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More brickbats for faculties of education

September 30, 2011 by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) at 07:55 AM

Guest Blog by Mark DeWolf - letter to the editor in response to Margaret Wente's column on faculties of education

Bravo on this morning's column regarding the lack of math knowledge and skills among elementary teachers of math.  And you may very well be right in suggesting that there is too much emphasis on other "learnings" (to use the current jargon) in university Education departments.  I suspect that part of the problem stems from an underlying problem that afflicts all sorts of organizations, namely, the need of administrators, managers, and consultants to continually come up with new and apparently promising approaches in order to justify their positions and quite possibly enhance them.  In math teaching, we've seen all kinds of new approaches being recommended to teachers (and student teachers) in the past 20 years, the use of "manipulatives" being one I can think of.  While working as a Literacy Coach in the Halifax school system, I kept coming across boxes of these blocks and other interesting shapes gathering dust in book storage rooms.  I was also shocked to hear that the use of the terms "numerator" and "denominator" was being discouraged by the Math Coach (preferring the terms "upper number" and "lower number") on the grounds that the previously-used terms sounded too intimidating for junior high students.  This, despite the fact that the kids had no trouble with words like "terminator" and "refrigerator".  That's just one little detail that illustrates how silly and wrong-headed some of the new approaches can be.  But they keep coming.

Perhaps a column on the paucity of knowledge and skills among English teachers is in order as well.  In my three years as a Literacy Coach at the junior high level (and in my 25 years as an English teacher in Halifax before that),  I was continually surprised (even shocked) by the inability of younger English teachers to write a sentence that was free of errors, and their complete lack of knowledge about some of the most basic "rules" of English expression.  Communications from school board officials (many of whom had risen through the teaching ranks) were littered with errors of all kinds, and one of my Literacy Coach supervisors actually had to ask me to tell her if any of her messages to the coaching cohort contained errors, as she admitted she wasn't very confident in "areas of correctness."

In Nova Scotia, teacher training is conducted by three universities: Acadia, St. Francis Xavier, and Mount St. Vincent (this last in Halifax).  The MSVU education program lasts two years, and includes a good deal of in-school practice teaching (a welcome improvement over earlier one-year programs with limited classroom practice) and I have been led to believe that administrators of the MSVU program are not afraid to 'wash out" B.Ed. candidates who prove unfit for teaching.  I believe that receiving repeated negative evaluations from supervising professors and teachers may be enough to remove a student from the program, but I wish I could be assured that their actual knowledge and skills in the subject they propose to teach is also looked at carefully.  Ideally, competence in their proposed subject area would be evaluated at the time of acceptance into the program. Years ago, when I was temporarily B.Ed. Coordinator at Dalhousie University (back when Dal had an Education department), it was my job to approve any applicants for the program, and remember clearly having to reject applications from would-be teachers of English (who had already earned B.A.s) on the grounds that their application letters were full of obvious errors.  But at a time when universities are fighting to keep their numbers up, pursuing a strict policy of weeding out unsuitable candidates is very much against the interests of Education departments.  Sadly, not pursuing such a policy is very much against the interests of good public education.

Again, Margaret, thank you for this morning's column.

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I first read this on Educhatter Wed.We have a serious case of global unrelenting flu across the English speaking world because we have allowed these..%$^#$ to be in charge and find a way at University to standardize their unfounded myths.

DEBRA J. SAUNDERS ? What Is an Educrat?January 04, 1998|By DEBRA J. SAUNDERS

WHAT IS an educrat? The word is a hybrid, combining the Latin part of educator with the Greek part of bureaucrat, an educrat. I didn?t invent the term, although I wish I did.

I use it because it captures a special kind of person in the education world: pinheads who are so process-oriented that they are more excited in the process of learning than the myriad wonders that can be learned.

Simply put, educrats believe in process ? as opposed to educators, who believe in results. Educrats focus on how children learn. Educators focus on what they learn.

Can a teacher be an educrat? Yes, although I should think most teachers are educators, not educrats. (Bet that a teacher with a PhD in education is an educrat, one with a PhD in math is an educator.)

Are there any good educrats? Sure. Percentage-wise they probably average out to about the same as reformed ex-cons.

What is the difference between an educator and an educrat?

Educrats care if children feel good about reading. Educators care if children can read.

Educrats believe that children can?t enjoy math unless the lessons are all about them. They load math classes down with ?fun? assignments ? drawing favorite foods or writing poems about math. Educators rely on the joy of numbers.

Educrats think students don?t need to know where all American states are as long as students know how to read a map.

Educrats say they want children to think for themselves, then make them work in groups.

Educrats are obsessed with achieving racial diversity in lessons, regardless of subject area, and in school statistics. Educators are obsessed with educating.

Educrats have turned science into an ecological jihad. They think cell structure is too boring, so they sex up science class with dire warnings on the evils of global warming, trash and pesticides.

Educrats believe that the im portant thing is that children can ?communicate mathematically? and scientifically. Educators think kids should know math and science.

Educrats write history standards, such as: ?Students should be able to identify and explain how events and changes occurred in significant historical periods.? Educators realize the sentence is utterly meaningless.

Educrats believe social studies should make children feel good about themselves. Educators use social studies to move students beyond their parochial lives.

Educrats say public schools should teach ?values,? then write ?values? curricula that preach that values are relative.

Posted by Jo-Anne Gross on 09/30 at 08:54 AM

posted by Andrew on Educhatter. Credit where credit due.

Very appropriate for this topic.

Posted by Chuck on 09/30 at 09:44 AM

Chucker,I am offended by your post.It was completely uncalled for and unnecessary- as if this is a glory blog.

Posted by Jo-Anne Gross on 09/30 at 09:50 AM

Well Joanne, I am inclined that what is posted by Chuck fits in nicely, with Wente’s article, Here is the quote from the article,  what educrats and some of the educators would preferred to have our students to know.

“Dr. Reynolds is a product of the OISE school of pedagogy, by far the most influential in Canada. And improving student achievement through effective teaching methods is not a priority for the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education. It has a research and advocacy arm, the Centre for Urban Schooling, that?s designed to connect it with schools in inner cities. As part of its commitment to ?social justice and equity for all students,? the centre ?works collaboratively on education projects that challenge power relations based on class, race, gender language, sexuality, religion, ethnicity and ability in all aspects of education both formal and informal.? If only it were interested in math.

Unfortunately, the people who educate the educators sound like the wacky wing of the NDP. Here?s Fern Snart, the dean of education at the University of Alberta: ?To educate students beyond the superficial,? she writes, ?we must engage them in transformational processes and deep thinking such that they understand the Western position of privilege that is often reflected in issues of diversity, power, and justice, and that they move to an internalization of responsibility related to this privilege.?

No wonder little Emma doesn?t know her times tables. She?s way too busy learning how her Western position of privilege entrenches gender relations. Or something like that.”

I been upset for most of the morning, listening to a radio program, where the guest speaker is another one from the OISE practicing his black magic in math. Than I went to SQE, to see what the newest post is, only to discovered the same topic, the same black magic that produces and guarantees the a large percentage of students will never become proficient in the 3 Rs. Than lunch time came, and my youngest is once again expressing her horrid over the new math curriculum of the grades below her. Much of it leaned from the math teachers, who don’t know what they are going to do, because even more vital math concepts are being removed, and the concepts will be learned in grades 11 and 12.

As Mark has written, “I was also shocked to hear that the use of the terms ?numerator? and ?denominator? was being discouraged by the Math Coach (preferring the terms ?upper number? and ?lower number?) on the grounds that the previously-used terms sounded too intimidating for junior high students.  This, despite the fact that the kids had no trouble with words like ?terminator? and ?refrigerator?.”

Mark will be just as shock, the term slope has magically be transformed to, as the terms numerator and denominator have been. Only to relearn the proper terms in the senior grades, along side the rejigged and reconfigured senior maths dealing with calculus, trig that will transform math into a reflection of diversity, power and justice.

In other words, by 2015, the universities will be demanding a SAT-like test prior to entry into university, because the emphasis will no longer be on effective instruction, but of teaching math through the lens of indoctrination and dogma, that requires no firm foundation for students to stand upon to learn advance math.

Have you ever considered, that proper reading and writing instruction have not been introduced even though there is a mountain of research, plus another mountain refuting whole language approaches, because effective instruction does not blend well when the main intentions is to indoctrinate, by using the lens of diversity, power and justice. The real reason being, is to reinforce the class structure, to ensure that everyone remains in their class.

I could never understand why the LD group, no matter what level their weaknesses are never addressed effectively, To my horror, I knew something was wrong, when my child came home telling me why it is ok to get a 50, because that was her ability level. The soft bigotry of low expectations is a work here, and our educrats with their illogical pedagogical theories that does not rest in science, but a philosophy based on an imagine Utopian.

Posted by Nancy on 09/30 at 01:49 PM

Very sorry you took offense to my post. I happened to visit Educhatter and noticed that a chap “Andrew” had posted the article you posted.

You simply forgot to credit the original poster.

And Nancy “Well Joanne, I am inclined that what is posted by Chuck fits in nicely, with Wente?s article, Here is the quote from the article,  what educrats and some of the educators would preferred to have our students to know. “

You make no sense by this comment.  Did an “Andrew” not originally post the piece to Educhatter or not?

Your quick morph of my comment to be anything close to what Wente’s describing in her post is also quite off the mark.

Posted by Chuck on 09/30 at 09:34 PM

I apologized Chuck. It should have been Joanne. and I am still trying to figure it out how I did that. I do hope in the future, I will never do that again. In act I am mortified, and I can’t even blame it my dyslexic. Perhaps age, but than again I am trying to blame, for what is one big goof.

Posted by Nancy on 10/01 at 09:21 AM

Disappointed in this thread
- stereotyping teacher educators as “left wing”
- close to the line in “name-calling” which ticks some of us off (like me) who might otherwise see merit in your points
- generalizing from US reports to Canada where regulations differ from province to province
- misunderstanding of the value
and limits
of SATs in the US
- failing to recognize that teachers have to do many things, including the three “Rs”, why?
because the public demands it

Posted by John Myers on 10/01 at 11:16 AM

Or would you prefer to stay on the latest headlines of the investigative report, by the Star, where today’s headline is called, Predator Teachers.—predator-teachers-students-ruined-by-teacher-sex-assaults#article

The Ontario College of Teachers is another fine example of protecting their turf, and transparency is not their thing.After all professional image is far more important to protect, than the public tax monies, and as well as students’ welfare. I wonder how many civil law suits are taking place currently, suing the public education system in some aspect, that are put under the wraps, kept somewhat hidden from the public?

Posted by Nancy on 10/01 at 11:42 AM

In my work,I have met over a thousand teachers so far and admire them immensely,I see them as educators not educrats.
The trouble is from faculties,administrations that choose flawed curriculums,unions and bad seeds…trouble with bad seeds is they can ruin the lives of 30 kids at a time.There is no way anyone at SQE is motivated by undermining teachers,the most importyant person in a child`s academic life.
We criticize the above,they need to be criticized as does the special ed game of label and blaming the kid,educational malpractice 95% of the time.

Posted by Jo-Anne Gross on 10/01 at 02:52 PM


This is what I wrote today to the Wente column, admittedly a few days after the topic was hot. Please re-read the article and particularly the direct quotes of the two deans.  What script are they reading from?

Keep Digging, Margaret Wente

I see our columnist Wente asking a very important and broad question in this opinion piece.

This is what I see her grappling with::

Is Canada moving in social development in normal democratic ways or is something more deliberate shaping and speeding new norms?

Wente quotes two deans of education about their priorities. Follow this track to help solve the above enigma. Just whose priorities are governing the direction of public schools anyway?

All deans of education faculties in Canada, it seems, have signed onto an Accord which amongst other goals aims at producing new teachers ?to assume a social and political leadership role? in their communities.

Wente would do a great service if she could find out why, by whom, and when this Accord was developed and the extent of its impact. Is this the manifesto from on high which is leading social change in Canada through our public schools? question

Posted by Tunya Audain on 10/01 at 07:42 PM

Here is the link, of the ACDE, the accords, and the members.

“ACDE?s principal commitment is to addressing issues of importance in educational policy and practice across the country. In 2006 ACDE members signed a General Accord, committing to work towards positive change in public education within a pan-Canadian framework. This was followed by the Accord on Teacher Education, which is now being used in programmatic reviews and in the development of program standards in many institutions. Subsequently, based on ACDE?s keen awareness of the vital needs in the area of Aboriginal education, ACDE developed an Accord on Indigenous Education. More information on these and other Accords.”

In my journey seeking knowledge on that monster called Public Education K to 12, early on I observed a few things, that I thought was odd, as well as the American parents seeking out bits and pieces of Canadian research that caught their eye. The first accord was signed in 2005, and starting in 2006, the first and second levels of the public education system, their web sites and information started to change.

Research pertaining to reading, writing, numeracy, disabilities related to learning, were being removed from their sites. The research that are in conflict with the goals of the first Accord and subsequent accords. I believe as well as other American parents who were seeing the same kinds of things, that the accords is a reaction to the researchers that lie outside the education field, opening up their research to one and all, and the intended target, the parents. One of the first one on the scene, was the reading researchers where the Children of the Code emerged. The educators and the researchers who work within the education system, were upset to see this happening, because it was not only parents, but teachers, school trustees, and everyone in between, especially in the United States. The very idea of seeing the actual research, without pay access threaten the other side, who believe only those who had the understanding, should read the research papers. Than the science researchers came on board, and by 2005 the top levels of the education system decided to do something about it, by creating accords and partnerships with the various levels of the education system.

Is it a coincidence that at the board level, the research that I gathered was rejected, and only the research from the approved sources of the education field. By 2007, I had to do something about it, because I had research from all over the world, confirming and saying all the same thing that dyslexics are able to learn to read, write well and numeracy was still at its infancy stage, but even here it was very possible. American parents were having the same problems, rejection of research, and acceptance of others that were within the approved sources of the education system.

Most of the research that I did obtained through the customary web sites related to the public education system, no longer exist. Since 2009, at the lower levels of the provincial education system, all of them are virtually carbon copies of each other, stating the same information using different words, and formats. As for the research within the education system in Canada,  that runs counter to the stated goals, and now accords apparently, are buried so deep, and yet it is the most important research pertaining to the 3 Rs, disabilities, and other research relating to learning, that parents, teachers, and anyone dealing with children , this is the research that is buried so deep within the education bowels.

The outside researchers are still offering free access to their research, and the trick is to know where to look for it.

So Tunya the answer is, ” a deliberate shaping and speeding new norms” and has nothing to do with democratic norms. The most recent example as I have observed, is the expansion of the norm, to include and accept reading and writing deficiencies as acceptable, and it now becomes part of the norm. So a kid like mine, may never get the help she needs, because it would be OK not having the skill to string a few words together to form a sentence, because she has other strengths. And yes, I have read papers on the expansion of the norm when it comes to learning in the last six months. Really scary thought, the future of the kindergarten class of 2011?

Posted by Nancy on 10/01 at 10:30 PM

National Briefing | EDUCATION
Changes Proposed for Reporting by Teacher Education Programs
Published: September 30, 2011

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, proposing changes to the nation?s teacher education programs on Friday, said the Education Department would negotiate changes to the rules governing what information the nation?s 1,400 teachers? colleges and university programs must report to Washington. The department wants them to report how many graduates fill shortage positions, like teaching math in high-poverty schools; how satisfied school principals are with their preparation; and how much the graduates help students learn once they get to the classroom, based on their students? test scores. The rule-rewriting process could take many months.

“sounds like they get that this is the genesis of the problems we all have,not just the U.S.”

Posted by Jo-Anne Gross on 10/02 at 09:05 AM

Mark, in our house our Saturday afternoon pleasure is reading the Globe and Mail.

Your letter to the editor made my day because very few people concerned about what they see happening every day to their kids in our public schools have the courage to trust their own opinions and even fewer have the courage to make them known publicly because of the backlash of polical correctness.

Thank you grin).

Posted by fromEurope on 10/02 at 07:33 PM

Thinking about the posts I’ve seen on the Globe and Mail site in response to Margret’s article, I have a few observations.

First of all, most engineering and accounting jobs, unless you have become a manager, pay about the same as teaching jobs 50 -55,000 entry level, aroung 60-85,000 after 5-10 years experience and perhaps more only if you are in a very specialized, high demand field and you haven’t been outsourced already!

Secondly, I know of two people with engineering background who applied to the teaching program. They were both rejected, seemingly because when asked to explain what would be their approach to teaching they said they would explain something, would have all the students practice and then they would test them to see how much they know and what they need to do next. I’ve heard similar stories from chinese colleagues about the experiences of their friends.
It seems that part of selection process of selection into the education program is an interview which asses candidate’s attitudes toward teaching. If your attitudes don’t match the current dogma of child-centered, everything goes, just be positive and make the child feel good regardless of how much the child learn, well ... then too bad, too sad your attitudes disqualify you.

My point is that if the teaching jobs were open to competition, that is if there would be other paths to becoming a teacher other than studying at the faculty of education, there would be enough willing people with subject matter expertise for our society to be able to select a lot of good teachers!

Thirdly, it was fun recognizing our friend’s Doug comments under at least four different names. His mannerisms are so obvious and the real funny thing is that he repeats the same phrases ad litteram from his blog posts! So much for a Socratic approach and for the flexible mind of a so called educator!

Overall, it seems that some people are aware of exactly what’s going on. However, based on the references in their posts they seem to be mostly either older canadian-educated people or immigrants.

Posted by fromEurope on 10/02 at 08:53 PM

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