To the Editor:
I read with great interest “The Future of Ed. Schools: Five Lessons From Business Schools,” by Robert Maranto, Gary Ritter, and Arthur E. Levine (Commentary, Jan. 6, 2010). As someone who has received both a business degree and an education degree (from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School and Teachers College, Columbia University), I can personally attest to the chasm in rigor that exists between these two preparatory environments. Whereas my business courses were demanding, thought-provoking, theoretical, and practical, my education courses were embarrassingly easy, intellectually bankrupt, ideologically motivated, and provided little to no applied knowledge.
The authors’ call to reform education schools by, among other things, having them reorganize around “highly rigorous academic disciplines with well-established academic quality” is commendable, but misses two important points.
First, the assertion that education programs have “little to lose and much to gain by reform” is negated by the simple fact that, unlike businesses and corporations, public schools require the certification that ed. schools confer upon their graduates.
Business schools had to reform when the degrees they granted were no longer respected by the corporate world and provided no reward or added value in the hiring or salary-negotiation processes. Public schools, on the other hand, have no choice but to hire the graduates from substandard education schools. And because in most cases there is a blanket salary increase given to teachers with master’s degrees (regardless of the quality of the degree or its effect on the quality of the teacher), education schools are guaranteed a steady stream of new students year after year.
Second (and it saddens me terribly to say this), business schools will, on average, always attract more bright and ambitious students than education schools. This is because once business students graduate, they enter a field that will compensate them for their hard work and smarts, rather than through a boilerplate salary schedule that incentivizes mediocrity.
Darien High School
A version of this article appeared in the January 20, 2010 edition of Education Week as Finding Ed. School Fare ‘Intellectually Bankrupt’