Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Teacher Education is Out of Touch, and I am Proud of It

No doubt much hand-wringing will result from Arthur Levine's out-of-touch appraisal of how out-of-touch teacher education programs are. Here is how Brahmin Levine's Executive Summary (PDF) frames it in the opening sentence:
The nation’s teacher education programs are inadequately preparing their graduates to meet the realities of today’s standards-based, accountability-driven classrooms, in which the primary measure of success is student achievement.
I haven't had a chance to read the whole report, but there is enough here to get my attention. Let me say unequivocally that, as a teacher educator, I agree wholeheartedly with Levine's opening statement, and, furthermore, I would not have it any other way. Teacher education programs, the best ones at least, are entirely out-of-step with the present-day disaster of "accountability-driven classrooms" to which Levine refers.

Indeed, the present-day "accountability-driven classrooms" neither require, nor desire, teacher education programs, particularly if these programs include any departure or variation from this high tech version of the same iron-fisted 19th Century traditional pedagogy that was just as ineffective a hundred years ago as it is today. The fact is that the federally-mandated classroom of today looks much more like the prevailing model classroom of 1906 than it does the education models of 2006, which, by the way, continue to be the focus of good teacher education programs despite the anti-democratic aberration that has sucked the oxygen from any other educational narrative or methodology. So yes, Levine is right, thank god--we are hopelessly out of step with the march toward the past, a past that makes teacher preparation as irrelevant and foreign as, let's say, social justice and equality of opportunity.

In today's test-obsessed classrooms, no one needs teacher training to teach to the the high-stakes standardized junk tests that have replaced professional standards and curriculums all across the nation. In today's test-obsessed classrooms, no one needs teacher training to do the parrot math and reading programs that are pushed by the Reading First thugs (and what will soon be Math First thugs). In today's test-obsessed classrooms, no one needs a child development course when the insanity of testing kindergarteners and first-graders has made core principles of child development entirely irrelevant. In today's test-obsessed classrooms, no one needs an historical or philosophical foundations course when the current agenda of worldwide economic domination has replaced all the other purposes and aims that historically shaped schools that were once devoted to creating good people and to building a good democracy. In today's test-obsessed classrooms, no one needs educational psychology courses when the current chain-gang behavior modification tactics for classroom control are provided in the various commercial scripts and canned instructional programs that accept no deviation in their lock-stepping toward "data-driven" results.

When, eventually, sanity is restored, when the public dialogue once again replaces the silenced voices, and when these crooks, hucksters, and corporate fascists are expelled from the seats of power in Washington, we may, in fact, come to celebrate those teacher education programs now demonized for not "preparing graduates to meet the demands of today's . . . accountability-driven classrooms." Perhaps those university teacher prep programs will have at least preserved the possibility of a free and just society during this melee of the fundamentalist cultural revolution, and perhaps then, when humanitarian decency is again restored, we can truly begin to give teacher education programs the attention they need to honestly make them better.

In the meantime, let us celebrate our failure.

Posted 09.20.06 to Schools Matter

1 comment:

Craig A. Cunningham said...

I thoroughly agree with Jim's sentiment that it is better that teacher education is a "failure" in light of the accountability regime than to be a success. What's interesting to me is the complex ways that "accountability" interacts with "humanity," not only in teacher education but in K-12 schools. It currently seems to me that there is an inverse relationship between the two: the more "accountability," the less humanity. This might mean that if our society chooses humanity as an ultimate good (as we should), that we will have to accept that education will be a very uneven, non-standardized, inequitable, locally-influenced political mess (as it was characterized in A Nation At Risk). It seems to me that this perhaps unfair characterization reveals the difficult rhetorical battle us "humanitarians" face in undermining the accountability regime. How do we "sell" such a mess to the general public?