Educational Rot

American education is in a sorry state of affairs, and there’s enough blame for all participants to have their fair share. They include students who are hostile and alien to the education process, uninterested parents, teachers and administrators who either are incompetent or have been beaten down by the system, and politicians who’ve become handmaidens for teachers unions. There’s another education issue that’s neither flattering nor comfortable to confront and talk about. That’s the low academic preparation of many teachers. That’s an issue that must be confronted and dealt with if we’re to improve the quality of education. Let’s look at it.

Schools of education, whether graduate or undergraduate, tend to represent the academic slums of most college campuses. They tend to be home to students who have the lowest academic achievement test scores when they enter college, such as SAT scores. They have the lowest scores when they graduate and choose to take postgraduate admissions tests — such as the GRE, the MCAT and the LSAT.

The California Basic Educational Skills Test, or CBEST, is mandatory for teacher certification in California. It’s a joke. Here’s a multiple-choice question on its practice math test: “Rob uses 1 box of cat food every 5 days to feed his cats. Approximately how many boxes of cat food does he use per month? A. 2 boxes, B. 4 boxes, C. 5 boxes, D. 6 boxes, E. 7 boxes.” Here’s another: “Which of the following is the most appropriate unit for expressing the weight of a pencil? A. pounds, B. ounces, C. quarts, D. pints, E. tons.” I’d venture to predict that the average reader’s sixth-grader could answer each question. Here’s a question that is a bit more challenging; call your eighth-grader: “Solve for y: y – 2 + 3y = 10, A. 2, B. 3, C. 4, D. 5, E. 6.”

Some years ago, the Association of Mexican American Educators, the California Association for Asian-Pacific Bilingual Education and the Oakland Alliance of Black Educators brought suit against the state of California and the CaliforniaCommission on Teacher Credentialing, charging that the CBEST was racially discriminatory.

Plaintiff “evidence” was the fact that the first-time passing rate for whites was 80 percent, about 50 percent for Mexican-Americans, Filipinos and Southeast Asians, and 46 percent for blacks. In 2000, in a stroke of rare common sense, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit found CBEST not to be racial discriminatory.

Poor teacher preparation is not a problem restricted to California. In Massachusetts, only 27 percent of new teachers could pass the math test needed to be certified as a teacher. A 2011 investigation by Atlanta’s Channel 2 Action News found that more than 700 Georgia teachers repeatedly failed at least one portion of the certification test they are required to pass before receiving a teaching certificate. Nearly 60 teachers failed the test more than 10 times, and one teacher failed the test 18 times. They also found that there were 297 teachers on the Atlanta school system’s payroll even though they had failed the state certification test five times or more.

Textbooks used in schools of education might explain some teacher ineptitude. A passage in Marilyn Burns’ text “About Teaching Mathematics” reads, “There is no place for requiring students to practice tedious calculations that are more efficiently and accurately done by using calculators.” “New Designs for Teaching and Learning,” by Dennis Adams and Mary Hamm, says, “Content knowledge is not seen to be as important as possessing teaching skills and knowledge about the students being taught.” Harvey Daniels and Marilyn Bizar’s text “Methods that Matter” reads, “Students can no longer be viewed as cognitive living rooms into which the furniture of knowledge is moved in and arranged by teachers, and teachers cannot invariably act as subject-matter experts.” The authors explain, “The main use of standardized tests in America is to justify the distribution of certain goodies to certain people.”

With but a few exceptions, schools of education represent the academic slums of most any college. American education could benefit from slum removal, eliminating schools of education.

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  • Robin

    The colleges of education are now fully dominated by the behavioral sciences in order to make changing student values, attitudes, and beliefs the purpose of school. Some of the teachers are quite aware that their degrees in human development theory ride on theories that either track back to Marx or were created by Soviet psychologists at their Institute of Defectology during the Cold War. And then exported to the West under unappreciated meanings of the word "pedagogy." http://www.invisibleserfscollar.com/imitating-the… lays out the Urie Bronfenbrenner admission from a 1977 article.

    Bronfenbrenner's Ecological Systems Theory, or as I refer to it, BEST, is a hugely influential teacher ed theory now. And it is to be a huge component of the Common Core classroom implementation under both the Next Generation Science Standards and the C3 Social Studies Standards. And it is factually untrue. It is a metaphor for how collectivists wish adults and children would see the world so they will be amenable to radical social, economic, and political changes. Or even better so emotionally committed they will feel impelled to take action to precipitate it.

    Solid education would provide the facts and initiative to recognize these deliberately instilled false beliefs designed to influence future behavior. So a weak knowledge base actually fits in with education as a political tool. Where changes in values, instincts, and especially carefully cultivated emotions are to drive future behaviors of most teachers and students in predictable ways.

    The abstract, knowledgeable mind is capable of defying a herd because it knows what it knows. That's unacceptable in the 21st century.

    • Jeff Ludwig

      Excellent article Robin. Thank you very much.

  • EchoVector

    The system isn't broken.

    It is functioning exactly the way the powers that be wish it to function.

    A truly educated population is a danger to the system. Free thinking people are not so easily enslaved.

    By making each successive generation less and less able to apply critical thinking to their surroundings and position, those in control, behind the scenes, continue to consolidate and strengthen their power base.

    Welcome to "Idiocracy". It is happening right in front of your eyes.

    • Spider

      You are right Echo – This is the plan that has been in work for decades now. This plan started coming to fruition in the mid 60s – That is to use the mass media and entertainment industriy to crate an alternative universe of their choosing ( that doesn't really exist) and dumb down the population so they will be unable to use critical thinking skills to confront the system of mind control they created. All this so they can take your hard earned wealth and freedoms away – which they are taught to no longer appreciate.

    • tagalog

      I'm waiting for day when Fuddrucker's new name becomes publicly acceptable, and you can get your law degree from Costco.

  • EchoVector

    The system isn't broken.

    It is functioning exactly the way the powers that be wish it to function.

    A truly educated population is a danger to the system. Free thinking people are not so easily enslaved.

    By making each successive generation less and less able to apply critical thinking to their surroundings and position, those in control, behind the scenes, continue to consolidate and strengthen their power base.

    Welcome to "Idiocracy". It is happening right in front of your eyes.

  • davarino

    The teachers of yester year did a better job, with less money, fewer tools, no lap tops, fewer regulations, and a paddle. If only discipline could be restored to the class room, the only other thing necassary would be well educated teachers not beholden to the teachers union.

    My daughter is home schooling her daughter, and she is exceling beyond her age group in public schools. My daughter is doing this with only a high school diploma. Public school teachers could do so much more if they would throw off the unions and buck the system by going back to what worked, or they can wait till all the kids are either home schooled or going to private schools through vouchers. Looks like they prefer to go the route of the US postal service, irrelevance.

  • AnOrdinaryMan

    The hard work of using one's brain to figure out math problems has been replaced by, "Can I get my calculator?" How many students who ask this question really understand the math involved? Perhaps half.
    On the other hand, cursive isn't taught in many schools, either, with the result that a sizeable fraction of students can't write and can't do mathematics. And many of these same students have severe reading trouble as well. Can't read, can't write, can't do math. What are they in school for? Eliminate the Federal Dept. of Education.

    • Lady_Dr

      I am SO in agreement with your last statement. For those who are not aware if it – the US Dept. of Education was created during Carter's administration as payback to the teacher''s unions who got him elected. Prior to that it was part of the Dept. of Health, Education, and Welfare. BUT all of this is unconstitutional.

      Let's get rid of the Dept. of Education, and the schools of education. Some years ago, I think it was Oregon State eliminated their College of Education in favor of a one year certificate program in teaching to be taken AFTER obtaining another degree. Don't know how it worked out.

  • RAH

    I majored in Government at U-Mass, but took a minor in education so I could teach if I couldn’t get elected to public office. The School of Education at U-Mass was so bad, many high schools would not take student teachers from it. It was truly an amazing experience. Thankfully, I was elected to the Massachusetts senate the year I graduated (1972), so only substituted a couple of days and never looked back. I will link to this from my Old Jarhead blog. (www.tartanmarine.blogspot.com)

    Robert A. Hall
    USMC 1964-68
    USMCR, 1977-83
    Massachusetts Senate, 1973-83
    Author: The Coming Collapse of the American Republic
    All royalties go to help wounded veterans
    For a free PDF of my 80-page book, write tartanmarine(at)gmail.com

  • Alex Kovnat

    @Ordinary Man: We should eliminate both the Department of Education and the Department of Energy.

    Getting back to topic, which on this thread is education, another complaint I (and many others) have is, the fad of subjecting young people to brutal punishments for even inadvertently offending some zero-tolerance rule. For example, we have seen children so young you can express their age with the fingers of one hand or both hands at most, being scolded or suspended for pointing their fingers and saying bang-bang, or chewing a cracker or a piece of pizza into the shape of a gun. Are we teaching children respect for the power of guns to hurt and kill by doing that? More likely, we are teaching children fear of adult authority figures rather than guns per se. We are teaching them that might makes right.

  • Lady_Dr

    At Ohio State University the "College of Education" is called the intellectual sewer. If you cannot get into any other college on campus you can always get into it. Not all teachers are stupid, but all the stupid people go into education because they cannot get into any other college.

    Incidently I once applied for a professional position (I have a real doctorate, not one in education) and discovered that the county where they job was paid beginning teachers with one degree and no experience $1,000 more per month plus they only worked 9 months for 12 months pay. I would be a fool to take a job where I was paid and therefore valued less than some bimbo with a BA and no experience.

    • Robin

      Ohio State is ground zero for Whole Language. It is where the Fountas & Pinnell Guided Reading and Marie Clay's Reading Recovery teacher training occur for big bucks. It also used to run some of the online change the student affective curricula. And it is where john a powell teaches. He has written about using education to eliminate any belief that there is a unitary self.

      These guys are serious about squelching individualism. Which is why they refuse to teach reading properly. They understand it bolsters the abstract mind.

      • Mary Sue

        they were using a form of whole language in the 80s, too, in Canada.

  • Jeff Ludwig

    Prof. Williams is right on target. I've been teaching for decades in both high schools and colleges. I have taught the s0-called below average ("at risk") students and the gifted. They are brirnging fewer and fewer skills to the table. NYC recently stated the community college part of the City University system — six schools in all — has 80% of the entering students in need of math or reading remediation. I am presently teaching at a college where high school students are enrolled and are receiving college credits while they are in high school. Incredibly they began taking the college courses in the summer after eighth grade. Now I have them while they are in 12th grade, supposedly finishing up high school and a two year "community college" program for an associate's degree. It's all bogus. More than 50% cannot write a paragraph.

    • John Stone

      You know, maybe that is the solution. A lot of the educational process is bogus anyway, so start calling high school college. A lot of these kids are not going anywhere anyway and it would save the expense of years of school to just award the degree.

      I suspect we would be better off to go back to the not so good 'good old days'. The reality is that there is a certain amount of stuff you have to learn to function as an adult, and just sort of pound it in to them by whatever means necessary. You know, the basic stuff: reading, writing and math. Once that is down then you think about getting creative with enrichment or whatever. But not until.

  • Infovoyeur

    From a former state university teacher (“professor”) who loved Teaching… Problems are (1) TNM Terminal Non-Motivation among the young today (ALL actual motivation comes from within the learner), (2) Yes the forces which this article and comments usefully delineate, but also, I still postulate, (3) the fact tuat truer Thinking as such ( = ability to CCCC, confront crucial matters with conceptual competence–in the real world after school) is simply not taught, largely. Oh, many well-intentioned instructors (not the Research-focused at the Big Schools) honestly think they are teaching thinking (beyond “critical thinking” which is technical statement-evaluation). But have they ever tested for autonomous student transfer to confront complex issues via higher-order thinking? Rarely. The model is still more KBD what to Know (information-retention, etc.) and perhaps Believe and Do, than TTT, how to think things through. But it’s the invisible elephant in the room. On the “map of education,” some people know that higher-order thinking is sort of T.I., Terra Incognita, it’s there but don’t know much about it. (They may model, describe, urge, thinking but give no models, frames, ploys.) But others see on the map, where Thinking is, see only the Deep Blue Sea… They honestly think they’re teaching, students are learning, “thinking”–but what are employers saying about inability to confront complex information, make sense of it, do cause-effect analysis, recognize key issues, etc.?
    But SORRY for this rant because if the issue is really as sneakily evasively subliminal, occult, tacit as I am claiming, one email post cannot reveal it to those who were in the system and tried toward it! Anyhow I tried, and only want to add another dimension to the vital article and comments above…..