Wednesday, November 07, 2007

A searing (and well-deserved) indictment of our schools of education

STOP THE PRESSES!  This is really worth reading (it's short -- I promise).
Bob Compton, Executive Producer of Two Million Minutes, the great new documentary I wrote about on Monday (, has been showing the film at a number of top graduate schools of education and sent me the email below about the kind of response he's been getting.
He captures perfectly why the great majority of these "schools" should be shut down -- they are worse than useless: not only do they add no value (every study I'm aware of shows that ed school grads do no better at educating students than other teachers), but they actually do harm by raising the cost of teachers, wasting ed school students' time and money, teaching them to pity their low-income students and view them as victims (no attitude could be more harmful to impart), and in general reinforcing closed-mindedness and idiocy.  What a pathetic collection of Mad Hatter's Tea Parties these schools are!
Lest you think I exaggerate, read this report by Arthur Levine, former President of the Columbia Teachers College: <>

Surprising, eery…and dangerous

I have been screening a rough cut of my new documentary film -- Two Million Minutes ( <> ) in several cities around the country and discussing the educational systems of India and China after each screening. Several groups have included graduate students from top Schools of Education.

Candidly, I don't think I've met a more close-minded and dogmatic bunch of people -- except maybe in a religious cult. These students seemed unable to fathom the possibility that students in other countries may be edging out those in the U.S. or that our education system might not offer the best preparation for the high-knowledge, high-wage careers of the 21st century. I kept looking around for the vat of Kool-Aid from which clearly I had not yet drank.

Unburdened by either experience in or knowledge of India and China, these future leaders of American education were able to find enormous and tragic flaws in both Indian and Chinese education -- based almost entirely on 57 minutes of film. Some went on to espouse what they viewed as compelling arguments for the current and future superiority of the Great American Education System.

This mindset of superiority and lack of curiosity about education in the two largest countries in the world is both disheartening and frightening to me.

In fact, it's eerily reminiscent of conversations I had in the 1980s with the government officials in Indiana about the State's vulnerability to the U.S. auto industry. It seemed apparent to me that the Japanese might be formidable competitors to GM, Ford and Chrysler and that thousands of Indiana jobs might be at risk. I was consistently reassured that GM would always be the largest, most profitable car company in the world. Today, Anderson, Indiana has nearly 20% unemployment and may be economically unrecoverable. And 60,000 Americans were fired from the U.S. auto industry last year -- the largest exodus from a single industry in history.

Having spent little time in the U.S. system that educates our own educators, I have been genuinely startled – not only by how uninformed some graduate education students are – but by how vigorously they try to maintain their ignorance.

This viewpoint and the refusal to even consider that U.S. schools may be falling behind is dangerous. I've spent extensive time in both India and China, visiting their schools and testing their educational systems -- as an employer. I have investments in companies which employ over 100 Indians and several dozen Chinese workers. I've gotten to know these young professionals quite well -- they are definitely not the awkward math and science nerds that US educators would have you believe. Yes, they are excellent in math and science but also well-informed in literature, history, economics, art and music. I will grant you, they are terrible at football.

Speaking from first-hand experience as an employer of knowledge workers in the US, China and India over the past decade --  our K-12 educational system is NOT preparing our students for high value careers nearly as well as the Chinese and Indian educational systems. Fundamentally, the Global Education Standards have passed us by and the US Schools of Education -- in fact the "cream of the crop" -- are woefully ignorant of this fact.  

I expected graduate students of education would have welcomed new knowledge about how our economic competitors prepare their students. I was very wrong. You have much more experience with how our teachers are taught -- am I missing something, here? Where are America's inquisitive, thoughtful, open-minded graduate students -- eager to learn how other countries educate their students?

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