Horace’s Mailbox

To the Editor:

As someone working with the Coalition and with the National Network for Education Renewal (NNER), I was pleased to see your attention to the critical issue of teacher education [September] 9931. I applaud your choice of the University of Southern Maine and the University of Louisville efforts as exemplars.

While you made important points concerning the professional preparation of prospective teachers, you missed what may be the most important point of all. Teachers for Essential schools must have an initial education that is more than an apprenticeship to their craft. Perhaps the most critical element is the general education they receive- including their study of the academic disciplines they will be teaching, which develops them as educated persons. From this they need to develop the broad scope of knowledge that will let them function as generalists (as envisioned by the eighth Common Principle) rather than as the specialists found most commonly in secondary schools. They need to understand the nature of our democratic society, whether they are teaching elementary or secondary students. The nine Common Principles will not guide their work if they do not understand, for example, why the school’s goals should apply to all students.

You quote Lynne Miller as saying that “Goodlad emphasizes teacher education as the lever for school renewal,” while Southern Maine sees “school renewal as the lever for teacher education.” More accurately, Goodlad and the NNER want to engage Arts and Sciences faculty, College of Education people, and school-based faculty simultaneously in the renewal of schools and the education of educators. All three parties are needed and the action has to go on in both school and university settings.

Unfortunately, some of the programs that emphasize the field-based portion of a teacher’s education seem unable or unwilling to demand high standards for the candidate’s general education. They seem to believe that if the person entering their program has a degree with an academic major, no matter how old the degree or how weak the program, they can do nothing but hope that any academic weakness will be overcome by the initiative of the candidate once hired. In order to strengthen teacher education, one has to also examine ways that Arts and Sciences faculty can be engaged in improving their portion of the total effort.

Richard W. Clark
Bellevue, Washington