If you thought someone tossed a cherry bomb into the henhouse, you were probably just hearing the reaction of Wisconsin’s education community to a national report last week assigning low ratings to this state’s teacher education programs.
Being unfamiliar with the rating organization, we have no opinion as to whether great significance should be attached to its findings. But we would venture to suggest that within the context of teacher education, even a stellar performance may not mean a lot.
One thing is certain: If you’re curious as to just what our Colleges of Education do, the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel story about this kerfuffle will be a singularly unsatisfying place to look for answers.
The bottom line is, nobody gets to teach in Wisconsin schools unless they’re certified by the Department of Public Instruction. Although some progress has been made in “alternative certification,” generally speaking certification is earned by enduring a number of courses wherein aspiring educators are invited to contemplate the many and varied theories of education. The content is the gaseous sort of stuff that lends itself to pretentions of deep thinking, leading deliberately to no right or wrong answers.
Teachers who bring actual skills to the classroom slog through this Ed-school mush to obtain the all-important credential because without certification, it would have been illegal—for example—to hire Mike Holmgren to coach football at a Wisconsin school.
The really good teachers are those with knowledge in a specific field of mathematics, the sciences or the arts, but that isn’t what colleges of education are for. They exist for the dubious purpose of telling people how to teach; whether those people have any idea what to teach must be attended to elsewhere.
Read about last week’s ratings if you like, or better yet, rotate your tires.