There is a larger assualt on education in America, perpetuated with the use of fear. I recently diaried about it here.
If diversity, democracy, and the preservation of individuality, distinctiveness, and creativity don't concern you...skip this.
What follows is a letter to the editor of my local paper...
A casual reader might finish Feller's piece and determine that the department of education at UAH is failing to develop the type of teachers Huntsville, our country, and the world need for life beyond the 21st century. This is hardly the case, as our department satisfies most of the recommendations Levine calls for, the recommendations worth following anyway.
We have a serious problem with Levine's demand that teacher college accreditation be based on student performance measured only by standardized tests, as do tens-of-thousands of professionals across the country. One problem with linking accreditation to student performance on standardized tests is that we cannot control for the years of education a child receives before taking the test or for the existential realities that child faces everyday.
For example, if I am a 9th grade teacher and a child fails the standardized test at the end of the year, can I attribute any of that failure to the education that child received in grades K-8, or must I be a super teacher and undo any and all damage done before that child entered my class?
If a child's parents get divorced, or a child's parents beat him, or a child gets ill and misses a month of class and does poorly on the standardized tests, is that also the fault of a teacher, or a teacher's teachers? If a child's parent is called to defend this country, and God forbid dies doing so, am I to assume that such an event will have no impact on that child's performance on a test?
Are teacher's colleges now tasked with undoing the effects of poverty, which hinder the learning, growth, and performance of 1 out of 5 children living in this country? While we firmly believe all children can learn, common sense, classroom experience, and years of study dictate all children learn in different ways and at different paces. To desire otherwise is to desire a nation of clones.
Citizens concerned about education might do the country a favor and ask about the dangers to democracy inherent in making every child think the same thing at the same time and then testing them repeatedly to make sure there is no deviation.
Finally, Levine's demand that only "elite" universities be allowed to teach teachers betrays an Ivy-League fundamentalism and a dangerous standardization that threatens the very core of the United States of America. At one point in time this country valued nuance, diversity, creativity, and individual approaches to complex problems.
I cannot help but feel the citizens of Huntsville, and most citizens of this country, value the freedom to solve local problems on their own. I therefore ask all readers to consider how turning control of education, whether it be the training of teachers or the standardization of our schools, over to a "chosen few" undermines the distinctiveness and diversity that makes this country great.
We believe that the scholars in our department, indeed at our university, are capable of handling multiple problems creatively and professionally, without having their hands held by benevolent elites. Should your readers doubt this, I invite them to come sit in on a class or to shadow me as I work with aspiring new teachers.
Thank you for your time,
Dr. Philip Kovacs
Department of Education
University of Alabama, Huntsville