The Finch Formerly Known As Gold

19 March 2006

Off the carousel

Last year, Peter Wood, provost of The King's College, a small Christian college in New York City, shut down the undergraduate program in childhood education. One reason, he says, was that state regulations had made it irrelevant:

[W]hile New York (and many other states) sets all manner of requirements for undergraduate education degree programs, New York (and many other states) has also rendered these programs redundant by requiring every teacher to earn a master's degree in education to be eligible for "professional certification." (A student who graduates with an undergraduate degree in education may receive "initial certification," which confers permission by the state to teach in public schools for no more than five years, during which time he must earn a master's degree or leave the field.)

But don't the undergraduate courses provide the necessary fundamentals, a base for graduate study? Dr Wood says no:

Schools of education mis-prepare would-be teachers in many ways. They deprive those would-be teachers of the opportunity to learn more important, substantive things during their undergraduate years; they require students to take hugely time-consuming courses of dubious intellectual value; and they inculcate would-be teachers in the educrats' pernicious ideology. It's an ideology that insists that virtually all of America's social problems derive from institutionalized prejudices; that most knowledge is "socially constructed"; and that children are best taught by allowing their natural creativity to flourish, rather than by actually trying to teach the habits of self-discipline and mindfulness. Substantive knowledge and real skill in areas like mathematics, reading, and writing are clearly tertiary concerns at best for most teachers, because they are less than tertiary concerns for SOEs.

I've got nothing in the world against natural creativity — indeed, there are times when I wish I had some of my own — but there's a lot to be said for being able to balance one's checkbook.

C. S. Lewis saw this coming:

The basic principle of the new education is to be that dunces and idlers must not be made to feel inferior to intelligent and industrious pupils. That would be "undemocratic." These differences between the pupils — for they are obviously and nakedly individual differences — must be disguised. This can be done on various levels. At universities, examinations must be framed so that nearly all the students get good marks. Entrance examinations must be framed so that all, or nearly all, citizens can go to universities, whether they have any power (or wish) to profit by higher education or not. At schools, the children who are too stupid or lazy to learn languages and mathematics and elementary science can be set to doing the things that children used to do in their spare time. Let them, for example, make mud pies and call it modeling. But all the time there must be no faintest hint that they are inferior to the children who are at work.

(From Screwtape Proposes a Toast, 1959.)

Hang down your head, John Dewey.

(Via Joanne Jacobs, whose book I highly recommend.)

Posted at 8:53 AM to Almost Yogurt


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