Wednesday, January 16, 2008

"Certified" Does Not Mean Qualified

"By all indicators -- whether objective data or first-hand observations -- the intellectual caliber of public school teachers in the United States is shockingly low." -- Thomas Sowell, Inside American Education

Today many, if not most public school teachers are "certified" by their states. What does "certified" mean?

Most teachers attended a college where they chose "Education" as their major. That means that they stopped taking courses in academic subjects such as English, History, science and Math and began a curriculum in "Education." That curriculum dwells on the trivia in which most public schools engage, and little else. In other words, their own education ends and they take up the study of how to teach in public school, but in a huge irony, they stop learning the subjects they should know well if they are going to teach them.

Arthur Levine, head of Columbia's Teacher College, reported (The Education Schools Project, 2006): "A majority of teachers are prepared at the education schools with the lowest admission standards and least accomplished professors." In an interview with the Hartford Courant, Connecticut's biggest newspaper, he continued, "Taken as a whole, teacher education programs would have to be described as between inadequate and embarassing. Arts and sciences faculty complain that education research is simplistic, that education students are among the weakest on campus, and that course work in education lacks rigor."

My wife, Luz, agrees. She earned a Master of Education degree at U. Arizona. But after a year of public school teaching, she realized that the government was not truly interested in educating children, and she soon quit. She considers her time, money and effort spent on becoming certified to have been totally wasted.

Thomas Sowell, in his landmark book, Inside American Education, says, "Consistently, for decades, those college students who have majored in education have been among the least qualified of all college students, and the professors who taught them have been among the least respected by their colleagues elsewhere in the college or university. Education schools and education departments have been called 'the intellectual slums' of the university."

Sowell adds, "The courses...are the filter through which the flow of teachers must pass. Mediocrity and incompetence flow freely through these filters, but they filter out many high-ability people, who refuse to subject themselves to the inanity of education courses, which are the laughing stock of many universities. One of the great advantages of the private schools is that they do not have to rely on getting their teachers from such sources."

Sowell continues, "The futility of attempting to upgrade the teaching profession by paying higher salaries is obvious, so long as legal barrier keep out all those who refuse to take education courses. These courses are negative barriers, in the sense that they keep out the competent (emphasis mine). It is Darwinism stood on its head, with the unfittest being most likely to survive as public school teachers."

More from Sowell: "It should not be surprising that education degrees produce no demonstrable benefit to teaching. The shallow and stultifying courses behind such degrees are one obvious reason." And: "By their virtual monopoly of the credentialing process, schools and department of education determine the caliber of people who enter the teaching profession, and the inadequacies of those people determine the upper limit of the quality of American education."

1 comment:

Keith Brainard said...

Certification simply means that you can pass a test. In reality, that's what all of school is about - passing tests. However, passing tests doesn't mean you learned a thing.