What Do Students Learn in Education School?

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By George Leef

The great majority of public school teachers in the U.S. have come through education schools. In those schools – supposedly – the aspiring teacher learn the craft of instructing students. In most states, you can’t become a public school teacher unless you have the necessary education school credentials. (That’s one of the numerous ways in which government policy creates an artificial demand for education and training programs.)

For decades, “progressives” have been worming their way into education schools, as they’ve done in higher education generally. Their objective is to fill the ranks of teachers with people who hold politically correct views about society. The distressing truth is that they have been highly successful.

Part of that success stems from the fact that most of the students who choose to major in education are themselves not sharp thinkers and dedicated scholars who yearn to pass along knowledge. Rather, they are weaker students who know that the education major won’t force them to work hard. Those students are like easily molded clay in the hands of the ideological zealots who control the education schools.

In a recent essay on the excellent site Quillette, a graduate of the University of Washington’s education school (writing under a pseudonym, hoping to avoid retribution from ed school defenders who could damage his career) wrote about the school’s heavily politicized curriculum.

“Nick Wilson” informs us that he wanted to teach and was accepted into the university’s Secondary Teacher Education Program (STEP). He expected to receive preparation for high school teaching through its 12 month program. But, he writes, “Rather than an academic program centered around pedagogy and public policy, STEP is an immersion in doctrinaire social justice activism. This program is a bizarre experiment, light on academic rigor, in which the faculty quite consciously whips up emotions in order to punch home its ideological message.”

So, instead of learning how best to instruct high school students, the future teachers in STEP spend their time hearing leftist notions about America’s social and economic ills, all of them allegedly caused by capitalism, racism, sexism, and so on.

Just to give one of Wilson’s many examples, he was required to participate in a so-called gender caucus, in which “men were asked to think about how women are disadvantaged in society.” Whether or not that’s true is debatable, but it certainly doesn’t pertain to the best teaching practices for high schoolers.

Any dissent from the leftist orthodoxy presented as truth was sharply suppressed and Wilson learned to keep quiet. STEP was all about political indoctrination, not knowledge about pedagogy.

Our system for training teachers strands in stark contrast with nations where the education system is not politicized. In Japan, for instance, prospective teachers must first earn a college degree in a true academic discipline (not the fuzzy idea of “education”) and then they can apply to become apprentice teachers. Only around 20 percent are chosen. Those who are then spend several years as apprentices, learning from master teachers. In Japan and many other countries, the sole concern is training teachers in effective pedagogy. Political zealotry never enters the picture.

If you want to learn more about the Japanese approach, the book to read is The Learning Gap by Harold Stevenson and James Stigler.

One of the big reasons why so many countries beat the stuffing out of the United States when it comes to knowledge their students have (as revealed by the Program for International Student Assessment) is that their teachers are actually trained to teach rather than to spout leftist slogans. You can see the latest rankings here.

It’s very disturbing that tax dollars are being used to push the leftist mindset.  We should be glad that “Nick Wilson” turned over the rock so everyone can see what’s going on in education schools.

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