Laurel Shaper Walters. Laurel Shaper Walters is on the Monitor's ., The Christian Science Monitor
PRESIDENT Bush is promoting a "new generation of American schools," but he has said little about the next generation of teachers.
In "Ed School Follies," Rita Kramer focuses attention on the often-neglected system of teacher-training institutions in the United States. "The only way to have better schools is to get better teachers," she states simply in the book's conclusion.
After a year of evaluating what goes on in education schools, Kramer concluded that the current system undermines effective teaching rather than promoting it.
Of the 1,300 undergraduate and graduate programs in the US, Kramer visited 15 diverse campuses, resulting in what she calls "a voyage of which this book is the log." She sat in on classes, talked to students, faculty, and administrators, and watched student-teachers test their new skills in public-school classrooms.
A former journalist, Kramer reports her findings in an engaging manner. Detailed descriptions of exchanges between education professors and their students are punctuated by a biting critique. She devotes one chapter to each of the 15 schools and divides the book into seven parts by regions of the country.
In the introduction, Kramer states that she came to the project without an agenda. But her approach suggests otherwise. She repeatedly quotes inarticulate students and spotlights hypocritical professors. Each chapter gives detailed examples to substantiate views that aren't clearly explained until the conclusion.
Although Kramer recognizes that she saw only a fraction of the schools turning out new teachers, this doesn't keep her from making generalizations about the entire system. "Nowhere in America today is intellectual life deader than in our schools - unless it is in our schools of education," she writes.
As an outsider to education, Kramer challenges the "ed-school establishment" to raise standards and examine accepted premises. …