By Richard Vedder
Yesterday I wrote that the biggest scandal or scam in higher education was the 6-8-10 years people take to get the Ph.D. It is a costly degree, based on a dubious premise (that research expertise for all senior faculty is vital) and is getting more costly in terms of time spent in school over time.
But I forgot about the colleges of education. I am ashamed of myself. They are the biggest abominations of all. Teachers who take courses in colleges of education do no better at teaching on average than those who have no coursework in education. The Teach America kids with no education courses on average are splendid teachers. I have three children (one a daughter-in-law) who are public school teachers and all are truly outstanding in their fields --and none of them had one day of courses from a college of education before starting teaching. Colleges of education teach pablum, serve up intellectual junk food. Even worse --they foster an anti-intellectual environment that is truly disastrous, putting more emphasis on improving student self esteem than student learning. Our kids think they are good in math, while Koreans on average think they are poor --but Koreans beat the butts off Americans in international math tests. And the colleges of education are partly responsible for it.
At most universities, the college of education is viewed as an intellectual backwater on campus, home to the dullest students, the least productive faculty. Yet our governments FORCE students into these intellectual backwaters in order to become certified to teach. Why? Because of special interest pleading by teacher unions, state departments of education, colleges of education, etc. They have been able to maintain control over teaching supply, keeping tens if not hundreds of thousands of able persons with good qualifications, particularly in the STEM disciplines, from entering this honorable profession. This is imperiling our nation, lowering the intellectual capital of our youth. And universities put up with this --why? Why don't the presidents of 200 top universities "just say no" to colleges of education, cooperation with state departments of education, etc.
At my university, the college of education's grading policies are an embarrassment. B grades are relatively uncommon, and Cs are nearly unheard of. There are no standards, no attempts at excellence.
One solution: make it a felony for a superintendent to knowingly hire a graduate of a college of education to teach. Actually, that is a bit harsh, but the idea is in the right direction. We need to get fired up on this issue as a nation. As a first step, legislatures should stop giving subsidies for undergraduate students in education schools, and the Feds should stop giving Pell Grants and student loans to subsidize this academic form of child molestation.