Saturday, September 24, 2011


Professional Teacher Preparation: The Essential Step Toward Better Schools

“When one considers in its length and breadth the importance of a nation’s young, the broken lives, the defeated hopes, the national failures, which result from the frivolous inertia with which (education) is treated, it is difficult to restrain within oneself a savage rage”

Alfred North Whitehead
The Aims of Education and Other Essays (New York: Macmillan, 1929) p.22.

Really want to improve American schooling?  Recognize that better teachers are the key ingredient. And also realize that real school reform will not happen until we greatly strengthen their preparation.

How can this be done? The vast majority of undergraduates are too immature and unmotivated for serious teacher training. What is required is thorough preparation in a post-graduate professional school similar to that required of lawyers, medical doctors, veterinarians, opticians and other occupations we actually respect.

Highly motivated and mature students in a demanding graduate environment could become the kind of teachers we need to begin tranforming our schools. But state and federal officials are not only ignoring this opportunity, they have been fostering lax, disempowering short cuts into teaching instead. The Obama administration even classifies interns as highly qualified teachers to meet the requirements of No Child Left Behind.

Forget quickie teacher preparation alternatives; close marginal teacher preparation programs at profiteering colleges specializing in cut-rate certification; and require truly professional teacher preparation. This is what is required.
Of course, we would have to pay higher salaries and actually respect teachers in order to attract the best and the brightest to such demanding training. And the average American isn’t willing to pay this tab — particularly while we are squandering trillions of dollars on no-win wars

What is more, truly professional preparation would really strengthen the teaching profession — a primal fear of politicians. Who could they blame if the teachers could really fight back?

Yes, what needs to be done is obvious. But it is not going to happen any time soon. Meanwhile, our politicians will keep tinkering with high stakes tests, charter schools, vouchers and any other "reforms" that can be accomplished on the cheap.

To examine this issue further, see

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