Arne Duncan, the secretary of education, recently called for sweeping changes to the way we select and train teachers. He’s right. If we really want good schools, we need to create a critical mass of great teachers. And if we want smart, passionate people to become these great educators, we have to attract them with excellent programs and train them properly in the substance and practice of teaching.
Our best universities have, paradoxically, typically looked down their noses at education, as if it were intellectually inferior. The result is that the strongest students are often in colleges that have no interest in education, while the most inspiring professors aren’t working with students who want to teach. This means that comparatively weaker students in less intellectually rigorous programs are the ones preparing to become teachers.
So the first step is to get the best colleges to throw themselves into the fray. If education was a good enough topic for Plato, John Dewey and William James, it should be good enough for 21st-century college professors.
These new teacher programs should be selective, requiring a 3.5 undergraduate grade point average and an intensive application process. But they should also be free of charge, and admission should include a stipend for the first three years of teaching in a public school...
To fix our schools, we need teaching programs that are as rich in resources, interesting, high-reaching and thoughtful as the young people we want to attract to the profession. Show me a school where teachers are smart, well-educated, skilled and happy to be there, and I’ll show you a group of children who are getting a good education.