The Basics

(CNN): "Principal Diane Daprocida of P.S. 94, an elementary school in the Bronx, says she has been waiting for one thing since she started running the school 10 years ago. .. a way to teach her teachers, many of whom have four years or less of teaching experience, how to teach reading.'
"Our universities do not teach teachers how to (teach reading) at the undergraduate level, ... It's philosophy of education, sociology of education, classroom management. I mean, I can't even remember. It's been so long since I've been to school, but they are coming through a traditional track not knowing how to teach reading, just the overall basic components of it."

Classroom teachers have offered the same criticisms of their wasted hours in Education courses for decades, as have several studies of the relation between teachers' College of Education coursework and student performance. Colleges of Education add nothing to teacher competence.
Colleges of Education degrade teacher performance, as measured by student performance, below the level that teachers with degrees in their subject would achieve. The current State-monopoly system presents an incentive structure that rewards inefficient instruction at all levels. At the early-education level, the system degrades performance below the level that parents with no college at all would achieve. Basic Reading and basic Math instruction provide examples of the fundamental failure of Colleges of Education. Remember Whole Language? Colleges of Education promoted this incoherent strategy of basic Reading instruction for years. Mounting evidence of failure did not dissuade the "expert" advocates of Whole Language in Colleges of Education. Whole Language fell to an argument from authority in the form of a critical open letter  in the New York  Times to which academics with superior credentials at prestigious institutions (e.g., Steven Pinker, MIT)  attached their names. Colleges of Education continue to promote "Discovery" methods of Math instruction, despite as thorough a refutation (Project Follow-Through) as Whole Language suffered.
Why expect otherwise? The mystique of expertise sustains the professional Education industry. Why, otherwise, would parents surrender their children to experts to attain a result that they (i.e., individual parents) could attain? Benjamin Franklin, who attended school for a total of two years between age 10 and 12, wrote that he could not remember a time when he did not know how to read. At age eight or so my older sister taught my younger sister, age four or so, to read as an accidental result of playing "school".  Basic Math (counting,  the decimal digits, place-holding notation, whole number addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division)  requires even less expertise in an instructor than does basic Reading.  
Expertise matters. Few unsupported homeschooling parents could extemporaneously provide the breadth and depth of instruction that a full-service high school provides. Since few high school teachers can, either, this observation fails as a defense of Colleges of Education, compulsory attendance statutes, or of the NEA/AFT/AFSCME cartel's exclusive position in receipt of the taxpayers' K-12 school  subsidy. While, above the level of basic Reading and basic Arithmetic, experts have something to offer, the experts need not deal with children in person. Books crystalize expertise. The decidedly non-expert Education majors in US middle school History and Math classes use this crystalized expertise. So, also, can non-expert homeschooling parents use the crystalized expertise that books embody. Colleges of Education have nothing to offer. Colleges of Education disguise their irrelevance with strident political advocacy in the form of "philosophy of education, sociology of education, classroom management".     
The current structure of the US Education industry relies on the mystique of "expertise". The costs of this structure include the $600 billion+ per year tax subsidy to K-12 schools and the subsidies that Colleges of Education receive. This total provides a lower limit of the costs of the current structure.  A more accurate total would include, additionally, the opportunity cost  to students of the time that they spend in school (otherwise, why the need for compulsory attendance statutes and child labor laws), losses due to crime, the lifetime cost of prisons for the poor children whose lives we trash, losses from depressed lifetime productivity, and the opportunity cost to society of the lost innovation in education technology that an unsubsidized competitive market in education services would generate.
Which brings us back to our starting point: why Colleges of Education fail at their basic task. "What works?" is an empirical question to which an experiment will provide more reliable answers than will the self-interested Divine Inspiration that College of Education faculty offer. In public policy, "experiment" means federalism or competitive markets in goods and services. A State-monopoly provider is an experiment with one treatment and no controls, a maximally ineffective experimental design.  In the current institutional/legal environment, efficient performance does not pay. A $600 billion+ per year K-12 revenue stream and the thousands of College of Education faculty positions across the US  depend on K-12 enrollment. Curricula that would allow K-12 teachers to produce a 14 year-old actuary, electrical engineer, mason, programmer, or welder would allow homeschooling parents to do the same. Efficiency does not pay.  
And that is why, oh best beloved, after nearly two centuries of existence the US State-monopoly K-12 school system hires teachers who learn their craft from Professors of Education who do not know how children learn to read.

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