Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, parents have become more in tune with what is going on in their local schools. The battle began with mask mandates, but has since turned to other issues, such as Critical Race Theory and Social Emotional Learning curriculum. The result has been a fever pitch of emotionally charged school board meetings and a striking decrease in public school enrollment. Parents have made their voice clear; they are unhappy with the state of affairs, and they are taking action.
While these battles rage on and the rhetoric continues to escalate, it is important that we address issues related to public schooling that have existed for much longer and in fact are more fundamental problems.
One such issue is teacher preparation and the function these programs serve in educating our youth. Teacher training colleges are providing a huge disservice to those entering the field of education. Not only that, they are actively indoctrinating these young impressionable minds to become radicalized as they enter into the classroom.
People have various beliefs about the goals of education. Most commonly believe that an education should prepare a student for their career and future life. Unfortunately, most teachers are not equipped with the tools to accomplish that goal. Instead, most teachers are forced to take coursework that focuses more on either management of the classroom or social theories, leaving them unprepared.
Indoctrinating our future teachers is a serious issue. They take this radicalization into the classroom. Whether it is feminism, classism, racism, or any other “-ism”, teachers spend more time preaching to children than educating them. The focus on learning these ideologies in place of how to transmit values and knowledge has also left teachers deficient in content knowledge. For example, a study by the National Council on Teaching Quality found that in the state of Indiana, only 59% of prospective teachers passed the content PRAXIS test the first time. Teachers are simply not receiving enough content knowledge.
Another key issue is that many teacher colleges simply do not attract students with the desire or ability to perform the art of teaching. George Bernard Shaw wrote in his 1903 stage play Man and Superman “A person with real ability will perform themselves rather than teaching others to do so.” This phrase has been adopted in education as “those who can, do; those who can’t, teach.”
While ultimately untrue, this statement belies a real issue with teachers’ lack of worldly experience. Having transitioned later in my career to teaching, I have been able to rely on using my experience from the business world to teach kids lessons that many traditional teachers simply cannot. Providing prospective teachers with opportunities to complete internships or learn from content professionals could be very valuable in helping them learn what they can teach their students.
Moves to allow more nontraditional teachers in the classroom have been met with resistance from the establishment. We must recognize that the way in which we are preparing our teachers is not working. John Taylor Gatto was a New York City teacher of the year two times and even earned New York state teacher of the year. He famously quipped “Teaching is a function, not a profession. Anyone with something to offer can teach.” Of course those who jealously guard the profession actively work to keep out those who have not been trained to write lesson plans, manage classrooms, or otherwise play the game of teaching.
It is well past time to redefine how we attempt to educate our educators. The methods used in teacher colleges are failing them. This is not only evident in the lack of performance from our students, but in the frustration that teachers show once they enter the classroom. According to the Department of Education, nearly 50% of teachers leave within the first five years of teaching. There are many causes for why this occurs, but the reality is most teachers are woefully unprepared for entering the classroom and it’s not their fault. But as long as we continue to ignore this fundamental issue, we will continue to yield the same results of frustration and a failure to truly educate our children.