Whomperjawed, 30 years ago

Texas Monthly, visiting an Ed School in 1979:

(The professor) went on to relate a tale of how, in his first year at the college, he attempted to prevent a student of his who was functionally illiterate from receiving a degree and the automatic teacher certification that goes with it. “Pressure came down from above,” he said, “and I was on the griddle. It turned out that he already had a job.”

Blythe gave the clear impression that he had learned a rueful lesson about the realities of academic power and would be quite reluctant to climb onto the griddle again.

He did say the continuing certification of incompetent teachers was, in his words, “a copout,” but confessed that when the time came to fail or fire those who deserved the fate, “We—and in this case I’m talking about all of us—simply don’t have the guts to do it.”

For those, like the Secretary Of Education, who hope that Ed Schools will begin to deny certification to incompetents: good luck.

There's also an interesting cautionary note for teacher prep programs like ours that rely on high coaching dosage. When we talk to Wise Old Salts, they may be skeptical of our approach. Here's why. In the past, this method was used to hide the fact that the undergrads were exceptionally weak in academics.

So when talking to a Wise Old Salt, emphasize that our program gets teacher trainees from the top 5% of college grads, and that nobody majored in education. Otherwise, they understandably worry.

Check out this narrative from the same article. Sounds like a nightmare version of what we do in our program today:

Elementary Education 3320, which has no textbook and seems to require no original written work, is clearly aimed at human-relations, not paper and pencil, skills.

The third group was seated in front of a television monitor watching videotape cassettes of themselves and other members of their group teaching each other various elementary-school lessons. As they watched, they were filling in evaluative forms to be presented to the individual for her private edification.

Blythe and Williamson stayed behind them, filling out identical forms and occasionally coming forward to whisper a private note of criticism or encouragement to the student on the screen: face the class, summon students to the blackboard instead of calling for volunteers, involve the quiet students as well as those with their hands always in the air, smile.

Because the students on the tape were not real kids, but college students pretending to be kids, the whole exercise had an air of “let’s pretend,” like sorority sisters rehearsing a skit for rush week.

In an attempt to overcome this problem, Blythe and Williamson sometimes distribute what they call “role-playing cards,” which direct the recipients to act up in a childlike manner (is there a card somewhere reading URINATE IN YOUR CHAIR?), a tactic that, although I did not see it used, would seem likely to make what is already a bit silly become downright absurd.

As the spring term was nearly over, I took what I was seeing on the cassettes to be the result of an entire semester’s work—which, when I checked the course syllabus, turned out to be true.

...The course was clearly, if not intentionally, set up so that it required a minimum of outside work, kept professors off the griddle on the question of literacy, and was virtually impossible to fail.