I am one of the two student members (the rest being faculty) on the committee that discusses issues within the education department, and approves new students to the program. Today we had our once-yearly meeting and everything was going boringly smooth, as it did last year.
At the end though, the department chair brought in some new information. The president of the college has decided to completely change the goals and direction of the education department. Two radical changes will occur:
1. There will no longer be an elementary education program
. This year's senior class will of course be allowed to complete the certification, as well this year's junior class (next year's senior class). But after that, there will be no more elementary education program at my school.
2. The education department's focus will now become secondary science education
There are so many problems associated with these moves:
1. On average, the elementary education methods courses have higher enrollment than the secondary education methods courses. Therefore, eliminating the elementary program is not supported by enrollment.
2. Secondary science methods courses have the lowest enrollment of all the education courses offered. The education department certifies fewer secondary science teachers than nearly any other grade level/subject area.
3. Three quarters of the faculty of the education department are not certified to teach science methods. The remaining quarter is retiring and getting replaced by new (science focused) faculty. One half of the education faculty is not yet tenured. I don't understand enough about higher education politics to know exactly what that means for their tenure prospects, but I can assume it is not good. If the department can't use them, it will want to get rid of them now, while it can, before they are tenured.
4. None of these decisions were made by the current faculty of the education department. They were made by the college's president. He has always disliked/hated the education department. He feels that "students of the caliber of those who attend this college should not waste their skills/knowledge on working in elementary education." He also feels that "any students who do go on to become teachers should complete their undergraduate education at this college, and then go on to work for Teach For America or similar programs." Those are both paraphrases, but frequently acknowledged ideas of his.
5. As I think I have said before, the education department at my school is neither a major nor a minor. It's just kind of there. This makes it a lot less powerful in instances such as this one. It's voice is quieter and less respected than, for example, the chemistry department.
This was probably quiet incoherent and unorganized. I am not entirely sure why this enrages me so much, but it does. Perhaps because I know that, had this school not had an elementary education program, I would never have applied to come here. And I love my school. I love (most of) the experiences I have had here, the people I have met, the professors I have worked with, etc. I've been here for nearly four years and can't imagine myself without the tools (metaphorical tools, of course) and knowledge I have gained here. Had the president made this decision just a few years earlier, I never would have experienced the things I have experienced.
But that's not even the
point. The president of the college is being an elitist and a snob and devaluing the people who got us (the students of the college) here in the first place. He is also devaluing every student and faculty member of the education department. He is saying that while education is important, it is not important enough to allow us to become teachers of children, or teachers of English, or teachers of Social Studies, or even teachers of Math or Foreign Language. It's important, perhaps, but not important enough. And it hurts to be told that the classes and practicum on which I spend hours and hours every day of every week here at school, and countless hours outside of school, is really not at all important to college. Is in fact so un
important that it can just be tossed out and forgotten.