Challenging the Education Monopoly

Kudos to the New York Board of Regents, for a plan to break the monopoly held in the state by education schools in the licensing of public school teachers. Under current law, all New York schoolteachers have to obtain a masters’ degree (or the equivalent in undergraduate education classes) from a state-certified Education program. The Regents propose giving alternative programs—like Teach for America—the opportunity to set up their own M.A. programs. The proposal, the New York Times notes, “could make education schools extraneous.”
The idea is the brainchild of David Steiner, formerly the dean of Education at Hunter College and now commissioner of the New York State Department of Education. Steiner has correctly observed that Education schools—the institutions best-known recently for enthusiastically measuring the “disposition” of all prospective public school teachers to promote “social justice”—seem far more interested in structuring ideologically top-heavy curricula than in providing the practical guidance (tips for engaging in effective classroom discussion, for instance) that all new public schoolteachers need.
Naturally, the proposal has met with determined resistance from denizens of the status quo. Teachers College president Susan Fuhrman fumed that the Regents’ concept would deny prospective schoolteachers access to the “explosion of new research” regarding classroom and other education issues. She hyperbolically deemed the proposal the equivalent of preparing “doctors with hands-on tools without their benefiting from medical research.”

Leave aside, for a moment, the odd nature of this claim: college and university faculty aren’t required to receive Education degrees, so on instructional issues are they, too, like doctors who haven’t benefited from “medical research”? Instead, take a look at the type of “medical research” Fuhrman’s institution is supplying.
Even as NCATE abandoned its requirement for Education schools to demand all students’ promote “social justice” as a condition for becoming schoolteachers, Teachers College has retained the criterion—despite strong pressure from FIRE. In a leap of logic, Fuhrman dismissed FIRE’s concerns by claiming that at her school, “We teach a concern for social justice, but do not legislate a vision of what social justice is.”
Really? As one FIRE commentator astutely observed, “What does it mean to teach concern for something without saying what the thing is for which you’re trying to inculcate concern? If you’re teaching students to be concerned about something, you must have identified some actual thing that is to be the object of the concern!”
And exactly who are the practitioners of this “medical research” for education that Fuhrman deemed so critical for all prospective schoolteachers? “Scholars” such as Madonna Constantine, who … conveniently … discovered a noose on her office door just as an investigation against her for plagiarism was heating up.
No single development could be healthier for the state of public education in the United States than denying institutions like Fuhrman’s monopoly status on who can and cannot become a public school teacher.


  • KC Johnson

    KC Johnson is a history professor at Brooklyn College and the City University of New York Graduate Center. He is the author, along with Stuart Taylor, of The Campus Rape Frenzy: The Attack on Due Process at America's Universities.

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