Ed school tilt

Writing in the New York Sun, education professor David Steiner says his study of courses required for new teachers found bias toward progressive-constructivist ideas and hostility to high-stakes testing.

Given the divide between “back to basics” and the “constructivist-progressive” models, one would expect education schools to expose students to both points of view. Our research (which covered 165 syllabi of required courses in the foundations of education, the teaching of reading, and teaching methodology) strongly suggested, however, that at many of our highest ranked schools of education, the constructivist-progressivist arguments are being taught to the almost complete exclusion of the other, direct instruction model.

Few incoming teachers are well-prepared to teach math and science content. According to a new U.S. Education Department report, 3.5 percent of future teachers majored in math; 4 percent majored in life science. Some “80 percent of future teachers attended non-selective undergraduate institutions,” observes the National Council on Teacher Quality Bulletin.

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  1. Rita C. says:

    The school where I received my credentials is progressivist. The patron saint is Dewey. That said, just because a school is teaching progressivism doesn’t mean all the future teachers are buying into the program, especially at the secondary level.

  2. Fuzzy Rider says:

    When I went for teacher certification, it was well understood among the students that in order to survive you needed to give only ‘approved’ opinions, whether you bought into them or not. I did not get the impression that many of my fellow pupils were in agreement with the prevailing orthodoxy, probably due to the fact that we were, in the main, older farts coming into education from other occupations.

  3. Tim from Texas says:

    Probably the only people who know little to nothing about teaching children are the professors in university ed. depts. They tell it and teach teaching like it ain’t. Well, maybe the counselors at all schools of any type might know less. It’s a toss up.

  4. Margaret says:

    It’s all well and good if the future teachers don’t actually “buy into” the progressivist nonsense, and just parrot it back to pass their classes, planning to teach differently themselves out in the real world but– wouldn’t they and their students be much better served by also teaching them old-fashioned, direct instruction approach? I’m sure it is something that can be taught, and practiced, and improved upon, just like any other skill.

  5. Would anyone board an aircraft whose crew was trained exclusively by ‘progressive-constructivist’ methods?

    Just a question.

  6. Bill R,

    Try this link.


    You might find it amusing.

    Jeff Hetzel

  7. Isn’t “Progressive” one of the more blantant and favorite code words of the Left?

  8. Rita C. says:

    Direct instruction doesn’t take much training. Blah blah at the students, give them a test and/or paper, and voila, they’ve been directly instructed.

    Progressivism is a term used for a philosophy of education dating back to the very early 1900’s (pre-depression). It is not a code word for anything.

  9. J.M. Heinrichs says:

    I am a Standards staff officer at the Canadian Army’s Combat Training Centre: we teach by direct instruction followed by hands-on practice. We teach to objective standards and test daily. Our students arrive with a wide range of educational achievements, but we make no allowance for poor prior knowledge: the students will learn or they are failed. We can schedule instructors to be available in the evenings to assist students with problems, unlike the general education system. As well, the students are encouraged to assist each other.
    However, if the failure rate for a course is seen as unusually high, we investigate both the quality of the students and the course material. And we have Standards staff sit in on classes to assess each instructor on his teaching techniques.
    The basic rule followed is: tell them what they have to learn, teach them what to know, tell them what they should have tearned, and test them on their new knowledge.
    By the way, the basic elements of this military teaching philosophy originate prior to 1800.


  10. Actually Rita, Progressivism HAS BECOME a catch phrase for liberalism. At one time it held the meaning that you gave to it, but it’s meaning has changed. Much like the word “bad” use to mean bad, now it means good.

    I know, because I write comments (much to the angst of the editors) to stories in an emagazine which is “dedicated to progressive ideas for forward thinking people” – and believe me, these folks couldn’t spin any story further to the left unless they painted it with a Russian flag.

  11. There are multiple definitions of “progressivism”. Politically, it was the philosophy of Teddy Roosevelt, Taft, and Wilson. It’s now being revived in the political sense as a replacement for the dreaded “L” word.

    However, in education it refers to the educational philosophy of Dewey, etc. This also goes back to the T. Roosevelt administration chronologically, but it’s independent of the political philosophy.


  1. chris correa says:


    David Steiner finds a “progressive-constructivist” bias in teacher education programs, but he confuses a theory of knowing with a student-teacher relationship:
    “Constructivism is the view (drawn from the work of John Dewey and Jean Piaget) that th…