Saturday, August 18, 2007

Colleges of Education

By Richard Vedder

I intimated the other day that I would like to criminalize colleges of higher education. Actually, that is too strong. In a perfect world, we would have all sorts of different forms of teacher training, with competitive K-12 schools fighting for the right to educate kids in a system that resembles the market process dominating most human endeavors. The preparation of teachers might enter into the marketing strategy used by schools to entice students to enroll (with funding dependent on student satisfaction). Studies would arise, I predict, showing that kids who are educated by teachers with lots of ed courses do no better, and often somewhat worse (particularly in the middle and high school levels) than teachers with a more standard academic preparation. The ed schools would decline in relative importance or reform themselves.

The fact is that on most campuses, the education school is considered to be a disaster, the campus embarrassment. Generally the students are less good, the standards are lower and the content is mush or worse. This is a national tragedy, and a consequence of government rules and regulations forcing teachers into this cesspool, which contributes to what might be called academic child molestation.

Most of the fellow Spellings Commission members I talked to agreed with me that the ed schools were and will be a weak spot, but few wanted to take on that issue. That was a mistake, since the weakness in colleges of education means poorer educated students of the next generation. We are doing a less than stellar job of meeting our greatest of all responsibilities as citizens and human beings, namely passing on the good of the past and the present to future generations.

What to do? There are many ways this problem can be addressed. Change teacher certification laws. Remove subsidies to colleges of education. Put a maximum on the number of education courses allowable for an accredited degree. Some approaches are better than others, but we need to do something if we care about our children and grandchildren, and put their interests above those of the special interest groups that have successfully blocked real reform.

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