On My Perspective

Like others, I bring a perspective and worldview that has been influenced by many factors and biases. To better understand and evaluate my position and the basis of my beliefs, some background is in order. I believe teaching is a noble profession and a high calling. I chose to become a teacher as a young man, having decided it was something to which I would like to dedicate my talents and life. I was motivated to serve humanity and teaching was a job in which I felt I could do the most good for the greatest number. I chose to initially go into elementary education as I felt I could be the most benefit on younger children. I later went into teacher education so I could help aspiring educators become the best teachers they could be. I wanted to help future teachers become the best they could be. I wanted them to develop their capacities and realize their potentials so they could the same for the students they would teach.

I have dedicated my energies and service to educating others, first as an intern counselor in the White Earth Indian Project in Minnesota in 1972, then as part of the Wisconsin Indian Teacher Corps from 1973 to 1975 and as a teacher in Tanzania from 1975 to 1979. In my 38 years in education, I have taught almost every grade level from first grade to the doctoral level in rural, urban, public, private and international schools. In higher education, I have taught and worked in a Jesuit university in Detroit, a historically black land grant university in the Virgin Islands, teacher colleges in Botswana and China, an international university in Switzerland and a state university that began as a normal school for teachers in Michigan. I currently serve as professor and head of the School of Education at Northern Michigan University.

I say all of this to give some contexts to my remarks. I have been troubled by the recent attacks upon education by pundits, reformers and politicians, most of whom bring little or no first-hand experience of teaching, education or teacher education beyond having at one time been a student. I feel these efforts are ill informed and ill formed. I also feel that some may be disingenuous and mean-spirited. I believe education and teachers are being made the scapegoat of the many and complex problems that beset society at this stage.

Because I am currently a teacher educator and have been since 1979, I have a special concern for reform proposals aimed at teacher education. However, as teacher education programs prepare the teachers, the reforms intended to improve them and education in general are important to me as well. I think it is important that those who have dedicated their lives to this calling and profession be given a voice on matters for which they are most knowledgeable and work with every day.

My thoughts can be summarized into three main points. First, I challenge the rhetoric and assumptions upon which most of political reform claims are made. Second, I feel that educators and schools are generally doing many of the things the reformers are recommending as well as can be expected within the given circumstances, and third, I believe that some of these reform proposals work against what their proponents claim to be supporting and the best interests of education. I will briefly present my thoughts on these points below.

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About rodclarken

Dr. Rodney H Clarken is recently retired as a head and professor of the School of Education at Northern Michigan University.
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