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Pro-con on whether teachers need ed degrees

The assumption that merely knowing a subject makes one a good teacher is foolhardy. Knowledge of subject matter is unquestionably necessary for good teaching, but it is insufficient for being a good teacher. Ed schools can make a difference. Teaching is an incredibly complex and difficult enterprise. Little about the job comes to people naturally. Prospective teachers need to learn such mundane but crucial skills as how to keep their classrooms orderly and centered on the topics at hand. Most important, at the same time, they have to learn how to make the subject matter of their content area accessible and worth knowing for their students, no easy task given the increasingly diverse backgrounds of these students. When ed schools are doing their job, these are the kinds of things prospective teachers learn so can they start their careers better able to handle the intense and unrelenting demands of teaching.— Jeffrey Mirel, chairman of education and professor of history at University of Michigan

When I look for a teacher, I look for an educated person, someone who has been immersed in books, the arts, the sciences and philosophy through a liberal arts education. Our schools need teachers who have developed capacity for critical inquiry, for problem solving and for innovation. The art and skill of effective pedagogy is arguably equally critical to effective classroom instruction. While most aspiring teachers hope to develop these skills through university course work, in reality the most effective training is acquired through an apprenticeship at a high-performing school with a highly effective classroom teacher. As with most trades, the craft of effective pedagogy is one that is best developed in the context of the "workplace." A liberal arts education, when combined with an empowering apprenticeship, unlocks the potential for a teacher to enter the classroom with passion, commitment and a sense of possibility for the community he serves.— Linda Mikels, principal of Sixth Street Prep School, a charter elementary school in Victorville, Calif.

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