Tomorrow's Teachers: International and Critical Perspectives on Teacher Education

By Alan G. Scott; John G. Freeman-Moir | Go to book overview

Teacher Education and the 'New Professionalism' The Case of the USA

Landon E Beyer


I) Introduction

Conflicting points of view, engagement with contrary interpretations and an openness to alternative scholarly traditions are, at least ideally, hallmarks of the field of educational studies ( Beyer, Feinberg, Pagano & Whitson, 1989). Indeed, the key characteristic of educational studies, even when undertaken at a less than ideal level, may well be that they are contested, or at least subject to divergent interpretations. Whether we consider the ongoing debates over the teaching of reading in elementary school classrooms, the move to privatise public schooling or the 'culture wars' in higher education that seem to have reached no lasting ceasefire, it is clear that heated and protracted exchanges often take place within educational policy and theory. Educational studies, in short, constitute a normative domain within which philosophical, moral and practical struggles seem at times never-ending ( Kliebard, 1995).

The tenor of contemporary discussions in teacher education in the United States of America, however, is at variance with that description of the larger field. Current trends in teacher education focus on homogeneity and uniformity, and are framed increasingly within technical-rational, bureaucratic forms of discourse that are removed from more encompassing social, political and moral domains. Claims over what empirical research has to say about teaching and learning, the compulsion to raise standards that will elevate student achievement and strengthen the 'new global economy', and so forth have instead become some of the dominant messages. However, discursive practices that either (i) ignore or make subservient the normative dimensions of education or (ii) confine them to 'common sense' appeals that are consistent with dominant economic and political interests ought to raise serious concerns for teacher educators. To the extent that teacher education is aloof from contested issues, ideas and ideals, or adopts an uncritical stance towards conventional social and political understandings, it becomes easier to suspend critical inquiry into the realities that surround the preparation of professionals.

If education as a human undertaking, and educational studies as a field, provide for what Dewey ( 1916) called 'the social continuity of life', or in more structural terms ensures 'social reproduction' ( Anyon, 1997; Apple, 1982), then teacher education must be infused with the kind of critical scrutiny about social

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