Sunday, July 26, 2009

Stormy times ahead for "mumbo jumbo" education talkers

Here is a column widely circulated in Indiana. I particularly note these remarks by Indiana’s governor, Mitch Daniels. Stormy weather ahead for foundations scholars and other “mumbo jumbo” talkers.

“Arne Duncan could not be superintendent or principal in Indiana,” Daniels said of Obama’s education chief and former superintendent of Chicago schools. “He doesn’t have the right credentials.” The governor enunciated “credentials.”

Asked about how the Ball State University teachers college will have to adapt, Daniels explained, “When the Professional Licensing Board begins starting next week to redefine what is required to get a teaching license in Indiana, the schools of education are going to have to make some major changes of their own. They are not going to need as many people teaching what to me is mumbo jumbo. We’re going to expect students who want to teach spending much more of their time studying the subject they are going to be teaching in the schools
.”




Brian Howey: Daniels’ Education ‘Revolution’ Next Week

INDIANAPOLIS - Next week, the education “revolution” begins in Indiana.

As I sat down with Gov. Mitch Daniels Wednesday afternoon, he was penning a personal note on a letter he was sending U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan, a man, Daniels said, who would not “qualify” to be a principal under current state guidelines.

“We have now got an all new board of education,” Daniels explained. “We’ve got an all new Professional Licensing Board. We are going to redefine what is expected of a teacher in Indiana. It’s going to revolutionize the colleges and schools of education much more in terms of content knowledge. You can’t teach mathematics you don’t know, you can’t teach history you never learned.”

He talked a week after Vigo Supt. Dan Tanoos was not reappointed to the Board of Education and former Sen. Teresa Lubbers took over the reins of the Commission on Higher Education. At the time, Tanoos told the Terre Haute Tribune-Star, “It doesn’t shock me because I’ve been vocal about Superintendent Bennett’s lack of support for public education. I’m not a Tony Bennett yes-man.”

The governor said that the goal is to attract teachers from all walks of life. “No one is against learning methods or how to teach, but you better know what you’re teaching,” he said. “You’re going to see significantly easier access to the classroom for people coming from non-traditional roots. We’ve got a lot of wonderful people, very accomplished, who feel called to teach children now in mid-career or even late career. We should welcome them with open arms.”

Daniels said that he and the Board of Education will work to “minimize the hurdles” to get professionals from other areas into the classroom.

The topic was broached after State Rep. Ed DeLaney, in the final hours of the special session of the Indiana General Assembly on June 30, said on the House floor “I believe that the other side has a position on public education they have not articulated. I think there is a direct assault on public education and they won’t say it.”

“What I heard Ed quoted as saying is it’s the end of public education as we know it. To which I said, ‘I sure hope so,’” said Daniels. “The system as we know it has been failing our kids and therefore failing our state. It’s simply got to change. We haven’t declared war on anything. We’ve come to a determination to have a system that works better. This year, some people didn’t see this coming. There are very, very positive changes coming.”

The governor said that a year or so after his second term ends, he hopes Hoosiers can see “results that matter.” By that, he means “positive significant improvement in student achievement. You would see a more rigorous system with students far better prepared in math or science than they have been. He would see a system - schools - built around the student, not the adults. Meaning far smaller administration costs and personnel. More and higher quality teachers in the classroom. You want to see a revolution, there’s one coming and it starts next week.”

As Daniels finished his letter to Duncan, he noted that on education issues, his administration and that of President Obama and Duncan are in sync on issues such as length of school day and charter schools. He chided the legislative Black Caucus. “I’ve had some direct conversations with leaders of the Black Caucus. We have President Obama on one side and them on the other,” Daniels said. “It may be a little awkward for them.”

“They have been fierce defenders of the status quo. I’m trying to persuade them that they are being terribly shortsighted. This is to side with the adults, tenured jobs, administrative jobs, union jobs, but against the interests of the children.”

“Our policies are absolutely consistent with the President and Secretary Duncan,” Daniels said of federal funding that could have been jeopardized when House Democrats tried to cap charter schools.

“Arne Duncan could not be superintendent or principal in Indiana,” Daniels said of Obama’s education chief and former superintendent of Chicago schools. “He doesn’t have the right credentials.” The governor enunciated “credentials.”

Asked about how the Ball State University teachers college will have to adapt, Daniels explained, “When the Professional Licensing Board begins starting next week to redefine what is required to get a teaching license in Indiana, the schools of education are going to have to make some major changes of their own. They are not going to need as many people teaching what to me is mumbo jumbo. We’re going to expect students who want to teach spending much more of their time studying the subject they are going to be teaching in the schools.”

Does Daniels have in mind a mix of what charter and traditional public schools should be? The governor explained, “No. I don’t pretend to know. What I know is that alternative approaches are extremely popular with parents and families. I do know that the general record of these schools is superior to the old model.”The columnist publishes at www.howeypolitics.com.

3 comments:

brspeer said...

I guess my biggest qualm with integrating teachers from other careers is that they still need to know how to teach. I have seen in my college experience teachers who are wonderful historians and chemists, but have no idea how to bring it down to a teachable level. As long as they are still required to take methods and some of the "typical teacher coursework", their plan might work. But I fear for the students who get an amazing chemist who can't teach.

Anonymous said...

Teachers who don't know very much about the subjects they teach are a bigger problem than teachers who know a lot about their subjects but are clumsy teachers.

Craig A. Cunningham said...

I think the question of whether subject-matter knowledge or knowledge about teaching is more important is completely a question determined by context. Also, it's not really possible to tease them out. A person who has taken a lot of math courses in college, for example, may have also acquired a host of techniques for teaching math during her long career as a student (and may have been especially attentive to math pedagogy during at least some of that time). On the other hand, there are certain techniques for the teaching of reading and writing that don't get learned in English Lit classes, but must be learned either in teacher ed courses or on the job. Personally, I like the Lee Schulman approach of talking about "pedagogical content knowledge," which is knowledge of HOW to teach a particular subject to a particular audience. For some audiences, this has to be learned, somehow.

More controversial is the question of the value of "foundational" knowledge such as philosophy, learning theory, and sociology. Many of us have found that subjects such as these may be more valuable for teachers who have already spend some time in the classroom, mastering the subject-matter/pedagogy issues. This gives them the cognitive breathing room necessary to consider underlying issues or those that are broader than the classroom. Is this stuff "mumbo jumbo"? Well, depends on what you value, doesn't it?