Who Will TEACH?
Plain Truth Magazine
February 1969
Volume: Vol XXXIV, No.2
QR Code
Who Will TEACH?
Vern L Farrow  

Colleges are plunging deeper into the quagmire of confusion, revolt and anti-intellectualism. But the turmoil on campuses is only the visible tip of the iceberg. Unseen is the massive subsurface impact on society that today's students will have as they enter a variety of influential careers. Thousands will become school teachers. But will they be qualified to teach your children?

   "LET'S ASSESS the current teacher education scene," writes Arthur Pearl, professor of Education at the University of Oregon. "No matter what perspective we view it from, what we see points to one... conclusion we are failing miserably!" (NEA Journal, May, 1968, p. 15)
   "Teacher education," flatly states another educator, "is the slum of American education!" (Phi Delta Kappan, April, 1968, p. 471)
   These indictments are electrifying almost unbelievable. Are they true?


   "We believe that the present status of the student teaching experience is so deficient as to warrant the word 'bankrupt'," says Dr. Vario of Fordham, and Dr. Perel of Wichita State University (The Clearing House, April, 1968, p. 455).
   "'The neglected colleges of education... [have been] long dismissed as pens for young girls aspiring to be teachers'... wrote British education journalist Geoffrey Wansell" (The London Times Educational Supplement, October 25, 1968).
   Failing miserably? A slum? Bankrupt? Pens for young girls? Can these men really be serious? Can they really be describing teacher education? Is the system that prepares desperately needed new teachers really in such a deplorable state?
   If so, we are in deep trouble!
   Let's take a look at some of the disturbing things educators themselves are saying about teacher preparation programs. About students who are choosing teaching as a career.
   Let's look behind the soothing platitudes of official public relations releases and the sometimes incomprehensible jargon of educational research.
   Here are the unvarnished facts.

Disagreement Uncertainty and No Consensus!

   Just what do you mean "teaching"? What do you mean "a teacher"? How do you define "teacher education"?
   These are big and crucial questions where would you go for the answers? Well, logically you would look to educators; after all, that's their business! But incredibly, in this case probably the poorest place to get these answers would be from college or university Schools of Education! That's right! Educators themselves can't seem to agree on what they are trying to do. A glimpse at some typical remarks by leading figures in the field over the past half-dozen years will demonstrate the point.
   In 1963, James B. Conant, one of the undisputed elder statesmen of American scholars, admitted that: "Professors of education have not yet discovered or agreed upon a common body of knowledge that all feel should be held by school teachers before the student takes his first full-time job" (The Education of American Teachers, p. 226).
   The next year brought the following statement: "It is not an exaggeration to say that we do not today know how to select, train for, encourage, or evaluate teacher effectiveness" (Biddle, Contemporary Research on Teacher Effectiveness, 1964, p. vi). No if's, ands, or maybe's about those statements! But, there is more.
   In 1964, John I. Goodlad, internationally known Professor of Education at UCLA, said that despite a half century of effort, "Research has not yet succeeded in differentiating the characteristics of the good teacher from those of the good person. Consequently, there are no universal criteria to guide teachers of teachers in their selection and evaluation of future teachers" (Association for Student Teaching Bulletin, #22, 1964, p. 37).
   Then, more recently, Donald M. Sharpe, Indiana State University wrote: "The fact is that we do not have an adequate body of verified principles to provide a solid base for teacher education" (The Study of Teaching, AST, 1967, p. 75).
   Again in 1967, drawing from conclusions of four major reports concerning teacher education, Henry J. Hermanowicz said: "... to put it diplomatically, each of the reports indicated concern and uncertainty with respect to what knowledge is pertinent to the professional education of teachers" (The Study of Teaching, AST, 1967, p. 6).
   "But," you may be thinking, "that was a year ago perhaps they've gotten together by now?" Sorry not a chance. Early this year, Jerome S. Bruner, one of the most respected educational psychologists in the business complained that "... the process of education goes forward today without any clearly defined or widely accepted theory of instruction. We have to make do," he chided, "on clever maxims and moralistic resolutions about what instruction is and should be" (Saturday Review, May, 1968, p. 69).
   And now, in more recent months, we find Canadian educator Denis C. Smith, Chairman of the Committee on Higher Education at the University of British Columbia expressing similar consternation. He wrote: "Obviously the quality and preparation of faculty must be of prime concern... Yet no consensus is evident from informed or uninformed opinion on the vital matter of teacher preparation in instruction" (Canadian Education and Research Digest, Sept., 1968, p. 230).
   So there you have it an almost unbelievable state of bewilderment! And we could go on citing example after example, but it would only serve to repeat what is already clear, namely that educators especially those responsible for the training of future teachers are in general disarray and confusion concerning what it is they are trying to accomplish! They cannot agree on what a teacher is or what his competencies should be!
   Now that should be rather unnerving if you are one who has complacently believed that the educational establishment knows where it is going! "But," you may ask, "they are teaching something in all those Schools of Education aren't they?" Indeed they are, so let's take a look at that for a moment.

Mimicry Mediocrity and Mickey Mouse

   Educators generally are self-conscious and defensive about their field. This is understandable since there is precious little of substance in the Education curriculum which represents any original contribution to the enlightenment of mankind.
   One senses certain desperation in the efforts of educators to mimic the research techniques of the natural sciences while riding the questionable coattails of the social sciences. Unfortunately it is a transparent endeavor to assume an unearned posture of respectability which comes off badly.
   "Education as an academic discipline has poor credentials," said James D. Koerner in his book, The Miseducation of American Teachers. "Relying on other fields, especially psychology, for its substance," he continued, "it has not yet developed a corpus [body] of knowledge and technique of sufficient scope and power to warrant the field's being given full academic status" (p. 17). That's right! Essentially all of the fundamental generalizations in the Education curriculum (for what they are worth) are drawn from the social sciences.
   And what does that leave for the educators themselves to devise? Simply a proliferation of what students have labeled "Mickey Mouse" Education courses. Harold L. Clapp of Grinnell College, Iowa, has described them as "... a dismal array of one, two, and three-hour courses in, art for the artless, biology for babes, chemistry for kiddies, math and music for moppets, along with such academic fantasies as 'Creative Experiences with Materials' Which is to say, cutting and pasting for college credit!" (Hodenfield and Stinnett, The Education of Teachers, 1961, p. 58)
   One probationary teacher in England was recently interviewed by The Times Educational Supplement. She complained bitterly that her college had graduated her completely unequipped to cope with an informal teaching situation. "What do you do with 40 children and 15 weeks?" she asked.
   No doubt Dean Dwight Allen of the University of Massachusetts Education School hit the nail on the head when he observed that: "There's just an awful lot of junk being taught in schools today!" (Saturday Review, May 18, 1968, p. 79)

Teacher Education: A Refuge for Ineptitude?

   It has been said that the teaching profession has never attracted the best intellectual raw material. Recent statements by educators and writers knowledgeable in the field make it clear that this problem exists.
   Again in his book The Miseducation of American Teachers, James Koerner wrote: "... the academic caliber of students in Education remains a problem as it always has... Education students still show up poorly on standardized tests and still impress members of the academic faculty as being among their less able students" (p. 18).
   Others have been much more specific concerning the shortcomings of teacher trainees. For example, according to recent research in mathematics achievement by Robert E. Reys, assistant professor of Education at the University of Missouri "... approximately 55 percent of the elementary [Education] majors scored below the median for eighth and ninth grade students..." His dismal conclusion was that "... the mathematics scholarship of a large percentage of elementary Education majors is unsatisfactory!" (Education Digest, Sept., 1968, pp. 45, 46)
   Likewise, a survey conducted by the National Council of Teachers of English disclosed that half of all U.S. high school English teachers today lack a college major in the field. And, as if that were not indictment enough, it was also revealed that the average elementary school teacher has spent only 8 percent of his college preparation on English (Los Angeles Times, May 20, 1968).
   In addition to these glaring deficiencies in the areas of Math and English, the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education reported equally distressing findings with regard to the Social Studies. After visiting fifty-two college and university campuses it was their clear conclusion that "... students most actively concerned about foreign policy questions, world issues, and social change are seldom involved in teacher education programs, and conversely, those who are preparing to become teachers are seldom interested in world issues, social change, and international affairs" (Taylor, Phi Delta Kappan, Dec., 1967, p. 179).
   But is the U.S. alone in these problems? Not at all. England's Professor Michael Swann recently published a devastating report revealing a serious drain of the most brilliant talent in science and technology away from teaching to be replaced by persons of more mediocre abilities. He pointed out that in the period from 1963 to 1966 the number of scientists and technologists with first class honors who chose teaching as a career fell by seven percent while those with second class honors increased four percent (The London Times Educational Supplement, September 27, 1968, p. 608).
   Echoing similar sentiments, English educator Sir Ronald Gould has also expressed concern for the declining quality of British teacher preparation. "Today," he tartly pointed out, "young people of 18 with five 0 Levels [minimum passes in academic subjects] can become teachers and can be placed fully in charge of a class." And what was his straightforward evaluation? "This is a scandal," he said, "and will be seen to be a scandal as the facts as to their inadequacy as teachers are revealed" (Bander, Looking Forward to the Seventies, 1968, p. 70).
   No, you can look the world over and you will find a general deterioration in the quality of teacher candidates and preparation and hence the quality of education.
   None of this should come as a surprise to anyone who has been following trends in teacher education for any length of time. More than a decade ago, in 1957, a "blue ribbon" Committee on Teaching drawn from the Harvard Faculty of Arts and Sciences reported grimly on the declining status of teacher candidates. They were deeply pessimistic. "The danger," they said, "is that the [teaching] profession may come to accept those [candidates] without [vocational] alternatives, literally those good for nothing else!" (Morse, Schools of Tomorrow Today, 1967, p. 170)
   The situation is not improving. In fact it seems possible that Oscar Wilde's humorous remark that, "Everyone who is incapable of learning has taken to teaching," was prophetic!

Character Crisis in Teacher Education

   And yet in the final analysis, declining scholarship and even ineptitude are not the most serious threats. They are at least forgivable perhaps even remediable. But there is a far more disturbing threat to teacher education. It is a spirit of defiant moral abandon surging through colleges and universities today a flaunting of decency and a growing tendency to reject reason in favor of violent action. That spirit is destroying CHARACTER and that includes the character of students who are preparing to teach. THEY ARE NOT IMMUNE! They are, as they say, INVOLVED!
   Look at Teacher's College, Columbia University, which only months ago was wracked almost to extinction by student rebellion. It is a recognized fountainhead of teacher education.
   The University of California at Berkeley, a veritable seething fleshpot of moral decadence, is deeply involved in the business of developing new teachers.
   And, recently, San Francisco State College, another institution which trains teachers, was CLOSED due to uncontrollable student violence!
   The list could go on and on. Let's get the significance of it all. These institutions and hundreds like them are supplying the new breed of teachers who will shape the values of the entire society through our children! Perhaps you never thought of it like that before.
   Just what kind of persons did you imagine were going into teaching today anyway? Where did you think new teachers were coming from? It seems strange, but somehow, somewhere we have come to accept an utterly unrealistic image of the school teacher as an unimpeachable paragon of virtue a special creature set apart from the evils of the world dedicated to purity, chastity, and truth intellectual, incorruptible, and utterly safe! NONSENSE! Teachers are only human beings no more nor less than the products of the education, philosophy, morality, and social customs of the day! And, this is the day of the "New Morality" and the "New Left."
   There may have been a time when convention, public expectation, and terms of employment kept teachers somewhat more circumspect than most, but that time is long past; and so, it would seem, are the moral beliefs of those earlier days.
   Let's face current conditions honestly beginning teachers and students training to become teachers are children of the "post-Berkeley" college generation. They are of the "free speech," "dirty speech," "free love," "campus riot," "pot," "speed" and "situation ethics" generation!
   They have been thoroughly indoctrinated with self-excusing Freudian psychology, with the anti-supernaturalism of evolutionary science, the amoral "New Morality" of sociology, the permissiveness of progressive education theory, and the anti-authority of contemporary religion. And, unless recent statistics are in error, all too many are at least mildly militant they sample sex, and play with "pot"!
   So, regardless of what you may want to believe, this is increasingly the educational experience which molds a vast majority of recruits to the teaching profession today!

The Fallout is Already Reaching Our Schools

   Does that sound "alarmist"? Listen to a letter recently received in the editorial offices of The PLAIN TRUTH magazine. It came from a Midwest mother of six and described the kind of insidious "fallout" we can expect.
   She wrote: "We have moved to a small college town in which the residents and, indeed the University Administration have turned their backs on unmarried students living together. This condition is puzzling and often attractive to high school students. Junior high school students speculate about whom their student teachers (from the University) are living with!"
   "Is she or isn't she?" "Does she or doesn't she?" What a shocking guessing game for children to be playing! What a wretched example to hold up before youngsters!
   You need to ask what kind of values such persons are likely to teach? What approach will they take to discipline? How will they represent responsible citizenship? What guidance are they equipped to give concerning wholesome courtship and preparation for marriage? Can you honestly believe that they will provide a model of character worthy of emulation?
   Robert Botkin, associate professor of Philosophy at East Tennessee State University raised similar questions when he asked: "Just how does the teacher build the character of his students? And where did the teacher gain some a priori [fundamental] insight into just what that character ought to be?" He then put his finger on the root of the whole problem by asking: "Must not his [the teacher's] frame of reference be his own character, and if so, what credentials may he present attesting to his authority to play God, to make students 'in his own image and likeness'?" (Educational Record, Spring, 1968, p. 191) Yes, what credentials indeed? That question should make many in the educational establishment tremble at their own awesome inadequacies!
   Of course, no responsible educator is likely to deny the importance of values. But mighty few have the courage to identify with authority what those values should be, or how they should be included in teacher training. For example, the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development agreed that: "Teacher education can and must play an important role in producing teachers with values and convictions..." But how did they suggest that this be accomplished? "College teachers," the statement continued, "should encourage students to develop their own unique values and their way of practicing them, rather than the 'right' values and the 'right' methods" (1962 Yearbook, p. 201).
   Do you get the full meaning of that? It is essentially a blanket endorsement for future teachers to "do their own thing"! Fantastic!
   But, perhaps you consider yourself very sophisticated, very chic, very cosmopolitan and tolerant. Perhaps you feel that a teacher's character and way of life are nobody's business and make no difference. If so, you're WRONG! You had better think again. A child may not learn the Three R's very well, but one thing he will learn quickly is to copy his teacher's character traits. Let's make it personal to whom are you really willing to entrust some 2,000 impressionable and formative days of your child's life? Ask it that way and it does make a difference doesn't it?
   The effects of this fallout may be subtle. A little dose may go unnoticed, but a steady accumulation day after day year after year will finally sicken and destroy the moral health of a whole generation.

No Change on the Horizon

   When you take off the rose-colored glasses and look around, all evidence confirms Dr. Arthur Pearl's words that in teacher education "... we are failing miserably!" Teacher training institutions are not holding the line they are slipping deeper into purposelessness, confusion, and compromise under the influence of the general moral decay in higher education.
   The long-range effects on society are frightening. And yet change seems hopelessly out of reach. Where on the horizon do you see the integrity, the wisdom, the courage and the authority in educational leadership to reverse the trend? The tragic answer is nowhere!
   There is no way out of the ever-tightening downward spiral, for, as professor James C. Stone observed: "Unless and until some new and now unknown force makes itself felt on higher education generally, no significant or lasting innovation can be expected in teacher education..." (Educational Leadership, Nov. 1967, p. 131).

Forecast "Super-Teachers" Coming Soon!

   Educationally, we are going down for the third time. But the forecast is good news; because whether or not man is willing to acknowledge it, that "new and now unknown force" which will reverse the trends in teacher education is just over the horizon!
   Very soon now in your lifetime, there will be worldwide agreement on what a teacher is. There will be an infallible procedure for selecting and training teachers. Everyone everywhere will honor and respect teachers and fervently seek to be instructed (Micah 4:2). And in those times just ahead, there will truly be "super-teachers" with wisdom, power and authority undreamed of (Isaiah 30:20, 21).
   But that's only part of the good news. The really big and thrilling news is that you can become a "super-teacher"! You CAN QUALIFY! Sound incredible? Well it isn't! We urge you to discover the fascinating truth about your future in our free booklet The Wonderful World Tomorrow What It Will Be Like. Write for it today and begin preparing yourself for a role in the educational program of tomorrow!

Back To Top

Plain Truth MagazineFebruary 1969Vol XXXIV, No.2