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Posted March 15, 2013 | comments Leave a comment

Reader commentary: Eliminate schools of education - then what?

By Patterson B. Biggs

I believe everybody is entitled to an opinion, but Walter E. Williams' editorial in the March 12 issue of the Northern Virginia Daily titled "U.S. colleges should cut schools of education" is one opinion I trust is NOT shared by most of his readers.

OK, Mr. Williams, you are correct, some teachers fail the national and state teacher certification tests on the first, second or perhaps the third time. Does your profession have licensing requirements and if so, did you and all those who took it pass the first time?

If you are a practicing lawyer, surely you know all aspiring lawyers do not pass the bar exam on the first attempt. Why not call for elimination of law schools? A truck driver may not pass a commercial drivers license the first time around. A Realtor may not pass the Realtor exam without several attempts. A registered nurse may need more than one try at nursing exam.

A medical doctor, a pharmacist, a building contractor, a TSA agent, a policeman and well, most professions have certification/licensing tests that must be passed before beginning a career.

The important thing is how well we perform on the job or in our chosen profession, not whether the exam was passed the first time. If the exam is too easy, not challenging or needs to be changed, change it. If the textbooks contribute to ineptitude, write a better one.

Our education system is full of intelligent, well-qualified, dedicated, conscientious and self-motivated teachers who succeed in the classroom against the odds. And yes, like all professions, some bad apples reside in the mix. Our classrooms have excellent teachers who may have needed more than one chance at success.

Mr. Williams, as professor of economics at a major university, you may have first-hand information that "American education is in a sorry state of affairs," but why not offer constructive ideas, suggestions or ways to improve the sorry state of affairs? Suggesting we eliminate schools of education is like throwing the baby out with the bath water. Systemic change is required to improve our education across all subject areas. Perhaps schools of education might be just the place to start the systemic change.

I am retired now after 30 years in professional education and public school teaching. In May, my son will complete the requirements for a master's degree in education and begin the third generation in our family to become a teacher. I am proud of his commitment, focus and passion and his choice of profession. He may or may not pass the test on his first try, but he will pass it and become another great teacher. And Mr. Williams, he will succeed in spite of your thoughtless claim that he and his colleagues are slum school graduates.

Here's a question for you Mr. Williams. If you become the college president tomorrow, how quickly would George Mason University lose its "slum" School of Education, and then what?

Patterson B. Biggs is a lifelong Front Royal resident. He taught science in the public schools of Warren and Rappahannock County for 25 years, was a NASA aerospace education specialist for 20 years conducting teacher training and student programs. There are five ­- soon to be six - former and current public school teachers in his family.


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