The education school scam

Teaching in a traditional public school in this country requires a license.  To get it in most states means having to attend a school of education. What transpires there, however, is nothing short of a scandal (“The Burden of Bad Ideas,”  by Heather MacDonald).

The problem is that schools of education have become centers of political indoctrination rather than venues for inculcating effective pedagogy.  I vividly remember when I was working on my California teaching credential in 1964 how disappointed I was with the courses I had to take at UCLA before beginning my student teaching.

One course was educational psychology, which was totally irrelevant.  The second was educational philosophy, which was even more so.  The one exception was a course in curriculum and instruction in secondary schools, which was outstanding because it provided a viable paradigm that could be immediately used in the classroom.

Matters have gotten only worse since I was working on my credential.  Today, courses serve as venues for victimization. When the Los Angeles Unified School District was under court order to integrate, teachers were required to take an in-service class about cultural differences.  Instead of providing knowledge about how to reach students from diverse backgrounds, it focused solely on cultural grievances.  I sat through the class, counting the minutes until the bell rang but no more prepared to teach these new arrivals.

(To post a comment, click on the title of this blog.)

4 Replies to “The education school scam”

  1. My daughter moved to CA, took the required teacher ed courses at SD State, and got her CA teaching license. After one year teaching (at a lower-SES middle school), she was burned out by the minor but endemic misbehavior and returned to VA to go to law school. (She had taught for several years at private schools in the East.)

    In her opinion (as in yours), the teacher ed courses were mostly a waste of time — little connection to what she needed to know how to do as a teacher. She was particularly irritated by the total lack of training re classroom management. Also, her “student teacher” semester was a joke — the mentor teacher tuned out/disappeared virtually all the time, leaving my daughter to function as the only teacher in the classroom.

    It’s possible that ed schools are no worse than some other professional schools re focusing on the abstract rather than the real-world. Law school was certainly like that — at least at Harvard Law back in the 1970s. We learned a lot about what the law was but virtually nothing about what we would have to know to function on a day-to-basis as an attorney — how to write motions, how to file motions, how to argue in court, how to conduct pre-trial discovery, how to question witnesses, how to argue to a jury, how to write a will, how to write a contract, how to record the sale of real property. The assumption at the law school was that we, as junior attorneys, would learn all these real-world skills through the equivalent of internships when we started at large law firms or govt agencies. My sense is that something along the same lines happens for medical students — learn the abstract stuff in med school and the real-world stuff during your internships and residencies. Of course, teachers rarely get to do monitored internships but rather are tossed into the classroom on their own to sink or swim with little/no daily guidance from senior professionals.


  2. Labor Lawyer: Professional schools of all kinds have a responsibility to prepare students for their chosen careers. The closest ed schools do that is when they provide mentors during student teaching. The courses too often required have zero relevance.


    1. Re the student-teaching mentors — as I noted, my daughter’s mentor was totally useless; the woman viewed my daughter’s semester of student teaching as giving the mentor the opportunity to take a semester off with pay. My daughter — no shrinking violet — declined to complain to anyone (including the lazy mentor) re the mentor’s goofing off; my daughter’s rational reasoning was that the mentor would be writing a report on my daughter at the end of the semester and, if that report was unfavorable, it would seriously damage my daughter’s chances of getting her teaching license on schedule.

      This is another aspect of the no-first-line-supervisors-for-teachers problem. Every other profession provides first-line supervisors for junior professionals working in large organizations. Due to the long-established practice of one-teacher/one-class, there are no first-line supervisors for teachers. This lack of a first-line supervisor screws up training for junior teachers and screws up evals for all teachers. It also causes teachers to feel too isolated — they rarely interact with other adults during their work day. And, teachers being human, the absence of first-line supervision tends to encourage teachers to goof off re lesson plans.


  3. Labor Lawyer: One way to establish first-line supervisors in teaching is the use of master teachers. These are teachers who have demonstrated their ability over the years to support new classroom teachers. They would be paid a supplement for their expertise. Unfortunately, too many classroom teachers view student teachers as an opportunity to goof off.


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