Teacher Education

George Will has an interesting idea to improve education in America:

The surest, quickest way to add quality to primary and secondary education would be addition by subtraction: Close all the schools of education.

Will’s argument is premised on the belief that American schools of education are too concerned with liberal social policy than actually educating students. He cites the fact that the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education declared “professional disposition” is “guided by beliefs and attitudes related to values such as caring, fairness, honesty, responsibility, and social justice” as an illustration of a failure to be concerned about reading and writing. Of course, the argument is absolutely fallacious…the fact that one of the core components of teacher evaluation is professional disposition certainly doesn’t suggest that other goals, like academic preparation, need to be overlooked. What’s more, is there something offensive about any of those characteristics? I know “social justice” is a scary code word for Republicans, but it seems appropriate to expect that teachers would be concerned about equality in their classrooms.

What’s more, Will makes an absolutely specious claim that

“Many education schools discourage, even disqualify, prospective teachers who lack the correct “disposition,” meaning those who do not embrace today’s “progressive” political catechism.

His proof? One teacher who was removed from a program in Alaska. Sounds like something less than a national epidemic to me, even if the student’s claim was true.

Finally, Will destoys his remaining credibility with an approving citation of Heather MacDonald’s “Why Johnny’s Teacher Can’t Teach.” You might remember MacDonald from her race-baiting days as a proponent of racial profiling. MacDonald believes that the ‘central educational fallacy of our time” is that “that one can think without having anything to think about.” I’m not sure what classroom MacDonald visited to come to the conclusion that our students don’t have anything to think about. Even if the conservative claim that schools were full of liberal propanda and social justice were true, wouldn’t those be ‘things’ to talk and think about?

MacDonald and Will are right about something: there is a crisis in American schools today. Students are performing poorly in a number of ways, but perhaps it is time for conservatives to move away from reflexively blaming liberalism (you know, the ideology that brought us our conception of rights, equality, and universal education) and for liberals to move away from reflexively blaming Republicans for the problem. Maybe it’s time for communities to start working together as communities for their schools, rather than as isolated individuals looking out only for their own children.