How Educators are Educated

Posted in Weekly Newsletter on by .

Inspire word cloudAn odd little story in a Madison newspaper caught our eye Monday: Fewer students on University of Wisconsin System campuses are pursuing School of Education teacher training programs.

A School of Education dean came up with a few weightless comments, including a suggestion that would-be teachers are uncomfortable with a politicized atmosphere surrounding public schools—which if true would be new only in the sense that it’s finally out in the open—and a possible connection to the Act 10 collective bargaining reforms.

The trouble is, the declining numbers began in 2010, presumably before that year’s elections gave a clue that changes were coming and well before the Act 10 reforms of 2011.

The decline is not large, but to the extent that it might be a hopeful sign, we eagerly take note.

A great problem with U.S. public education for decades has been large numbers of teachers whose field of study is the gauzy theory of education rather than some field of actual knowledge that could be transferred to young minds: Education majors schooled in how to teach but not what to teach.

Some of us actually knew people who had no interest whatever in teaching but entered the field anyway to obtain a sure-fire Vietnam-era draft deferment. That was a long time ago, but those people stuck around in jobs they never really wanted. Many would have been retiring around the time of Act 10 but had served in the meantime as role models for a generation’s worth of union members.

Step one in doing any job well is the desire to actually do it. The minuscule shift in the numbers from the UW System just might be the beginning of a good thing.

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