I read the [2004 strategic] plan put forward by the University of Toledo for its College of Education [online at http://education.utoledo.edu] with a sinking heart. Same old drivel. The money [$11.5 million approved for the UT Education College] could be put to so much better use by hiring the best faculty that could be found — men and women who know a subject well, love it and enjoy imparting what they know to the ignorant young. And the young are ignorant. That’s why they are in college — to learn what they do not yet know.
So the [UT plan’s] idea of “students at the center of their own learning” is simply a misguided slogan of the people who brought you curricula based on multi-culturalism (all cultures are equally valuable, so why concentrate on the Western tradition?), on self-esteem (children must be encouraged to feel good about themselves because of the racial or ethnic group they belong to, not because of accomplishment through hard work) and who are now selling “constructivism,” the latest educational fad based on the idea that children, and all students, construct their own knowledge.
It is assumed they will discover how to read and how to multiply and how the world is arranged and what happened in the past by themselves, in small groups at tables the “facilitator” (who used to be the teacher) moves among being careful not to appear to be an authority and not to interfere with this process of autodiscovery called “collaborative learning” (I am quoting from the UT document here and elsewhere).
The ubiquitous shibboleth of “diversity” comes in here, too, meaning diversity of every kind except of ideas and ways of looking at things.
The clichés abound: “students will assess their own learning plan” (then why have instructors at all?) “in a non-threatening supportive environment” (are they grown-ups or little children unable to face the real world with its competition and inevitable occasional failures?). It is the student’s “choice of what to study” (how does a student judge what is important to know?).
The UT Ed School strategic plan is a perfect example of the fashionable educational theory of the moment, throwing aside traditional methods that have stood the test of time and promising another generation of teachers who don’t really know how to teach — because they haven’t been taught how to present real knowledge or even what real knowledge is.
It’s goodbye to the history of the evolution of our democratic institutions, our literature and everything that should bind us in a common culture transmitted through the generations.
Columbia University’s Teachers College is the front of such “movements,” which succeed each other with predictable regularity without producing students who can read with comprehension, write clearly or deal with numbers effectively. Teachers College trains the professors who will teach at many of the country’s schools of education. One can only hope UT doesn’t waste its resources on becoming one of them.
Rita Kramer is author of “Ed School Follies: The Mis-Education of America’s Teachers.”