An alarming report by the National Council on Teacher Quality declared that U.S. colleges of education are an "industry of mediocrity" that churns out teachers who are ill-prepared to work in elementary and high-school classrooms.
SchoolLeadership2.0, an organization with a diverse membership of educators, asked its members: “In general, do you agree or disagree with this finding?” The internet poll found that an overwhelming majority do agree: 65%.
The Chronicle of Higher Education announced that the new report “describes the findings of a controversial effort to rate the quality of programs at 1,130 institutions nationwide that prepare about 99% of the nation's traditionally trained teachers. The report is the product of a partnership between the National Council on Teacher Quality and U.S. News & World Report. Researchers with the council based their analyses on documents, including education programs' syllabi and handbooks, and reached a blistering conclusion: About three-quarters of programs nationwide earned two stars or fewer on a four-star scale—’ratings that connote, at best, mediocrity,’ the authors write.”
But who allows this to happen? Inescapably, that would be our Education Establishment, the professors and bureaucrats at the top who control ed schools and seem content to let them remain mediocre.
So we see the contours of a national tragedy: badly run schools of education give teachers inadequate training and then drop them unprepared into the nation’s classrooms. Predictably, the result is further dumbing down of American society.
Worse still, nothing has improved in a generation. Ed School Follies, a well-known book by Rita Kramer, was published more than 20 years ago with this subtitle “The Miseducation of America’s Teachers.” Kramer traveled the country, sitting in on classes and interviewing professors. She found a lot of Mickey Mouse and low standards. Here’s the unsettling part: the ed schools seemed to be grinding down future teachers who would then go out into the world and grind down their students, just as they were themselves ground down. In other words, a cycle of decline. And always, ed school professors sermonized about the inequalities and injustices of American society, this being the pretext for low expectations and further dismantling of the traditional curriculum.
Rita Kramer commented: “The thing that struck me as I listened to all this was how little it had to do with ideas and how much with socialization. I had heard next to nothing about what it was children would learn.”
Kramer’s book mentions an earlier exposé, all the way back in 1979. Political pundit Gene Lyons wrote a famous article titled “Why Teachers Can’t Teach.” It called “teacher education in Texas – and everywhere else in the country – a sham, a mammoth and very expensive swindle of the public interest, a hoax, an intellectual disgrace.” Did the Education Establishment rise to this challenge. No, they had found what didn’t work; and they stuck with it.
Arguably, the main sin in American education is that future teachers are NOT required to major in the subjects they will teach. Ideally, teachers would major in French and minor in biology, or some similar pair of subjects. Instead, our future teachers are allowed to major in Education, Psychology and Sociology, soft subjects that no one studies at the high school level. These wannabe teachers do not become expert in anything they will actually talk about when they stand before a class. Ed schools do not insist on academic achievement, instead squandering two years on administrative and theoretical minutiae.
Further, teachers need something else they don’t get now, which is speaking and dramatic skills. Every teacher should be expert in two academic subjects AND should be able to give a rousing speech at a Toastmasters Club.
Note that none of the mediocrity discussed here is inevitable or built-in. Future teachers could be trained at a higher level. Undoubtedly, most would welcome this as a matter of professional pride. Again, it is the responsibility of the Education Establishment to create better ed schools so that students can have better teachers. Other reforms (Common Core, for example) are more in the nature of disingenuous distractions unless schools of education can no longer be called "an industry of mediocrity."
Ed School Follies. (See six rave reviews, one by this writer.)
How To Teach Anything and Everything. (Video explains the basics that ed schools neglect to mention. Under 4 minutes.)