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The Trouble with Ed Schools

The Trouble with Ed Schools

David F. Labaree
Copyright Date: 2004
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 256
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  • Book Info
    The Trouble with Ed Schools
    Book Description:

    American schools of education get little respect. They are portrayed as intellectual wastelands, as impractical and irrelevant, as the root cause of bad teaching and inadequate learning. In this book a sociologist and historian of education examines the historical developments and contemporary factors that have resulted in the unenviable status of ed schools, offering valuable insights into the problems of these beleaguered institutions.David F. Labaree explains how the poor reputation of the ed school has had important repercussions, shaping the quality of its programs, its recruitment, and the public response to the knowledge it offers. He notes the special problems faced by ed schools as they prepare teachers and produce research and researchers. And he looks at the consequences of the ed school's attachment to educational progressivism. Throughout these discussions, Labaree maintains an ambivalent position about education schools-admiring their dedication and critiquing their mediocrity, their romantic rhetoric, and their compliant attitudes.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-12881-9
    Subjects: Education

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Chapter 1 Introduction: The Lowly Status of the Ed School
    (pp. 1-16)

    On Sunday, February 16, 2003, theDetroit Newsprinted a long story in the first section with the title “He Has $300 Million for Detroit: Bob Thompson Challenges the Establishment by Exhausting Fortune to Build Schools.” It tells about a man who made a fortune building his own asphalt paving company, sold the business, and retired. “Now Thompson plans to spend almost all of his remaining $300 million on a blunt challenge to educators. Open a Detroit charter high school, graduate 90 percent of the students, send them to college or other training, and he’ll give you a new building...

  5. Chapter 2 Teacher Ed in the Past: The Roots of Its Lowly Status
    (pp. 17-38)

    The roots of the American education school are in teacher education.¹ Preparing teachers was the ed school’s original function, and this function has continued to the present day as the primary focus of its institutional effort and its primary identity in the eyes of the public. In this chapter, I examine the historical roots of teacher education’s lowly status. There are already a number of good general accounts of the history of teacher education,² so I don’t intend to repeat that history here. Instead, I focus on the way this history brought about many of the status problems that currently...

  6. Chapter 3 Teacher Ed in the Present: The Peculiar Problems of Preparing Teachers
    (pp. 39-61)

    The problems that afflict teacher education are not only the result of a history of being battered by market forces but also the result of the peculiar nature of the task itself.¹ Preparing teachers, it turns out, is extraordinarily demanding, in large part because of the complexities of teaching itself as a form of professional practice. The core problem is this: Teaching is an enormously difficult job that looks easy.

    Both parts of this proposition have caused severe difficulties for teacher education. The sheer complexity and irreducible uncertainty surrounding teaching as a practice have made it unusually difficult for education...

  7. Chapter 4 The Peculiar Problems of Doing Educational Research
    (pp. 62-82)

    If preparing teachers is a difficult role for the ed school to play, so is the work of carrying out educational research.¹ Researchers in the ed school, it turns out, are compelled to work a distinctive vein of knowledge, which exerts a powerful impact on the kind of research they produce, on the way they produce it, and on the credibility and prestige of their work. Note that the focus in this chapter is on the scholarly work generated by educational researchers, as distinct from the knowledge about teaching practice that experienced teachers have and that ed schools may or...

  8. Chapter 5 The Peculiar Problems of Preparing Educational Researchers
    (pp. 83-108)

    Ed schools are not only responsible for preparing teachers and producing educational research; they also have to prepare future researchers.¹ Like the other two roles they are required to play, preparing researchers is fraught with special difficulties. In this chapter, I explore these difficulties, with particular attention to the work of doctoral programs in ed schools that aim to turn experienced educational practitioners into accomplished educational scholars.

    Two issues that are peculiar to the ed school frame this discussion of the problems it faces in preparing researchers. Both were examined in earlier chapters. One issue is the lowly status of...

  9. Chapter 6 Status Dilemmas of Education Professors
    (pp. 109-128)

    The analysis thus far has provided an outline of the structural situation that the ed school occupies, including both the social demands placed on it and the social scorn it wins both for meeting and failing to meet these demands.¹ This is helpful in giving a sense of the possibilities and limitations that confront this institution, the responsibilities it bears, and the incentives and disincentives that shape its behavior. But all of these structural elements do not constitute the ed school; they only define the framework within which it functions. To understand what this institution does and why, we need...

  10. Chapter 7 The Ed School’s Romance with Progressivism
    (pp. 129-169)

    Education professors are in a bad spot, but we are not without resources.¹ True, we have a tough job (as teacher educators, researchers, and educators of researchers), we don’t have a lot of professional or academic credibility, and we don’t get much respect. But we do have a vision. Most of us are convinced that we know what is wrong with education and how to fix it, and we are eager to make our case to all of the parties who shape the schools: teachers, administrators, parents, policymakers, lawmakers, curriculum developers, textbook writers, test designers, and the media. The vision...

  11. Chapter 8 The Trouble with Ed Schools: Little Harm, Little Help
    (pp. 170-208)

    Education schools are the objects of attack from all quarters.¹ Everyone likes to pick on them: teachers, administrators, policymakers, education bureaucrats, conservatives, liberals, academics in the disciplines, and even their own faculty and students. And as you, the reader, have seen, this book is no exception. Apparently, finding something good to say about this institution is difficult even for someone like me, who has been an insider to the ed school for many years and is deeply involved (perhaps I should say implicated) in its programs and research efforts. But just because it is difficult to say good things about...

  12. Notes
    (pp. 209-222)
  13. References
    (pp. 223-233)
  14. Index
    (pp. 234-245)