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Subject-Matter Expertise Is Not Enough

Schools of education have long been criticized for turning out teachers who are versed in pedagogy but not in subject matter ("Train Teachers in Real Subjects, Not Education Philosophies," Intellectual Takeout, May 8).  They maintain that this shortchanges students.

There is some truth to the charge.  But if it were completely so, then professors who possess expertise in their field would be highly effective in any classroom. However, we know this is not the case.  For example, lecturing, which is widely used in colleges and universities, would be a flop in K-12.

Put another way, telling is not necessarily teaching. The best schools of education - and they do exist - provide prospective teachers with practical instructional strategies.  The worst schools of education dwell on useless theories.  When I hear that a luminary in, say, government will be teaching at a college or university, I'll bet the person will be telling students about so and so.  Perhaps that constitutes instruction in the minds of some people.  But I say it is the lowest form of instruction.

It's time for schools of education to take stock of their offerings, particularly in light of the students who now populate their classes. They need to demonstrate that subject matter expertise alone is not enough for success in K-12.

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The opinions expressed in Walt Gardner's Reality Check are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.

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