by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Matthew Post writes for the Martin Center about a potential positive shift in teacher training.
With the pandemic, more parents are discovering what their children are being taught in public schools—from explicit how-tos in sex-ed class to narratives of power that divide everyone into oppressors and oppressed.
Yearning for a richer emphasis on cultural literacy, character, and civil discourse, parents are turning to alternative curricula, such as Core Knowledge and classical education, as well as learning environments such as homeschooling, pods, micro-schools, and public charters.
The opportunity for reform is there, but we must first understand how much needs to change. The content in many schools is a problem, but a deeper one remains: Too few teachers and leaders focus on the importance of character formation.
Jay Schalin has reported extensively on the prevalence of a specific form of critical theory in schools of education across the country. This theory rejects both tradition and universal truth in favor of subjective narratives, undercutting the value of cultural literacy and character. Cultural literacy becomes a “dead” tradition. Questions of character, such as what it means to treat another person justly, lose meaning when there is only “your” justice and “my” justice, but no universal principles of justice that we can discuss to frame and negotiate conflicts. …
… Character education cannot begin, much less advance, in an environment in which a principle so basic as “cheating is wrong” is without authority. Indeed, how can any robust notion of justice, such as human beings are endowed with equal rights, survive in this environment?
As the shortcomings of public approaches to alleged inquiry suggest, genuine inquiry, especially when it comes to social and moral questions, is difficult to cultivate and requires proper teacher formation.
But the problematic ideology underpinning the training, resources, and standards guiding public education is only one concern. The other is that current training programs do not promote quality teaching. For example, there is no evidence that certified teachers outperform non-certified teachers.