If We Really Care About America's Future, We Should Pay More Attention to Higher Education

If We Really Care About America’s Future, We Should Pay More Attention to Higher Education

General undergraduate instruction in state universities is deficient and deteriorating. Far too many graduates lack basic verbal and cognitive abilities

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The sad story of poor student performance in America’s public (government) schools is so widely known these days that most people greet each new study that confirms it with a kind of numbed disgust. We spend, after accounting for inflation, twice what we spent per pupil 30 years ago, yet improvements are imperceptible.

Children are clearly being shortchanged, and not by the K-12 system alone. Poor parenting is part of the problem too. But often overlooked is the lousy performance of the system that teaches the teachers—higher education.

In 1996, the National Commission on Teaching & America’s Future showed that large numbers of public-school teachers are not qualified to teach the subjects to which they are assigned. Little has changed in the years since. The problem is not that too few teachers are graduating with good grades and degrees in education; the problem is what goes on in the courses they take from university departments of education.

General undergraduate instruction in state universities is deficient and deteriorating. Far too many graduates lack basic verbal and cognitive abilities, and the reasons are disturbing: the disintegration of an effective core curriculum; the pervasiveness of trendy, politically correct courses that stress indoctrination over genuine knowledge or sound pedagogy; the dumbing down of instruction in proper writing and reasoning skills; and a growing gap between what students are taught and what they must know to succeed as teachers or other education professionals.

Famed economist Thomas Sowell, in his remarkable 1992 book, “Inside American Education” demonstrated that education departments are regarded by many inside the universities themselves as just a notch above scams. The graduate degree in “Education” is fast becoming a joke.

Jay Schalin is director of policy analysis at the James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal in Raleigh, North Carolina. In 2019, the Center published his shocking report titled, “The Politicization of University Schools of Education.” He found that far-Left indoctrination is a pandemic in the system:

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[E]ven the damage done to the education system by the twentieth-century Progressives pales compared to more recent efforts by multiculturalists and cultural Marxists in the colleges of education. Politics is now so engrained in the education schools it seems almost impossible for reform to occur. And while not every education professor is politicized, almost no professor of education objects to the wildest schemes of his or her radical colleagues.

Do your teenagers come home from school echoing the divisive nonsense of Critical Race Theory, feeling terrible about America, hating the system of free enterprise that built the country? Chances are their teachers caught the virus from the radicals in university departments of education. You’ll see lots of evidence of it at this website from the Leadership Institute: www.campusreform.org.

Most college graduates over the age of 60 will recall taking freshman English composition. That’s the course in which they learned the fundamentals of written exposition, including a review of grammar and syntax, and some lessons in informal logic and the rules of evidence. A tedious but valuable course, freshman composition once sharpened universally applicable skills that helped students deal meaningfully with material and assignments in other courses.

In universities today, much of what passes for freshman composition is trivial and irrelevant, or worse. “The only thing composition teachers are not talking and writing about these days is how to teach students to compose clear, logical prose” says the Manhattan Institute’s Heather MacDonald.

The curricula offered by university education departments are heavy on fuzzy pedagogical gobbledygook, and other faddish or politicized material, and light on the hard knowledge of the subjects that teachers will eventually have to teach. The result is a huge disservice to prospective teachers who pay good money to become prepared for the classroom but are instead diverted into shallow, unproductive, politicized and even irrelevant course work.

If that were the end of it, it would be tragedy enough. But millions of taxpayers who help pay the bill and millions of K-12 students who suffer at the hands of poorly prepared teachers are casualties too. They are victims of a double whammy—university schools of education that too often teach nonsense they shouldn’t, at the same time they fail to teach what they should if we want good teachers in the classrooms.

This is a scandal that cries out for public attention, not more public dollars.

For additional information, see:

The Politicization of University Schools of Education: The Long March Through the Education Schools by Jay Shalin

The Last Leg Universities Stand on is Collapsing by Isaac Morehouse

Curiosity is Important, But Colleges are Suppressing It by Francis H. Buckley

Selling Higher Education is Sleazier than Selling a Used Car by Jay Stooksberry

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