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Who will Teach?

Colleges are plunging deeper into the quagmire of confusion, revolt and anti-intellectualism.
But the turmoil on campuses is only the visible tip of the iceberg.
Unseen is the massive subsurface impact on society that
today's students will have as they enter a variety of influential careers.
Thousands will become school teachers.
But will they be qualified to teach your children?


“LET'S ASSESS the current teacher education scene," writes Arthur Pearl, professor of Education at the University of Oregon. "No matter what perspective we view it from, what we see points to one . . . conclusion — we are failing miserably!" (NEA Journal, May, 1968, p. 15)

"Teacher education," flatly states another educator, "is the slum of American education!" (Phi Delta Kappan, April, 1968, p. 471)

These indictments are electrifying — almost unbelievable. Are they true?



"We believe that the present status of the student teaching experience is so deficient as to warrant the word 'bankrupt'," says Dr. Vario of Fordham, and Dr. Perel of Wichita State University (The Clearing House, April, 1968, p. 455).

" 'The neglected colleges of education . . . [have been] long dismissed as pens for young girls aspiring to be teachers' . . . wrote British education journalist Geoffrey Wansell" (The London Times Educational Supplement, October 25, 1968).

Failing miserably? A slum? Bankrupt? Pens for young girls? Can these men really be serious? Can they really be describing teacher education? Is the system that prepares desperately needed new teachers really in such a deplorable state?

If so, we are in deep trouble!

Let's take a look at some of the disturbing things educators themselves are saying about teacher preparation programs. About students who are choosing teaching as a career.

Let's look behind the soothing platitudes of official public relations releases and the sometimes incomprehensible jargon of educational research.

Here are the unvarnished facts.


Disagreement — Uncertainty — and No Consensus!

Just what do you mean "teaching"? What do you mean "a teacher"? How do you define "teacher education"?

These are big and crucial questions — where would you go for the answers? Well, logically you would look to educators; after all, that's their business! But incredibly, in this case probably the poorest place to get these answers would be from college or university Schools of Education! That's right! Educators themselves can't seem to agree on what they are trying to do. A glimpse at some typical remarks by leading figures in the field over the past half-dozen years will demonstrate the point.

In 1963, James B. Conant, one of the undisputed elder statesmen of American scholars, admitted that: "Professors of education have not yet discovered or agreed upon a common body of knowledge that all feel should be held by school teachers before the student takes his first full-time job" (The Education of American Teachers, p. 226).

The next year brought the following statement: "It is not an exaggeration to say that we do not today know how to select, train for, encourage, or evaluate teacher effectiveness" (Biddle, Contemporary Research on Teacher Effectiveness, 1964, p. vi). No if's, ands, or maybe's about those statements! But, there is more.

In 1964, John I. Goodlad, internationally known Professor of Education at UCLA, said that despite a half century of effort, "Research has not yet succeeded in differentiating the characteristics of the good teacher from those of the good person. Consequently, there are no universal criteria to guide teachers of teachers in their selection and evaluation of future teachers" (Association for Student Teaching Bulletin, #22, 1964, p. 37).

Then, more recently, Donald M. Sharpe, Indiana State University wrote: "The fact is that we do not have an adequate body of verified principles to provide a solid base for teacher education" (The Study of Teaching, AST, 1967, p. 75).

Again in 1967, drawing from conclusions of four major reports concerning teacher education, Henry J. Hermanowicz said: ". . . to put it diplomatically, each of the reports indicated concern and uncertainty with respect to what knowledge is pertinent to the professional education of teachers" (The Study of Teaching, AST, 1967, p. 6).

"But," you may be thinking, "that was a year ago — perhaps they've gotten together by now?" Sorry — not a chance. Early this year, Jerome S. Bruner, one of the most respected educational psychologists in the business complained that ". . . the process of education goes forward today without any clearly defined or widely accepted theory of instruction. We have to make do," he chided, "on clever maxims and moralistic resolutions about what instruction is and should be" (Saturday Review, May, 1968, p. 69).

And now, in more recent months, we find Canadian educator Denis C. Smith, Chairman of the Committee on Higher Education at the University of British Columbia expressing similar consternation. He wrote: "Obviously the quality and preparation of faculty must be of prime concern . . . Yet no consensus is evident from informed or uninformed opinion on the vital matter of teacher preparation in instruction" (Canadian Education and Research Digest, Sept., 1968, p. 230).

So there you have it — an almost unbelievable state of bewilderment! And we could go on citing example after example, but it would only serve to repeat what is already clear, namely that educators — especially those responsible for the training of future teachers — are in general disarray and confusion concerning what it is they are trying to accomplish! They cannot agree on what a teacher is or what his competencies should be!

Now that should be rather unnerving if you are one who has complacently believed that the educational establishment knows where it is going! "But," you may ask, "they are teaching something in all those Schools of Education aren't they?" Indeed they are, so let's take a look at that for a moment.


Mimicry — Mediocrity — and Mickey Mouse

Educators generally are self-conscious and defensive about their field. This is understandable since there is precious little of substance in the Education curriculum which represents any original contribution to the enlightenment of mankind.

One senses certain desperation in the efforts of educators to mimic the research techniques of the natural sciences while riding the questionable coattails of the social sciences. Unfortunately it is a transparent endeavor to assume an unearned posture of respectability which comes off badly.

"Education as an academic discipline has poor credentials," said James D. Koerner in his book, The Miseducation of American Teachers. "Relying on other fields, especially psychology, for its substance," he continued, "it has not yet developed a corpus [body] of knowledge and technique of sufficient scope and power to warrant the field's being given full academic status" (p. 17). That's right! Essentially all of the fundamental generalizations in the Education curriculum (for what they are worth) are drawn from the social sciences.

And what does that leave for the educators themselves to devise? Simply a proliferation of what students have labeled "Mickey Mouse" Education courses. Harold L. Clapp of Grinnell College, Iowa, has described them as ". . . a dismal array of one, two, and three-hour courses in, art for the artless, biology for babes, chemistry for kiddies, math and music for moppets, along with such academic fantasies as 'Creative Experiences with Materials' — Which is to say, cutting and pasting for college credit!" (Hodenfield and Stinnett, The Education of Teachers, 1961, p. 58)

One probationary teacher in England was recently interviewed by The Times Educational Supplement. She complained bitterly that her college had graduated her completely unequipped to cope with an informal teaching situation. "What do you do with 40 children and 15 weeks?" she asked.

No doubt Dean Dwight Allen of the University of Massachusetts Education School hit the nail on the head when he observed that: "There's just an awful lot of junk being taught in schools today!" (Saturday Review, May 18, 1968, p. 79)