Private education is the only way to not be taught by people with ed degrees, if such things matter to you. Most of my kids' teachers had done a lot in life before they decided to follow their hearts and teach. Their Latin teacher was a professional actor on the side, their math teacher a retired Wall Streeter, their English teacher a retired Sports Illustrated writer, etc.)
I think it would be constructive to abolish the entire notion of the Education Major. Let people who feel called to K-12 teaching study something like everybody else does and, if they want to take some courses on the side on primary school education or Special Ed or whatever, OK. It seems to me that most teachers ultimately learn their trade by being assistant teachers - by apprenticeship and supervision, not in education departments.
Teaching is not hard work, if you know your topic. I've done it. It's fun (but some kids can't learn and some don't want to. Many are not interested in anything academic.). In fact, every parent becomes an amateur teacher. Much more primary education is ultimately home schooling than schools might want to admit. (In my state of CT, the "quality" of the schools across towns correlates exactly with the levels of average education and income of the adults in the town - regardless of teacher pay etc - suggesting to me that it is, in part, education-minded parents who make their schools look good.)
Posted by The Barrister in Education, Our Essays at 13:22 | Comments (19) | Trackbacks (0)
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When I was in engineering school - shortly before we moved out of caves - the education dept. was the joke of the school. The people who got washed out of engineering went into business and the people who got washed out of liberal arts (or even general studies) went into education. Not everybody who studied education was a dunce, but they had by far the largest percentage of them compared to other curricula. Of course the New Orleans public schools were the greatest "beneficiary" of the education dept and it showed. Before Katrina, it was decided that they would no longer stand for a school named after a slave holder so they renamed George Washington High School, George Washington Carver High School. So then it was named after someone who was named after someone who had slaves... Brilliant.
As a side note, Katrina seems to have made a big difference in the school system there because they have a large number of charter schools and their performance is much better. I don't know if the charter schools there can or do hire teachers who know a subject rather than have a teaching certificate. I would not be surprised if there were more the the former and fewer of the latter.
Florida grants temporary certification to individuals who have a bachelor's in the field of instruction. I have a BS in computer and information science, so I was able to teach computer literacy to ninth graders.
Unfortunately subject matter knowledge is not even the lion's share of what a teacher needs to know. Lesson planning (which can kinda-sorta be done on the fly) and classroom management (which must be done right from day one) were relatively unknown to me at the time.
In spite of telling the principal during my interview for the job that I had just fallen off of the turnip wagon, and didn't even know enough to know what questions to ask, I still did not get the support I needed to succeed. But I suppose that it's too much to expect someone with twenty-five years experience and a doctorate in education to foresee any of these difficulties.
I agree that there is a lot more to teaching than knowing the subject matter. I don't know about lesson plans, but classroom management is apparently not taught in education depts. from the horror stories I hear about classrooms now.
"Furthermore, to the best of my knowledge, not one of my kids was ever taught by anybody with an education degree."
Either your children were educated in private schools, or they graduated public schools many years ago.
My wife's experience with an "Education Department" might be indicative. After our youngest child reached school age, she returned to school to earn a teaching degree so that her schedule would be similar to our children's. She found the subject material relatively useless to the practice of teaching. However, she did receive all "A's." This was not her first university experience - she had a bachelors degree in biology and a master's degree in hospital administration as well as a career in the military in which she attained the rank of LTC (mostly in the reserves).
Imagine that, educated parents tend to have educated kids. Who coulda have known?
There are, in fact, methods, techniques and strategies to teaching and to class room control. However, these can be taught in two semesters in an MS/MA program to people who already have a BS/BA in a real discipline.
Get rid of all the undergraduate education programs and degrees, and insist that teachers be educated in a real program.
By the way, at least two of my colleagues' wives went that route; got a real BA degree and an MS/MA in teaching. They were very successful, and I'm sure their students benefitted from their real knowledge.
In my day, it was the tribal knowledge of the mostly male engineering young men, that the young ladies majoring in Education were also double majoring in the Mrs. degree. (grins/ducks/runs). Not all of us could handle the hot firecrackers in our engineering classes, some of us preferred calmer waters.
I am the product of twelve years of private day school and three years at a formerly all girls' boarding school. I had some horrible teachers along the way in the halls of the touched and blessed. While all of the teachers were well educated, there were a number of sarcastic, preening, losers teaching in both places, soured by envy and disappointment.
I though classroom management was forbidden by the administrators...
I don't think rigorous "Classroom Management" skills were quite as necessary back in the day as they are now. I graduated HS in '85, and by '90 I heard friends of my Mother's, who were Middle and HS teachers in the same school system, talking about the rising number of unmanageable kids. And some of these ladies were real old-time battleaxes.
My mother got a BS in History & minor in French from the University of South Carolina about 1959 or so; she intended to teach school a while while my father finished medical school. Even then in S.C. she was required to take some education classes before she could teach in the State's public schools. She maintains that they were the most worthless classes she took in her entire scholastic career.
I have an education degree.
I earned it in 1988.
It was easy. But not that easy. I wanted to teach public school. With few exceptions, you can't (or couldn't) get a job in public education without the degree.
The highschool I graduated from was an exception in that all their teachers had to have a masters in their discipline. This was my goal, to go back and teach at my old school.
Along the way I became disenchanted with the education system and got a post graduate degree in something less specific.
BUT...I do think the education degree is dumbed down. And if I may say, it is deliberate to adhere to the racial ratios that are required in some locales. And probably, in some instance they are not required by the law but de facto expected.
For instance, in my current city, it is a 40 black to 60 white ratio. There is a law on the books that the teacher ratio must meet the student ratio. That necessitates an abundance to education graduates whether they deserve it or not. That also explains the huge difference between what I knew when I graduated high school vs what today public school kids are expected to know (in my locale).
It also explains why I pulled my son out of public school at the age of 11 and yet he achieved a 35 on the ACT, which puts him in the 1% of high test takers in the nation.
Sadly, the problem of low achievers and low achieving teachers is perpetual and will only get worse over time if we don't force some rude awakenings on some members of our populace.
You really can't grow up to be anything if you try hard enough.
RE: classroom management
The tools they tried to teach us were completely inadequate in that they required cooperation from the administration.
You know how when you are a kid you sometimes feel like life is us vs. them? I felt like I had two thems: the students and the admin.
I boy would act out to the extent of assaulting another student and the principal would just pass him back to me and tell me to deal with it. Well, once your authority is diminished by that scenario you might as well hang it up.
There is no such thing as classroom management without cooperation from the parents and admin. It's like sending you to the lions and confiscating your whip and chair.
I can't count the number of times I was expected to pass a student who was a talented athlete. Or the number of times I was expected to let a girl slide because she was pregnant or had a rough home life.
I taught school for two years. I have also been a substitute teacher at all levels. Knowing the subject well is necessary but not sufficient. You can be a Phi Beta Kappa with a Math degree and still be a lousy math teacher.
Pedagogy is necessary for most of us , as it is not always intuitively obvious how to present a given subject to a given age group and/or ability level.
Unfortunately, instead of teaching necessary pedagogy, ed schools teach politically correct nonsense. Ed School professors for the most part don't bother teaching their students what has been learned in two thousand + years of formal classroom instruction about what works and doesn't work.
Instead, Ed School profs concentrate on two areas. 1) the latest politically correct catechism and 2) coming up with the NEXT GREAT EDUCATION THEORY THAT WILL EXPLAIN IT ALL. After all, they are professors, and must deal with things of consequence. You would not believe the nonsense that ed schools push. Ed schools present conjecture as fact. Nearly all the time.
But ed schools have been useless for decades. My schoolteacher aunt said much the same thing.
As others have commented here, classroom management is more difficult than it was years ago. Administrations and parents have some responsibility for that.
Classroom management is taught in ed schools, but in my experience it was in " here are all these theories" as opposed to "what do you do in this situation."
My father, a PhD in Mathematics, who was a professor at large state university, told me that I was NOT allowed to major in education at that university when I attended. He said that all they taught was mickey mouse and that I would not get a real college education.
So, I majored in accounting instead but could have also chosen engineering if I wanted.
Thinking back, the best teachers I had were those who had a gift of teaching.
It is interesting that college profs can teach in their expertise without having to have a teaching degree, but yet K-12 education would require them to have the additional "teaching" degree.
Forgive me, dear Barrister, but you know not of what you write. Teaching to that 80% of students who will learn with or without you is easy. Teaching when there is no or very little accountability for student success is easy and teaching is especially easy when the throw away line "but some kids can't learn and some don't want to. Many are not interested in anything academic." is the underpinning philosophy of the adult in the room with the title of teacher.
Maybe that's the point. Teaching can go back to something that we accomplish rather readily and for a reasonable price if we acknowledge that some kids can't learn and others won't, and we focus instead on the ones that can and will.
There I was in the woods overseeing a few Boy Scouts from my Troop whose job it was to teach some Webelos Scouts (age 10) how to use map and compass. The Boy Scouts had the Webelos well in hand, so I wandered over to the Webelos Scouts' mothers.
They were engrossed in conversation. The subject was the local middle school and how the students there were not graduating prepared for the local high school. This as per the high school, which sent out rankings of how well the students from the 9 middle schools that fed it were doing that showed our school occupying spot #9. One of the mothers was a member of the middle school's school board and was likely having a bit of a hard time. I caught the tail end and offered the opinion that my kids seemed to have done well enough, since the one had just been accepted to a college engineering program and the other was doing well in the high school.
The mother on the school board spun around and turned on me. "That's because YOU have EXPECTATIONS of your children!" What she meant was that at my house certain expectations of how well one would do in school were held, and consequences ensued if expectations were not met. I know from discussions with my Scout's parents over the last 18 years of being a Cubmaster or Scoutmaster/Assistant Scoutmaster that this is often not the case - and I do not live in a low-income area.
When parents let their kid play video games for 2 hours of an evening and bring home C's on their report card, don't blame the school. When parents tell me "My kid spends too much time playing video games" I tell them "Oh, there's a sure cure for that." "What?" "Take a hammer and smash the thing. Then don't buy them a new one." Or, you can just lock it up and tell them that when they come home with a B average they can have it again.
Good teachers are a gift from God and make a good school. But school can't fix home. If a child doesn't come to school prepared to learn, there's not a lot the school can do about it.
They look at me like I'm from Mars. They tell me "Oh, he'd whine and cry and yell." My cure for that - for my own kid, not for someone else's - would probably sustain a charge of child abuse these days. You can be your child's friend or you can be his or her parent. You can't be both, at least not until post-adolescence.