Academic journal article English Education

Contradictory and Missing Voices in English Education: An Invitation to English Faculty

Academic journal article English Education

Contradictory and Missing Voices in English Education: An Invitation to English Faculty

Article excerpt

In the current debate about English teacher preparation we hear a clamor of competing voices: federal initiatives such as Race to the Top and No Child Left Behind (NCLB); licensure testing agencies such as Educational Testing SMervice (ETS) and edTPA; national accrediting bodies and organizations such as the National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE); and teacher preparation programs. Everyone, it seems, has something to say about what English teachers need to know and be able to do. Everyone, that is, except English faculty. That is not because English faculty members do not care, nor because they do not understand the importance of teacher education. Rather, English faculty members have not known how to con- tribute to the preparation of teachers in ways that are both meaningful and consistent with their expertise.

English faculty have known about the importance of English to teacher preparation for years. Nearly 50 years ago, both the Modern Language As- sociation (MLA) and the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) called for greater attention by English departments and faculty to the prepara- tion of teachers (Hamilton, 1964; Viall, 1967) and reminded English faculty that "the English teachers in our schools are to a very large extent our own products" (Finch, 1965, p. 4). More recently, the 2001 MLA Ad Hoc Com- mittee on Teaching made clear that "the preparation of future teachers is central to the work that we do in our disciplines and of crucial importance for the future of our fields" (p. 230). Gray (1999) laid out the reasons for this importance quite clearly:

Why should faculties in English... accept the education of teachers as one of their responsibilities? The reasons are political, social, economic, and professional . . . English and the foreign languages are our subjects. We are in some measure responsible for how they exist in secondary schools and for malting accessible the economic, social, and intellectual benefits they promise, (p. 8)

Miller (2006) even calls for re-envisioning English studies as literacy studies to embrace the utilitarian as well as humanistic goals of literacy studies, and to focus attention on "the most fundamental, expansive, and ignored area of college English studies: English education" (p. 153). Likewise, Miller and Jackson (2007) argue that "the greatest weakness in English majors is their limited attention to the needs of the many majors who plan to teach" (p. 684).

While we have known about the importance of English to teacher preparation for many years now, English as a field has not known what to do with that knowledge. Recently, Reid (2011) argued that "writing pedagogy preparation"-that is, the development of both high school English teach- ers and college composition instructors-could be the shared project that connects NCTE and CCCC. Yet, the work of connecting the two wings of teacher preparation-those who teach English content and those who teach pedagogy-is difficult, to say the least (Gray, 1999). Most English faculty understandably opt to leave the pedagogical preparation to schools of educa- tion, assuming "our" part as English faculty "is to provide the knowledge, the content, the stuff that those preparing to teach will somehow package and deliver to a younger audience, with the help of faculty members in the Ed School" (Marshall, 1999, p. 380).

This article offers both a rationale and a proposal for the meaningful contribution of English faculty to the preparation of English teachers, inside their own English courses. Our study grew out of our questions and con- cerns about the inconsistencies between how our country defines effective English teachers and how we define them in our NCATE-approved teacher preparation program. Specifically, we were concerned that English teacher candidates whom we had labeled competent-at times, exceptional-did not always pass the Praxis II English Subj ect Assessment exams. …

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