The Ivory Tower May Be Cracking, But Education Professors Have a Ways to Go

I spend a lot of time on this blog talking about teachers and policies related to them. But what about those who teach teachers — at least those teachers who receive traditional certification from postsecondary schools of education?

Last week the Fordham Institute released the results of a survey of more than 700 education professors “to determine how they view their own roles and what they think of myriad K-12 policy developments that have taken place over the last decade.” The report Cracks in the Ivory Tower? sheds some light on education policy debates.

As Checker Finn points out, there are some modest signs of more education professors being open to reforms of teacher tenure, incentive pay and alternative certification. But overall, they still “see themselves as philosophers and evangelists, not as master craftsmen sharing tradecraft with apprentices and journeymen.”

Our own State Board of Education chairman Bob Schaffer, participating as one of the “Education Experts” on the National Journal blog, is not terribly impressed. Schaffer latches onto the finding that only 36 percent of education professors see teaching math facts as “absolutely essential” compared to a much higher percentage who believe in the critical importance of teaching 21st Century skills:

If 83 percent of American education professors are teaching budding education majors it is “absolutely necessary” they teach 21st-Century Skills, fine. There ought to be plenty of schools that parents who agree can choose for their own children.

For the rest of us though, who still believe schools should impart knowledge and teach for freedom, don’t trouble our kids with the trifling fads associated with all this 21st-century navel gazing. As long as there’s flexibility for states serious about education, as long as there are ample charter schools for parents serious about liberal (classical) education, as long as there are places for true academic professionals to empower their pupils for authentic liberty, that’s fine, too. Leave it to these Americans to consider the country’s future and the role our kids might play leading it.

(Might I add that Bob Schaffer just happens to be my favorite State Board chairman… ever! His response is terrific and inspiring.)

Of course, it’s just a small part of the big picture. But given the apparent disconnect on the part of so many education professors, and presumably many of their pupils, is it any wonder that so many Colorado parents have continued to demand rigorous schooling alternatives that focus on Core Knowledge or classical education? Those are just a couple of the categories you can find searching on our parent-friendly School Choice for Kids website.