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Rethinking Teacher Education In The 21 St Century

7553 words - 30 pages

Rethinking Teacher Education in the 21 st Century: Putting Teaching Front and Center

Rethinking Teacher Education in the 21 st Century:�Putting Teaching Front and Center

In most higher�education�institutions today, teacher�education�remains uncomfortably situated. It is too often an embarrassing subject of academic discourse, reflecting unresolved dilemmas about its intellectual stature. Although colleges of�education�have obtained a foothold in higher�education�in the 20th century, they have often done so at the expense of teacher�education, treating it as an awkward cousin and, usually, relegating it the lowest priority in their mission. We assert that this marginalization of teachereducation, ironically, is the act that is most responsible for the low stature of colleges of�education�within the academy.

We argue here that the dominant strategy by which colleges of�education�sought to locate themselves in higher�education, however appealing it might have seemed to its leaders at the beginning, misjudged the essential aim of the enterprise and thus led in the end to chronic weakness. To now make teachereducation�the centerpiece of academic interest will seem shocking to some. It is our contention that just such a bold reorientation will not only strengthen colleges of�education, but will also be met with warmth and enthusiasm by the leaders of academic institutions today. In a knowledge-based economy, teachereducation's moment has arrived.

The New Century in Context

As the 19th century drew to a close, the thoughts of teacher�education�reformers and the institutions that they created are surprisingly illustrative of some of the most significant issues facing efforts to rethink teacher�education�today. Their stories are illustrative of the underlying tensions that have shaped efforts to rethink the field for well over a century.

In 1885, Nicholas Murray Butler was a young newly minted PhD. Assistant Professor in the Philosophy Department at what was still Columbia College when Columbia's president, Frederick A. P. Barnard, called on him to assist in what Barnard saw as one of his prime goals since he had become president two decades earlier, establishing a chair or department in "the principles and arts of�education." Throughout Barnard's long tenure, Columbia's trustees continued to turn down the president at least in part because they feared that any serious attention to teacher�education�would bring women into the college. Convinced of the value of teacher�education, Barnard finally decided to try a different approach.

With Butler as his agent, Barnard decided to "build up teacher's college outside the University, and to bring it�later into organic relations with the University" (Cremin, Shannon, & Townsend, 1954, pp. 10-17). In this effort the coconspirators were more successful. While maintaining his position as a philosophy professor within Columbia, Butler gave highly...

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