Teaching as a Profession

December 15, 1992

With a task force report urging an end to undergraduate majors in education, the state of Maryland moves a step closer to making a genuine profession of teaching.

If the task force's recommendations to the Maryland Higher Education Commission become reality -- a distinct possibility -- people who want to become teachers would receive their education training in an intense "professional year" -- a fifth year of learning about the science and methods of teaching and of practicing it on the job. The four undergraduate years would be devoted to solid grounding in the liberal arts and the subject matter to be taught.

Aspiring teachers, for instance, need to concentrate on math, science, history or whatever field they will be called upon to teach. In today's fast-moving, increasingly technological world, they need more time to study in their chosen field, time unfettered by "methods" courses and practice teaching. The "residency," if you will, can wait for the "professional development" year.

Like nursing, social work and journalism, teaching has long been regarded as a "quasi-profession." Since the mid-1980s, efforts have been under way nationally to submit teachers to more rigorous preparation, certification and selection. The Maryland proposal fits into that line of thinking.

When a similar recommendation was made two years ago by Shaila Aery, secretary of higher education, it ran into a wall of resistance, most of it originating in colleges and universities of education. This time, the voices of dissent are still. In part this is because some of the major teacher education centers -- Towson State, College Park and UMBC (which has never had an education major) -- have been moving on their own to develop post-baccalaureate programs in education.

The move to reform, however, will take years to accomplish. Teaching remains one of the only so-called professions that allows people to enter without having met a common standard -- and then protects incompetents with an outmoded "tenure" system.

The proposal for revamping the Maryland teaching degree at least would help assure that beginning teachers are better prepared for one of society's most difficult occupations.

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