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
Tuesday, January 24. 2012
I have been asked by readers why I can sound so harsh about education and our current educational systems. The answer is that I care about learning so much. For me, learning new things is relaxing, recreational, and a gift (and does not need to be expensive), but I accept that not all feel the same way. I am a teacher at heart, even though I do not teach although I do help train our young associates. If I were as tough on students as I am on our associates, I'd be fired in a New York Minute.
Here's Walter Williams: Schools of education protect ignorance in the classroom. He concludes:
Sounds true, although those pathetic standards certainly do not apply to my town in CT where, unions aside, the public school teachers are well-educated, enthusiastic, demanding, and dedicated. However, our local school system avoids hiring teaching school graduates.
Display comments as (Linear | Threaded)
Academic slums? Oh, it's quite true, and the rest of the faculty and TA's in other subjects, like math, who are called upon to teach some of the courses are quite aware of it. It's remedial education.
I don't think a talent for math is needed to teach the lower grades, other skills probably count for more, but one would hope the teachers would have at least sound basics, mostly learned at the same grade level.
My oldest son is a new middle-school English teacher. He majored in English and minored in education. While he was in college he routinely slammed the education coursework as academically unchallenging and full of left-wing politics. Which means something considering he is a liberal.
Also, when he applied for jobs, he was offered several and every time they were impressed that he had English as his major and not education.
My daughter is studying Geology out west (where mines and oil wells trump greenery). She's doing the science bit, but in the department they offer an Earth Science/Teaching major.
The students still have to take Physics, Chemistry and a comprehensive core of Geology. In our town in CT I don't know of any Earth Science teachers but the state only requires 15 credit hours in the subject.
While elementary Ed is a different matter, no Middle or High School teacher should have an Education Degree without a really strong subject matter emphasis.
To be able to teach many things (but not all things), you are best able to do it if you have learned 3 or 4 levels above the thing you are teaching.
I have checked into what it would take for my husband, a BSEE who has worked in engineering since 1985, to be a high school math, physics (he was the head physics grader in college for freshman and sophomore physics), or chemistry (he tutored freshman chemistry in college after placing out) teacher here in Wisconsin.
He would have to spend two years getting an education degree.
Apparently, knowledge of the subject matter is not sufficient.
A friend who is a professor of Physics at a liberal arts college tells me the administrators, and education majors, have it in their head that an education graduate can teach any subject whether they know the subject matter or not. Their purpose apparently is to help the student discover the knowledge.
When they do that, all is lost, as you have to know math, physics and engineering in order to teach them. Handing out books isn't sufficient.
Out of curiosity, how do you avoid the BEST and Mentor programs if you don't hire teaching school graduates?
When I was in engineering school, the people who washed out of statics went into the business curriculum. Pretty much, the people who washed out of other majors went into the education curriculum. It was well known as the easiest major in the entire school.
The New Orleans Public Schools were evidence of this fact. More evidence was that it was decided that they had to rename George Washington High School because they could not have a school named after a slave owner. They renamed it George Washington Carver High School to solve that problem. Then they no longer had a school named after a slave owner... they had one named after a person who was named after a slave owner!
Thankfully, New Orleans rebuilt their school system after Katrina largely with Charter schools. (I don't know if there is still a George Washington Carver High School).
There's a few studies out there that show that the School of Education at most colleges has the least rigorous academic curriculum and the worst grade inflation.
With regards to learning - as opposed to education - I have found that there are a lot of people in the work force that resent having to learn anything new and avoid it as much as possible. These are the people who complain mightily when they are asked to switch job assignments or if they are given a task with which they are not familiar, and who throw their hands up when they encounter difficulties or obstacles when executing a new task.
The issue is not so much that dummies go into education, but that given the horrible job that the Ed Schools do of training teachers, it is a miracle that there are any competent teachers at all.
There is a need for pedagogy, as it is not intuitively obvious how to best present a given material to a given age group or ability group.
The vast majority of Ed School courses do not bother with teaching prospective teachers WHAT WORKS in teaching and what does not. Instead, Ed School courses focus on indoctrinating prospective teachers with the latest educational fad of the year-before it has been proven to work- or with the latest politically correct catechism.
For better or for worse, idiots have been running Ed Schools for a long time. One of my aunts was a schoolteacher who began teaching in the 1930s. When I told her about the idiot Ed School professors I had encountered, her reply was that they were just as bad when she was an Ed School student.
The problem is so much is lost. I'm currently reading a book from 1909, How to Study and Teaching How to Study. The teaching part is how to teach elementary school students how to study.
The topics are basically critical thinking, which is what half of college students don't learn these days.
Also, a book, Freshman Rhetoric, which used to be a real course until they decided learning real skills in learning was less important than literature so even 30 years ago, you got half a class in the skills instead of a whole course. I doubt now, kids get even that.
See this sad description of college composition these days.
Some of this can be attributed to the economics of the marketplace. Mostly, you get what you pay for. If the demand for teachers with engineering degrees was the same as the demand for engineers with engineering degrees, the caliber of both programs would be comparable. Sadly, we don't place the same emphasis on educating our young people as we do on designing bridges or extracting minerals.
The other aspect of the economics of education is the 9 month work year. Most well-salaried engineers appreciate a 12 month paycheck (though I'm sure some would like more time off).
Tenure and unions have also contributed to the mess that is our public education. The incentive to measure outcomes and then pay accordingly is severely limited.
"Most well-salaried engineers appreciate a 12 month paycheck (though I'm sure some would like more time off). "
My engineer husband would happily take a 50% pay cut to work only 9 months of the year, leaving work at 3:00 every day and maybe having some grading at home. It would beat working until 2 a.m. because the guys in Munich have to have something the next day and traveling 50% of the time. Plus he would have a fabulous pension.
My engineer husband would happily take a 50% pay cut to work only 9 months of the year, leaving work at 3:00 every day and maybe having some grading at home.
My experience as a math teacher was that 12 hour days were the norm.
Education departments (within ordinary colleges and universities) are bad enough; try living in Pennsylvania, where an all-powerful teachers' union insists on hiring from our vaunted "Teacher's Colleges" - even worse.
Our incredibly high per-student cost for horrendous results tells the sad tale.
Dealing with the Alvernia/WCU/Shippensburg trained teachers at my son's school is driving me absolutely batty!
"Mostly, you get what you pay for."
Cliches are a wonderful substitute for thinking. Fact: you can get a lot less than you pay for. An engineer is graded by the quality of his work: the better his work, the better his claim for better pay. If teachers could be graded with the same certitude as engineers and terminated as easily if their performance was unsatisfactory, a comparison of their pay scales vs their utility to society might be in order. But where I live, public education is the single largest government budget item, so it's not as if the schools are being neglected or starved of funding. State and local governments have other responsibilities to meet for its citizens; public education is only one of them and cannot be allowed to crowd out the others. Learning is in large measure a personal responsibility, one that too many students and their parents don't seem to take as seriously these days as when I was growing up.