Critical Issues in Democratic Schooling: Curriculum, Teaching, and Socio-Political Realities by Kenneth Teitelbaum

6. Understanding Teacher Education and Teaching

  • When folks in the media start bashing public education, it isn’t long before teacher preparation programs come under fire. These critics tend to think that teaching is easy and view K-12 teachers as having low status as teacher education programs are not very selective. This is an area Ken knows well having taught future teachers and led university programs. Like all disciplines, he believes that there is room for improvement. Like teaching, teacher preparation is a complex topic.
  • New teachers have to master the necessary content, understand child psychology and development, know learning theory, and be able to plan and execute lessons spanning the school’s curriculum. The time available during a four-year program will never produce wise veterans. It helps if new teachers are passionate about what they teach and act as model learners. They need to get to know their students and deal with varying abilities and cultural backgrounds. There are also variables that cannot be planned for, such as administrative support, funding, student and community characteristics, mandates, and degree of autonomy.

7. Globalization, Neoliberalism, and Teacher Education

  • I find the term Neoliberalism to be a bit confusing since it deals with the interests of the private sector, which doesn’t sound liberal at all. Check the Wikipedia page on the topic if you aren’t familiar with it. Ken feels that it is important for schools to deal with these topics along with global connectivity, automation, artificial intelligence, and the effects of globalization, all of which can be disruptive.
  • In addition to schools, teacher education needs to deal with these trends as they impact critical social and environmental problems. The entire profession needs to appraise its involvement in advancing democratic and social justice principles and practices. There should be a focus on listening and learning from people who represent varied communities.

8. The Work of Education Deans Amidst Recent State Policy Changes (with Kevin R. McClure)

  • While K-12 teachers and administrators must take courses and gain certification, college professors and deans do not. This can leave them unprepared for their jobs. It seems to be worse for deans as their jobs involve much more than lecturing and have evolved recently to be more challenging. The trends have resulted in decreased funding from the state level and policies that have made the teaching profession less attractive. This has resulted in a reduction in enrollment and state support. The departmental deans, therefore, end up having to devote much time to fundraising and entrepreneurship for which they are not likely to be prepared. This means that they need to engage in creating new attractive programs, some of which are probably online, and marketing what they create. They also may end up increasing faculty workloads and facing faculty turnover. They need more professional development and support from top administration, some of whom may not be forward-thinking. Collaboration with other deans, including those from other schools, might also help.

Part II: Curriculum Studies
9. The Nature and Value of Curriculum Theorizing

  • We all have theories that help us explain the world around us. The curriculum deals with facts, skills, and dispositions, although the number of formal definitions found in the literature exceeds 100. It also deals with citizenship, culture, and politics. Ideally, its selection involves all constituencies with clear goals and outcomes. The curriculum should never be static and always open to evolution as people constantly reflect on and discuss its nature. In many places, ideological considerations join the battle from across the political spectrum. While theorizing may not sound like a practical exercise, when it comes to curriculum construction, it is a most practical endeavor.

10. Curriculum Debates

  • The curriculum is what is taught in school, formally and informally, intentionally and not. Every year it represents an ever smaller fraction of the great universe of knowledge, skills, and dispositions. If you want to add something, something else must go. As a result, contentious debates are inevitable, and it seems like everyone has an opinion about what’s wrong with schools.
  • Ken provides fifty headlines from the last twenty years that portray many of the recent arguments regarding curriculum content. He also provides some depth on five other issues, one of which is climate change. Unlike many subjects commonly taught, this is one where most teachers are unlikely to have sufficient depth of knowledge due to its complexity. There are also lots of free materials provided by organizations that are in no big hurry to go green. Schools should beware of any free materials as they may bring bias into the classroom. Other topics sure to make the curriculum seem like a battleground include religion and LBGTQ content.
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