Education Letter to the Editor

Ed. School ‘Experts’ Need K-12 Experience

December 01, 2009 1 min read

To the Editor:

Pedro A. Noguera deserves high praise for his analysis of the scapegoating of schools of education (“The New War Against Ed Schools,” Commentary, Nov. 18, 2009). It’s always easier to berate than to encourage.

With this in mind, I’d like to add a fifth suggestion to his list for improving these training institutions: Make it mandatory for all those writing about them to have taught at least three years in a public school.

It’s always struck me as bizarre that policymaking officials and the media give the weight they do to input from self-styled experts with little or no classroom experience. These people are theoreticians, and need to be regarded as such. No matter what their degrees, affiliations, or publications, they cannot possibly understand the challenges confronting K-12 classroom teachers on a daily basis. I maintain that they would not last a week in an inner-city school, despite their titles.

Respect for the job that teachers are asked to do will come only after critics spend sufficient time in public school classrooms. They need to follow the example of Barbara Ehrenreich, the author of Nickel and Dimed. To write credibly about the plight of minimum-wage workers, she lived as one for months. The result was a book that did more to open the eyes of the public than a dozen studies by academics. I submit that teaching today is no less worthy of this approach.

Walt Gardner

Los Angeles, Calif.

A version of this article appeared in the December 02, 2009 edition of Education Week as Ed. School ‘Experts’ Need K-12 Experience