Lasting Education Reform Will Require Empowering Tradition-Minded Professors and Institutions

Tradition-minded education reformers who wish to pass on to our children attachment to the ideals and institutions of the American republic and nation need to create new programs and schools independent of the existing far-left monoculture in academia. One way to go about this is to build up a network of autonomous Centers, such as ones established in states like Arizona, Florida, and Ohio. Another way is to set up an equally autonomous School of General Studies, responsible for teaching all courses that qualify for General Education Requirements. Any initiative should work to train an ever-increasing number of tradition-minded professors so as to staff existing Centers and Schools and be ready to staff new ones.

Building up a corps of tradition-minded professors in the humanities and social sciences who can teach the history and the ideals of Western civilization and of America must be priority number one. The far-left education establishment has pushed dissenters out of academia for generations, and America—the entire West—is desperately short of such professors. We need more tradition-minded students and more tradition-minded K-12 teachers, but our worst bottleneck is the lack of professors. We must produce as many as possible, as quickly as possible.

Graduate students generally spend at least five years in their studies and must conduct substantial amounts of original research. In most of the humanities and social sciences, this research takes the form of a dissertation—most of the material needed for a book. Graduate students generally forego substantial amounts of income—indeed, they postpone the actual start of their careers. Nevertheless, universities have to subsidize PhD students—it can take $250,000 to support one student for five years of study.

Ever fewer PhDs actually get tenure-track jobs. Nevertheless, although large numbers of undergraduate teaching positions are filled by graduate students or adjunct PhDs scrambling to secure a living wage, the expectation remains—although less in the sciences—that tenure-track professors do the undergraduate teaching. Each university PhD requires a substantial investment of time and money, both by the institution and by the PhD aspirant. Professors are the bottleneck in education reform because they are so expensive and time-consuming to produce.

Tradition-minded professors are even scarcer than professors in general. The way academia is now structured, we require tradition-minded young Americans to spend five-plus years acquiring a PhD, unlikely to get university support during their education or to secure a job after graduation unless they hide their beliefs. Few engage in that gamble. Indeed, there are so few left that even the handful of new Centers have trouble finding enough tradition-minded professors to staff them.

If these scarce tradition-minded professors do get jobs at a tradition-minded institution, we must decide how to allot their teaching assignments. We must make intelligent choices about how to use the few existing tradition-minded PhDs to accomplish the goal of lasting education reform.

The most effective use of their time would be to focus on graduate education—above all, to train the aspiring PhDs, but also to train the MAs who will become K-12 teachers and principals. But these professors must also devote considerable time to undergraduate education. Undergraduates ought to have an education free of the radical monoculture—and we need a supply of properly educated undergraduates to provide an intake of new tradition-minded aspirants to graduate education. Even though it is a very inefficient use of our terribly scarce PhDs, we need to divert them from graduate education to undergraduate education.

Or so we must do under the current university system, which restricts undergraduate teaching to professors and to graduate students aiming for the PhD. Tradition-minded education reformers need to break out of that system. We need a reform that will allow our few tradition-minded PhDs to focus on graduate education, so as to increase the number of tradition-minded professors as rapidly as possible.

I’ve written elsewhere that academia generally should adopt the PhD by publication—the PhD for a series of published articles rather than a dissertation. The corollary to this reform should be:

Colleges and universities should revise requirements so that the MA and one published article qualifies to teach introductory courses and an additional 2 articles qualifies to teach advanced undergraduate courses. The full PhD, which could be satisfied by 3 further articles, would qualify to teach capstone undergraduate seminars and graduate courses.

All academia would benefit from this, but this reform is essential for tradition-minded institutes that wish to build up the supply of tradition-minded professors. Tradition-minded PhDs could focus on the essential task of graduate education. They also should continue the tradition of academic research, but for at least one generation their own focus must be the training of new colleagues. Tradition-minded graduate students would secure a desirable job teaching undergraduates with less investment of time—and with less investment per student by their sponsoring institutions. With the security of a full-time income, teaching MAs could then proceed gradually to a—better paid—PhD along the PhD by publication track if they so desired. Tradition-minded undergraduates would get a better education from dedicated, career MA teachers than they would from graduate assistants—and probably as good a one as they would get from PhDs.

Say that Ohio State University’s new Salmon P. Chase Center for Civics, Culture, and Society hires five professors to teach classes and offers a PhD by publication track that begins with the immediate option of an MA and one published article leading to the ability to teach undergraduate courses at the Chase Center. In the first few years, the five professors would teach a mixture of undergraduate and graduate classes. But, after three to four years, the first graduating MAs with published articles would be available to start teaching undergraduate classes. The Chase Center’s professors with PhDs would then be able to switch their focus more to teaching graduate classes—to training PhDs both for the Chase Center and for other new institutions.

The new Centers should prioritize ensuring that the articles that qualify for a PhD are of high quality so that they can plausibly argue that one excellent article matters more than a mediocre dissertation. If the Centers also ensure that their graduates are excellent teachers of undergraduates, that teaching excellence will more than answer critiques of any Center’s research reputation.

The switch to PhD by publication and MA-teaching-undergraduates is essential for these new Centers to have the greatest possible effect. This reform will allow these Centers to focus on the highest priority—to educate swiftly a new generation of tradition-minded PhDs and professors.

Photo by StockPhotoPro — Adobe Stock — Asset ID#: 415748305


2 thoughts on “Lasting Education Reform Will Require Empowering Tradition-Minded Professors and Institutions

  1. If that’s Mark Levin who is pictured — it looks like him — he has a BA and a JD.

    This is a different issue — if out of discipline doctorates should be considered relevant and I argue they should be. For example, one of the best persons I know in the field of K-12 has a doctorate in economics.

    That said, I still maintain that K-12 teachers and principals (and superintendents) need a grad degree in Education, much as surgeons need to be board certified in surgery and not just MDs.

  2. “but also to train the MAs who will become K-12 teachers and principals.”


    As bad as the Schools of Education are, you need your K-12 teachers and principals to have MEds and not MAs. This may not have been true in 1924 but it is today and there are three basic reasons.

    First, there is a lot of education “stuff” that a principal absolutely has to know and which a classroom teacher ought to. We can start with SPED (Special Education) and the FAPE (Free & Appropriate Public Education) mandate. You have to know what an IEP (Individualized Education Plan) is and what not to agree to. You have to deal with discipline and things that no college professor ever would have to, such as children bringing a gun into your classroom. You have to know what to put in (and not put in) a 51A (mandated report to child protective) and how to deal with parents, who may not be sober on “back to school night.”

    There is a LOT more and it isn’t really being taught well, but it can’t be abandoned.
    And if you want to get into superintendents, there is all of the

    Second, principals (and preferably, teachers) need to know something about pedagogy, teaching, and assessment. The problem is that most don’t and hence we’ve abandoned these important things to the Never Educate Anyone (the teacher’s union — the NEA).

    It helps to know about the NAEP (National Assessment of Education Progress, aka “the nation’s report card) and how to understand the bureaucratic language of the education field. None of this is taught in a MA program.

    And third, the MA is not an appropriate degree for either the classroom teacher who is teaching a broad spectrum or a principal who is evaluating/assisting other teachers who aren’t even in the subjects he’s certified to teach. A MA is an inherently narrow degree and a few hypothetical examples, drawn from the subjects I am certified to teach (Social Studies and English).

    Suzie gets a MA in English — she studied Shakespeare. And if she’s lucky, she will be able to teach ONE play to SOME of her classes. She’ll also have to teach grammar, writing, and several other completely unrelated books. Kenny gets a MA in History — he studied the Korean War. He might be able to spend a few days on that in one of his classes (US History) but he’s also teaching World History, Civics, and possibly Economics.

    And a MA really won’t help Billie the Biology teacher or Matt the Math teacher — if anything, they’d get MS degrees.

    And then Phil the Principal has to evaluate Suzie, Kenny, Billie, and Matt — and he really needs to know how to do so. (Most principals don’t, and that’s how we wind up with incompetent teachers.)

    No, Massachusetts got this one right — you want your teachers to have an undergraduate major in the subject(s) they are teaching, and then graduate degrees in EDUCATION to teach them things like teaching methods, classroom management and school law.

    The three differences between K-12 and higher education are (a) the students have to be there (and many don’t want to be), (b) you have to teach everyone, and (c) you have to teach a whole bunch of different subjects, not just a small aspect of one.

    It’s even worse than that — with “heterogeneous grouping” (mixed ability grouping) you can literally have a student who can argue either side of Lincoln’s suspension of the writ of habeas corpus in Maryland sitting next to a student who is fascinated to learn that Lincoln is the man on the penny.

    Higher education has admissions standards (OK, theoretically) and prerequisites. K-12 doesn’t — can’t because of the FAPE mandate. This is why the things that (are supposed to be) taught in the MEd and EdD curriculum are so important. Massachusetts got this one right — an undergraduate major in the subject to be taught, and then a MEd in how to teach it.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *