Public school teachers are required to have state certification. Outside of a few exceptions, this means public school teachers must go through a teacher training program in a university’s “college of education.” It is not enough to major in a subject. Rather, one must be thoroughly trained in modern teaching “method.”
So goes the thinking of modern public school advocates.
Do Teachers Need “Teacher Training”?
But is this a reasonable requirement? Do teachers really need training in “education” in order to be good teachers? The answer is of course not. There are many excellent teachers in the universities and private schools who have never taken a formal course in teaching methodology. There are also many great preachers, Sunday school teachers, and public speakers who have no formal training in teaching methodology.
How did they get so good at teaching? The fact is that good teachers are usually born good teachers. Teaching is a gift, and not everyone has it. This is to say that training in teaching methodology is not a necessary condition for good teaching. One does not need teacher training to be a good teacher.
However, it is also the case that training in teaching methodology is not a sufficient condition for good teaching. Just because someone studies methodology and goes through a “college of ed” does not make them a good teacher. If this were the case, all public school teachers would be good teachers. Yet we all know that is not the case.
Now the response from public school advocates will be that teacher training can make a teacher a better teacher. This is true. Teacher training can help, and it should be part of a new teacher’s job. But while it can be helpful to study teaching methodology or pedagogy, much of this can be learned while on the job. For example, a good private school administration will provide some teacher training before a new teacher begins, and that same administration will provide some oversight and coaching along the way.
The point is that public schools vastly overemphasize the importance of studying methodology.
What Makes a Good Teacher?
There are two key skills that make someone a good teacher: (1) knowledge of content; and (2) communication of that content. The error of the public schools today is that they believe they can teach someone to be a good communicator. But if that were the case, anyone could be a good preacher or a good public speaker. You can train someone in communication and method all day, and it may help. But it can only help. It cannot make someone a good teacher. And that is why the lengthy requirement of teacher training in a college of education is absurd.
Sadly, this requirement by the public schools ends up hurting students, as some of the best teachers available are not allowed to teach in the public schools—all because of excessive and unnecessary requirements.
Instead of worrying so much about method, schools should focus on content.
The most important requirement for a teacher is that he or she knows the subject at hand. If a person is teaching history, you want him to know history. That usually means the person has studied and enjoys the subject. Majoring in that subject in college is a plus, but it is not a necessity. There are other ways to learn a subject. Some people are just history buffs from years of reading. Why would you disqualify such a person as a teaching candidate just because he did not major in the subject in college?
This is one of the many areas where modern public schools go wrong. Most states require teachers in the public school to have “state certification,” and this usually requires getting a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree from a college of education. Sadly, this means a person with a PhD or Master’s degree in history cannot teach history at a public school. Never mind the fact that he is qualified to teach at the university level!
If schools were really concerned with hiring good teachers (as many private schools are), they would primarily be concerned with a candidate’s knowledge of the subject. A person with a Master’s or PhD in a subject would be an excellent candidate. The school can then train the teacher and help him along the way.
Of course, some people who know their subject are just not cut out for teaching. They may be bad communicators or not get along with children. They should find something else to do other than teach. But as we all know, many bad communicators still end up attaining state teaching certification and teaching in the public schools. Thus all the state requirements do not really solve this problem. It is more of a rubber stamp rather than a guarantee of quality teaching.
The Real Reason Behind Colleges of Ed
So what is really behind this requirement for certification and teacher training in the colleges of education? In two words, teachers unions. The unions want to restrict competition, and there is no better way to do that than to make cumbersome requirements. This means their jobs are safer.
It is all about control. The unions want to control competition, and daunting teacher requirements keep out better qualified job candidates. For example, because of the difficulty of attaining state certification, public school teachers do not have to compete with laid-off college professors looking for a job. This hurts college professors but helps members of the teachers unions.
This is why the teachers unions and their media friends flip out when they hear about charter schools and vouchers. Both pose problems for private education (as I have argued elsewhere), but the public school advocates are mostly concerned about competition. They like having a monopoly on things, and charters and vouchers get in the way of this.
However, teachers unions also want to control the training of future teachers in order to influence them. It is well known that the majority of colleges of education train teachers in radical leftist ideology. Professors in the colleges of education and the bureaucrats in the teachers unions want to pass the newest “progressive” views down to the future generations. What’s the best way to do that? Get the public school teachers on board and have them teach this junk to children. (Transgender bathrooms anyone?)
The fact is that state certification and colleges of education are recent inventions of the 20th century. Yet it is hard to argue that education is “better” as a result of these innovations. This is all part of the professionalization of teaching. The vast majority of American children attend public schools, and they are taught by teachers who have been trained in the latest methods and ideologies in the colleges of education. This is all to the benefit of the teachers unions. Hence the ploy.