Terrence Moore, the Principal at Ridgeview Classical Schools in Ft. Collins, Colorado, writes the following amen-worthy post about the lack of content knowledge among “certified” teachers:
Content courses are the bitter pill one must swallow to get to be a teacher. How bitter can easily be seen by taking a look at the transcript of most any graduate of an ed-school. Every year I receive about a hundred job applications from fully certified teachers for open positions at my school and therefore about a hundred college transcripts, and the story is almost always the same: straight A’s in education courses; multiple C’s, D’s, F’s, and W’s (“withdrawn,” i.e. the course is too hard so let’s try it again later or with an easier professor) in one’s content area.
Read the whole thing here, including a stupefying exchange Moore has with a prospective social studies teacher who can’t remember the name of “that other guy” who was important in British politics during WWII.
We see a lot of this in mathematics, too. Many students who come to our college to major in math education are stunned that the math education degree is just one class shy of a Pure Mathematics degree — that class is an Independent Study — and they are shocked to find that they will have to study math that they will most likely never teach, like real analysis and abstract algebra. The argument becomes, “Why should I study it if I don’t have to teach it?”
The answer to that question is that if you only study what you are going to teach, then (1) you will never be any better than your brightest student, (2) you will never be able to adapt to some new subject you’ll have to teach in the future, and (3) you’ll never be able to provide students with the kind of perspective that makes a teacher more than just a human textbook.
Also, if I were an administrator hiring a teacher — or if I were a student taking a class from a teacher — I’d also be highly suspicious of a teacher who doesn’t feel like learning deeply in her/his subject area is worth the effort. Don’t teachers want to spread enthusiasm for learning among students? How can a teacher expect to do that if they blow off 90% of their subject area as irrelevant because they won’t teach it?
Perhaps looking for uncertified teachers is the best idea.
[Hat tip: A Constrained Vision]