by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Robert Pondiscio writes for Commentary about the problems plaguing American teacher education.
When you hit your knees tonight, thank the God to whom you pray that we don’t train air-traffic controllers the way we train teachers, or turn their first years on the job into a perverse hazing ritual at the expense of the innocent. “What? You think you’re the first person to run a plane into a mountain?” disdainful veterans would tell tearful rookies in the staff lounge of the control tower, spinning tales of their own early, fatal mishaps. “Don’t worry, you’ll learn. Look, no one can do this job straight from college.”
Not that anyone tried to prepare them. If air-traffic-control school looked like ed school, course readings and class discussions would dwell on the structural inequities of air travel. If you were an air-traffic-control student, you’d write papers about the lingering effects of colonialism on state-run airlines. The point of your degree program wouldn’t be vocational training but the development of your personal philosophy of transportation. Everything else you’d learn on the job once you became licensed. What’s important, you see, is that you view the profession “through a critical lens” and demonstrate your commitment to social justice. “Aero Mexico, you’re cleared for takeoff. American? Circle the field and reflect on your privilege. At this airport, we land planes for equity.”
In too many ed schools, would-be teachers feel as if they’re attending elementary school, not preparing to teach it. In a 2022 Wall Street Journal op-ed, a teacher named Daniel Buck described making Black Lives Matter friendship bracelets, attending classes that sound like group-therapy sessions, and completing assignments—in graduate school—consisting of acrostic poems and rap videos. This is not a recent phenomenon. I still have the vocabulary picture book that I made in ed school 20 years ago of out construction paper, glue, and pictures clipped from magazines. I got an A each time I submitted it. In three different classes.