Saturday, August 27, 2005

Who Needs the Education Faculty?

A guest editorial by teaching activist, Richard Hake (Emeritus Professor of Physics, Indiana University)

Date: Wed, 24 Aug 2005 21:18:45 -0700

Anemona Hartocollis (2005), in her provocative New York Times article
"Teaching for Teachers: Who Needs Education Schools?" [Hartocollis
(2005)] wrote in part [my CAPS]:

. . . .If Emporia State is a throwback to an earlier time, when
preparing teachers for the classroom was a high calling, it is also a
reminder of how many teachers' colleges have strayed from the central
mission of the normal school. For decades, education schools have
gravitated from the practical side of teaching, seduced by large
ideas like "building a caring learning community and culture" and
"advocating for social justice," to borrow from the literature of the
Hunter College School of Education, part of the City University of
New York. With the ambition of producing educators rather than
technicians, in the words of Hunter's acting dean, Shirley Cohen,
schools have embraced a theoretical approach. But critics say that
ill prepares teachers to function effectively in the classroom.

. . . . . . . . . . . .

Just what do education schools teach? In a report published last year
that put many educators on the defensive, researchers found that top
education schools were not equipping their students to deal with the
standards movement - nor giving them an understanding, going back to
classical sources like Plato and Aristotle, of what constitutes an
educated person.

David M. Steiner, co-author of the report, is director of arts
education at the National Endowment for the Arts and on leave as
department chairman in educational administration, training and
policy studies at Boston University. With his associate Susan D.
Rozen, he reviewed the curriculums of 16 teachers' colleges, 14 of
them among the nation's best, as ranked by U.S. News & World Report.

Since there is little data on which educational approach translates
into effective teaching, they looked for a balance in material.
Instead, they found little effort to present opposing schools of
thought. The general posture of education schools, they concluded,
was countercultural, instilling mistrust of the system that teachers
work in. Among the texts most often assigned were Jonathan Kozol's
"Savage Inequalities," an indictment of schooling in poor urban
neighborhoods, and writings by Paulo Freire, who advocates education
to achieve political liberation. Theories of how children learn, like
the multiple learning styles advocated by Howard Gardner of Harvard,
were more likely to be taught than what children should learn, like
the Core Knowledge curriculum advanced by E. D. Hirsch, a professor
emeritus at the University of Virginia.

TAUGHT METHODS THAT WOULD HELP THEIR STUDENTS DO WELL ON STANDARDIZED TESTS. Most texts used to teach reading had been written by proponents of whole language methods, and there was only fleeting exposure to the kinds of scripted, phonics-based curriculums, like Open Court, that are increasingly being adopted in the nation's schools.

"There is a vision here," Dr. Steiner said in an interview, "and it's all just one vision. IT IS A SYNTHESIS OF WHAT WE CALL THE PROGRESSIVIST VISION AND THE CONSTRUCTIVIST VISION" - that is, the theory that it is better for children to construct knowledge than to
receive it. But, he added, "The counterview has an equal and much
longer tradition - the responsibility to engage the student, but to
engage the student as the authority." To suggestions that his report
was itself ideological, and conservative, Dr. Steiner says he's
actually an old-fashioned liberal.

On Aug. 15, Dr. Steiner will step directly into the fray, as new dean
of education at Hunter College. At Hunter, he says, he hopes to
prepare teachers who "are scholars of their craft," both proficient
in methods and curriculum and able to think in a sophisticated way.

Given all the sound and fury, there is surprisingly little
disagreement with that.

"One of the biggest dangers we face is preparing teachers who know
theory and know nothing about practice," acknowledges Arthur Levine president of Teachers College at Columbia, one of the leading
avatars of progressive education. Historians note that Dewey himself
had such concerns in the 1920's. But, Dr. Levine says, that is not
what happens at strong - and philosophically diverse - education
schools like Stanford, the University of Virginia, Alverno College in
Milwaukee and Emporia State.

"They have a clarity of mission," says Dr. Levine, who is conducting
a two-year study on the quality of education schools that will be
published in November. "They know what they're trying to do. THEIR

(end quote)

See the complete version.

There is no indication that Hartocollis or any of those she quotes is
aware of education research *outside* schools of education [e.g.
Heron & Meltzer (2005)] that is devoted to the assessment of student
learning deemed so important by Arthur Levine.

Richard Hake, Emeritus Professor of Physics, Indiana Universit

See homepage at Hake or see physics


Hartocollis, A. 2005. "Teaching for Teachers: Who Needs Education
Schools?" New York Times , 31 July 2005; freely available online (probably only for a short period)

See also Steiner (2005).

Heron, P.R.L. & D. Meltzer. 2005. "The future of physics education research:
Intellectual challenges and practical concerns," Amer. J. Phys.
73(5): 390-394; online
here, scroll down
to "invited papers," or
download directly(56kB).

Steiner, D. 2004. "Skewed Perspective," Education Next, Winter 2005;
online here Education
Next is a publication of the Hoover Institution

Reprinted with Richard's kind permission

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