RALPH WILTSE: Teacher education needs reform

May 26, 2011


I do have something to say about teacher education. A secondary education student should have a major and a minor. The minor should be in a related subject to the major. However, one should only be able to teach in one’s major.

I personally have been retired from teaching for 17 years. I’d hate to get back into it now, mostly because I only have vague ideas about the use of modern technology. I wouldn’t know how to use it effectively.

Technology used to be used in the sciences only; now it is widely used in all disciplines. Moreover, that technology is drastically and critically changing every five or so years. That is the biggest danger of tenure. Therefore, there should exist college programs that exhibit the use of that technology, and secondary teachers should be able to demonstrate that they can use it or receive training in it.

This training can easily be administered by local colleges or junior colleges, and could be readily available. Then a teacher could take such training every five or seven years and not be hampered by long distance travel. Moreover, this training should be administered by a person in the teacher’s major and not by the department of education.

I have something to say about teacher evaluations, too. When I was at Grand Valley, our departments relied heavily on student evaluations. This leads to grade inflation; for if you assured a student of a reasonable grade, the better the evaluation: a “you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours” situation. 

Also, it would really grind me that some professors had big pizza parties in class about a week before the evaluations were to be made. In other words, teacher evaluations made by students make the teaching profession one big popularity contest. Teachers become popular for all of the wrong reasons.  The teaching profession becomes a “Dancing with the Stars” or/and “American Idol” show.

Instead, a panel of experts or peers in the field of the teacher’s major (again, keep it out of the hands of the education people) should do the evaluation by observing the teaching techniques and results of the teacher to be evaluated.

There is one problem that Gov. Snyder does not address in his reform speech: that is the student. Students frequently have the “lead the horse to water” syndrome. It’s a cultural problem, which I don’t know how to overcome. 

Students have “The American Dream” drilled into them from Day 1. They want a degree and a $60,000-a-year job, and they want it right now. They don’t want to learn. This hard work for 4-8 years does not appeal to them.

We live in a “Disney World.” They think they should be able to go, pay their fee and be entertained.

One of the questions that I hated to get was, “What good is this stuff? How does it apply to my economics major?” My standard answer was that perhaps the subject at hand has no direct application to economics, but that is not why you are here. You are here to learn to think, to be educated and become sophisticated.

The truly motivated student can and does get an education, proving that we do have the world’s best education available. The truly motivated realize that history, English and mathematics are relevant — even though they can’t immediately apply it to their discipline so they work at it and accomplish a great deal. The real problem is to get students to overcome this “American Dream” fantasy and to really realize what an education is all about.

— By Ralph Wiltse, community columnist



Recent studies suggest that the typical U.S. pupil doesn’t know much about U.S. history. The Department of Education recently discovered in its assessment of public school students that more 4th grade students were proficient in U.S. history than high school seniors. I read this here: Most American students not proficient in American history


We don't need teacher or classroom reform. We have been trying that for years no. Lets get parent reform. Lets get a November ballot proposal going that mandates 5 weeks off for every worker under 40 and 12 twelve weeks off for every worker over 40. This way parents can have time to help teach their kids and grand-parents can jump in also to teach grand kids. This will help the teachers in classroom and make their jobs less burdensome so now your kids can blow away the ACT test and go to college on achievement scholarship and feel good about themselves. We as a nation can rise to the top again. Less health problems with the above plan. Lets just make sure the language will stand up in court because you know the industrial complex will mount an all out assault on how stupid this plan is. The add will be awful. European Union does this - and they are healthier - eat the same junk food we do and live longer. Kids are happier. So what are we waiting for ?


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