Who needs education schools?

Anemona Hartocollis in The NY Times asks, "Who needs education schools?" She states that education schools have research agendas rather than pedagogical, courses on theory rather than practical practicums, ideological biases rather than an emphasis on subject matter, and so on. One of the more interesting perspectives was that of a professor at Emporia State University in Kansas, one of the better schools:

Ms. Azwell says medical training is a good analogy for what Emporia State interns go through. "They get no sleep," she says. "They're working 24 hours a day. There are those who have no money because they can't work a job, so they're not eating. They're in a classroom 8 to 4 every day. They really think they're going to die."

I can appreciate the need for intensive training, but it's rather odd that getting no sleep and thinking you're going to die are characteristics of a program that will promote learning. Still, there is much to think about in this in-depth article, especially the general trend of education schools to focus on theory and ideology rather than giving future teachers the tools they need to be successful in the classroom. What are future teachers learning and how does that affect our schools?

In the article, Diane Ravitch, states,

The idea of "preparing excellent teachers who are excellent in their subject," she says, has been overtaken by other concerns - "professors wanting to be respected in the university, and teachers' colleges wanting to become places where research is done and to be agents of transformational change."

"At the end of the day, what would principals and parents value most?"

No doubt, Ms. Ravitch, has her own ideology, but it is worth considering what sort of balance should be achieved among research, ideology, and practice in schools of education.

  • What do we want to teach future teachers so that their future students will learn?
  • What sorts of academic practices lead to better learning?
  • Obviously, theory alone is not enough, albeit it is important. But should it outweigh actual practice in preparing teachers?