Education's intellectual death spiral?
I have found a new blog, via Grizzly Mama, that shall become a regular read, I think: Project Education Renovation. All of two posts old, Cubed's blog is off to a very good and thoughtful start. April 7 poses an interesting question:
How did our educational system go into an intellectual death spiral?
There are enough answers to that question to keep a blog going for years, I think. In response to a commenter, Cubed notes,
Our teachers have been brainwashed into the utterly absurd notion that they must "teach the child, not the subject."

Without a subject, there is nothing to "teach the child."
How true. Seeking a degree in both Education and Liberal Arts at the University of Kansas I ran into a bit of a paradox that I had not anticipated. My first love was German. I toyed with a linguistics major, but did not know what on earth I would do with it. I pondered earning my doctorate in German and wiling away my life as an eternal student of German literature, philosophy and language. That was attractive...and I still toy with the idea of at least returning for my master's now and again. But in the end, I decided to teach.

Now for the problem. To earn a degree in Germanic Languages and Literatures, I had certain coursework I had to take. I tested out of most of the requirements which allowed me to pursue the higher level courses that I desired. I loved the work, was president of the German club, earned every German related scholarship I applied for, including one to study in Kiel for a year, and graduated with highest distinction. My honor's thesis was even written and defended in German.

Over in the School of Ed, however, this was not such a good thing. There, German was merely my "concentration." And it seems I was at risk of having too many hours in my concentration. Does this mean you can be overqualified to teach a subject area?

I agree that methodology is important. But you have to start with something to teach. And to put ridiculous restrictions on the number of hours a prospective teacher can take in their area of concentration so that methods courses account for as much of the degree requirements as content leaves me wondering at exactly what it is we desire of our students.

It reminds me of a savory little tidbit in the UN report (pdf) on the German education system (91e):
[It is recommended] That, working in association with universities and teacher-training colleges, the accent should be placed on educational theory, in particular, on methods of teaching human rights, rather than on specific subject areas...
Perhaps the US is a little ahead in this goal, and hence a little behind in actually teaching much of anything in our schools.

Update: Thanks to Go Big Ed for the reminder, but some of these goals have been formalized through the International Baccalaureate (pdf) program offered at some schools. Note the emphasis on the "beliefs and values" of the IB program, which predominantly appears to focus on aligning the curriculum with UN goals. Now that Nebraska has its first school offering this, I may comment further later.

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