Walking into a classroom my first year of teaching, I experienced less a transition shock and more a disgraceful-lack-of-preparation shock. It turns out the university lectures on self-care and transgender literacies didn’t quite prepare me for a student calling another student’s mother an indecorous word. Nor did a few sample lesson plans equip me with the grueling task of filling 50 minutes of class time with meaningful activities for several classes a day, 180 weekdays in a row.
My teacher prep gave paltry time to classroom management, curricular construction, or grading, compared to discussions about the horrors of neoliberal policies or inscrutable readings whose sole purpose seemed to be to cite esoteric French critical theorists.
The practical training I did receive wasn’t much better than the ideological posturing. Since John Dewey became something of a patron saint in education in the early 20th century, schools of education have taught his theories as doctrines. The classroom management advice teachers receive prioritizes student-constructed rules and a conversation over a consequence. When mentioned, education professors treat explicit instruction and rote practice with derision. Tests and facts are oppressive. Student choice should dictate everything from science curriculum to reading lists.
Ed Programs Teach Lowbrow, Activist Lit
Reviews of teacher preparation programs offered at major universities do exist, and they validate my critical portrayal not as a caricature but as an unfortunate reality. For example, the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty reviewed 14 programs in my own state of Wisconsin.
The programs neglect serious readings. Professors never assigned, for example, practical manuals of instruction or texts on the relationship between cognitive science and learning. Instead, teachers read popular books like Jonathan Kozol’s Savage Inequalities and watch Hollywood movies like “Freedom Writers.” These programs define education as “social justice.” They instruct teachers to discuss gender with 3-year-old kids and host book clubs about Anti-Racist Baby.
Another notable review comes from the James G. Martin Center. The researcher solicited curricula from three of the most prestigious teacher prep programs in the country and tallied the most common authors.
Conservative or traditionalist authors such as E.D. Hirsch get nary a mention. The programs shamefully lack any engagement with classical education. The core of literature and practice that dictated education for centuries apparently doesn’t deserve a mention. Instead, the most popular authors are John Dewey and Paulo Freire, a Brazilian Marxist who cited the Maoist Cultural Revolution and the Russian Revolution as ideals of his thought in action.
Legislation and Reading: The Wisconsin Experience 2004-
“Well, it’s kind of too bad that we’ve got the smartest people at our universities, and yet we have to create a law to tell them how to teach.”
The data clearly indicate that being able to read is not a requirement for graduation at (Madison) East, especially if you are black or Hispanic”
My Question to Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers on Teacher Mulligans and our Disastrous Reading Results
2017: West High Reading Interventionist Teacher’s Remarks to the School Board on Madison’s Disastrous Reading Results
Madison’s taxpayer supported K-12 school district, despite spending far more than most, has long tolerated disastrous reading results.
“An emphasis on adult employment”
Wisconsin Public Policy Forum Madison School District Report[PDF]
WEAC: $1.57 million for Four Wisconsin Senators
Friday Afternoon Veto: Governor Evers Rejects AB446/SB454; an effort to address our long term, disastrous reading results
Booked, but can’t read (Madison): functional literacy, National citizenship and the new face of Dred Scott in the age of mass incarceration.
When A Stands for Average: Students at the UW-Madison School of Education Receive Sky-High Grades. How Smart is That?