NPR is having a state education fest here in Michigan, and I havre been painfully suffering the discussion. There is a teacher shortage, but no one can imagine employing the advanced degrees rather than the B. A.’s with certification, again while the people with advanced degrees cannot, and the taxpayers then must, repay their student loans.
Most of all, I am beyond sick at the discussion of how to improve education. All the answers are devoid of content: Things like “better evaluation,” “teaching how to teach,” and especially, more “hands on experience.” We want “open doors,” and “high quality teachers.” These are like the cheer-leading answers politicians give, safe because the answers lack content, and very intentionally. We want teachers to be “motivated,” “highly educated,”and “evaluated.” We want “testing,” dang-it, tougher testing.
No one ever addresses the content of the test. We do not teach government, or the American Constitution, or the writings of Franklin, Jefferson, Madison, Hamilton and Jay, the deeds of Washington, nor the history of America, in high school, but only a little in eighth grade.
In literature, we do novels. Philosophy, and probably psychology are thankfully beyond the scope of high school. But we do not want these in the teacher training programs! Imagine the principle, Vice Principal, Football coach, or Superintendent of any school in Michigan trying to spend time with Socrates, Shakespeare, Milton, Aristotle, Plutarch and Xenophon, to consider deeply the nature of the soul and the purpose of education. He would probably ruin everything when he threw the lobbyist for Ritalin out the front door!
The most important thing in the preparation of a teacher is mastery of the subject matter. These are the advanced degrees. There is no reason to think the Bachelors-degree-with-certification people know how to teach their lesser subject matter better by the learning of some art. Teaching is not wholly a technae, not entirely a technique or art, like the arts involved in the trades. It is admittedly another step to learn to communicate and cultivate the knowledge gained by the intense study of a subject to which one devotes ones life and soul. Those who have set aside the advanced degrees for the cushy teaching Job are from the start prevented from becoming true educators. And it is of course well known that if one attains the advanced degree before being hired, the districts will not hire you. The unions make them pay more, and the advantage in teaching ability is not seen by those who have never done this- namely the administrators, parents and school boards. To repeat, it has been well known for some time that the teachers unions work to exclude the advanced degrees, while the education departments and the administrators go along with this farce. The people do not notice, and would hit the roof if this were known. The teachers just accept that that is the way it is, and try first to gain a job before going for advanced degrees to improve their own pay.
Another day of NPR on teaching has gone by, and today was to be content day. I waited in great anticipation while they played the preview, about how we would not just send a pilot up in the sky with no training and say he would learn in the “school of hard knocks” Finally, they would compare teaching to an art, and show the study of the soul and cognition required to understand how souls that once did not know come to know! Surely someone would mention the teaching of Socrates in Plato’s Republic that compares the journey of education to the ascent of prisoners from a cave where they were shackled to viewing the shadows of artificial beings that are like the true beings and their reflections seen first reflected in what is like a pool outside.
I admit I was fading in and out, reading a book about Bob Dylan. But it was a good thing I had been watching Iggy videos earlier, trying to get the “Louie Louie” he did in Europe to come up. It’s good because, when the woman being interviewed came to the place where it was time to address the content or how to improve education, she arrived at the revelation, which is no doubt the first principle of the program at Eastern Michigan, and the main thing this discipline called “Education” has to say about the content of education:
Each has his own idea of how to improve education
I knew it! they would leave the content vacuous! See the benefit of education, in knowing which of the shadows are likely to be paraded by next!
Has it not occurred to them that that is what all the others, who have been indoctrinated in this “education” program, also say? They are, then, looking around to one another, who are also looking around to one another, because none have ever seriously considered the question of what education is.
Take this for my opinion, the saying of this one of the each, though what is here is the same thing that is said at many of the great liberal arts colleges, like Saint John’s. And this will be understood at Hillsdale, if not at Albion or anywhere else, not to mention Eastern Michigan:
The equivalent of a pilot’s certificate is the advanced degree, called masters, as in the trades, and PhD. As in the trades, a journeyman who also studies sensitivity, avoiding lawsuits and evaluation techniques is not necessarily better qualified than a master to teach those setting off to become masters, nor to teach who just need enough plumbing or carpentry to get by.
Second, we are failing to cultivate the liberal arts. In high school, as has been said, psychology and philosophy can only be studied in the most brief and introductory way, to prepare for college courses. But Drama can be done, as well as Music, Government, History, and certain books, Homer, Hesiod, Herodotus, Plutarch, Shakespeare in literature classes, and many other things, in addition to the Physics, Biology, Chemistry, Astronomy, Algebra, Geometry, trigonometry, Calculus, that we, with our emphasis on sciences, take most seriously.
Many students too should like to learn trades, and go to work. Some too might prepare to be soldiers. All should, of course, practice gadgets nowadays, and know how to run a business, even. But these are not liberal arts. Nor is trade school the same as education. Both our President and Governor have only been able to answer that the goal of education is to promote jobs and technology, and this has been the answer of our nation since Kennedy found out that in the quest for space we were losing ground to the Russians.
Liberal arts are practiced for their own sake and not for moneymaking, and so are different from the professions and the trades. If the liberal arts, the things worthy of study for their own sake, are set at the top of education, then the citizens will know what to do with their leisure time, and will not destroy their happiness with endless pursuits to fill the void in the human soul left by our modern world. They will know a good movie when they see one, and have a better chance at happy marriages.
And my students would not come out of gym class knowing kickball but not CPR, to save the lives of their fellow citizens.
And “we want more pay and prestige for teachers,” dang-it, and “when I’m at a party, I just do not get the prestige of those who answer ‘So, what do you do’ with “‘ am a lawyer; or ‘CEO.’ Surely that is a central thing to mention when considering how to improve education. Can you even tell when I am serious and when sarcastic?
Above all, what we do not want is to read books, great books, of great minds that can help cultivate our souls. This is the one thing no one will say, and why I revert to writing on music and watching Iggy when it comes to discussions of education. But it is by associating with the best that we ourselves become better. That is why we focus centrally on the twelve or so of the greatest minds, and others that point toward or help to understand these.
But reading books is out of fashion in education these days, having lost our to multicultural studies in the past two decades. The people I am addressing were educated in these ways. They are open to African and women’s studies, so long as these are not taught by a white male, because we understand equality so well that we do not even need to read the Constitution and Jefferson.
One wonders if a charter could be gained by a university to stock a high school with graduates of one of these great books education programs. The university would be set with philosophy, politics, literature and psychology/theology at its pinnacle, and maybe history and music, in four or five four year majors. Below this would be broader programs that aim at the trades: Law, medicine, education, and journalism. The professions are practical applications of the higher, human, sciences. Below this, in the high school, we would study the modern trivium and quadrivium. The seven studies used to be logic, grammar, rhetoric, and mathematics, geometry, astronomy, stereometry and music, or something like that. We would study grammar and rhetoric in English class, and maybe leave logic for the college kids. A beginning might also be made in Greek and Hebrew, and other elected languages, to be filled out upon reading the original texts in the graduate college.
But there you have it: How I would improve education. The college would provide teachers for the High school, the graduate school for the undergrad. The High school and professional schools would provide a broad base of financial support for the theoretical studies. The studies could be extended into elementary school, so that when Socrates gives a brilliant teaching, as that about a breeze bringing in fine things from fine places far away, in Book 3 or 4 of the Republic, the teaching would be able to filter all the way to those that select the curriculum for the Kindergartners.
Philosophy would not be of the modern sort, dominated by the attempts to imitate the physical sciences, as this has proven a dangerous failure. Pre-Nazi Germany was one of the “best educated” of all societies, in anatomy, sociology and nihilistic sciences that lead to tyranny. Our education would be governed with Socrates as philosopher king, and we would be hard pressed to finish the human studies in the works of Plato and Aristotle, though we would follow the course of the history of thought in each of these disciplines. Shakespeare would govern Literature, with Homer and others; Jefferson and Lincoln in politics, Jung in psychology, and so on for the disciplines. Teachers and students alike might compete to have essays among the secondary sources and to contribute their legacy to the university.
Hillsdale does have a charter school, and one suggestion would be for the Governor to look to this program in considering how to improve public education. But I am afraid he has no ground other than the “Education,” programs which for the most part lack content, and have informed the NPR discussion of education, leaving everyone looking to everyone else for the content of the answer to how to improve education.