"The whole people must take upon themselves the education of the whole people and be willing to bear the expenses of it. There should not be a district of one mile square, without a school in it, not founded by a charitable individual, but maintained at the public expense of the people themselves." -- John Adams

"No money shall be drawn from the treasury, for the benefit of any religious or theological institution." -- Indiana Constitution Article 1, Section 6.

"If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilisation, it expects what never was and never will be...nor can they be safe with them without information. Where the press is free and every man able to read, all is safe." – Thomas Jefferson

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Don't Major in Education?

Valerie Strauss printed an excerpt from 60 Minutes -- an interview with historian David McCullough. See Historian David McCullough: No ‘professional teacher should major in education’

She wrote,
Everyone’s a critic about the teaching profession. That includes award-winning historian David McCullough, who was profiled on CBS’ “60 Minutes” on Sunday by correspondent Morley Safer. Along with talking about teacher education, he noted that young Americans are “historically illiterate” — and it’s not just the fault of teachers, but parents too.
What makes McCullough an expert on public education? He's America's Greatest Historian, according to his publisher, but I don't see any experience in his bio to indicated any experience in education, primary or secondary. He's apparently well respected in his field, but I don't understand why that gives him the expertise to pontificate about education training. I might have opinions about how to write a history book, or interpret an event in history, however, those of you who read this blog regularly (anyone? anyone?) will note that I don't write about history...and especially don't write about how historians should be trained or educated.

Here's what McCullough said which upset me...
David McCullough: ...I don’t feel that any professional teacher should major in education. They should major in a subject, know something. The best teachers are those who have a gift and the energy and enthusiasm to convey their love for science or history or Shakespeare or whatever it is. “Show them what you love” is the old adage. And we’ve all had them, where they can change your life. They can electrify the morning when you come into the classroom.
This is just another instance of not respecting teachers. Arne Duncan claims that advanced degrees don't matter -- perhaps because he doesn't have one. McCullough takes it one step further and claims that education degrees don't matter.

And here's the comment I left on the web site. I've edited it a bit in order to correct a couple of things, but it's essentially the same.
In my district elementary teachers usually teach all subjects...which, I believe, is fairly common around the country. It's the norm for an elementary teacher in our district to teach 6-8 different subjects...English, Reading, Writing, Spelling, aka Language Arts, along with Math, Science, Health and Social Studies.

Are we supposed to major in 5 different fields in order to teach a class of first graders?

It seems to me that McCullough, as well as many others, confuse content area knowledge learned through degree programs with educating students. I agree that a high school history teacher (or math teacher, or science teacher etc.) who teaches 120-160 kids the same (or similar) subject all day every day needs to have specialized training in their subject area, but McCullough's comment that no professional teacher should major in education is just plain ignorant. An education degree, if it's done right, includes teaching methods, child development, child psychology, curriculum development and a myriad of other things that subject area specialists, like professional historians, don't get exposed to. Educators don't fill up students with knowledge. They teach children how to learn.

If he's talking ONLY about secondary teachers then let him say so...instead of ignoring the millions of pre-k to grade 5 teachers. On the other hand, I'm not sure I agree with him even if he IS talking only secondary.

One of the problems in the public debate over education is the proliferation of experts...seemingly everyone who attended school - except teachers - Bill Gates, Arne Duncan, and now David McCullough.

Increase content requirements for subject area teachers if needed, but don't blame teachers for anecdotal lack of content knowledge. I wonder how long a history major would last in a class of 40 kindergartners in the Chicago Public Schools...
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Stop the Testing Insanity!


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