Margaret Wente wrote a commendable opinion piece in the Globe and Mail (“Too Many Teacher’s Can’t Do Math, Let Alone Teach It,” September 29) bemoaning the alarming number of math teachers who are uncomfortable doing math themselves. She blames the paltry amount of math courses needed to become qualified as a math teacher and the OISE pedagogy (the most influential teacher’s college in the country) that fails to prioritize education in favour of, “social justice and global inequality.” Wente is correct on both points.
Personally, I was shocked when I got accepted to OISE because I didn’t think I had sufficient History courses when I applied. (English was my primary teachable, which I majored in, but I thought I was at least one short for my secondary teachable). I suspect I was accepted solely on the basis of the equity/racism essay I wrote in my application, as they’re the only school that required one and they’re the only school I got accepted to. In other words, OISE had the magnanimity to look past my lack of requirements and see only my contrived essay I wrote to satisfy their predictable view of multiculturalism. That school was a nightmare. It turns out I shouldn’t have joined a club that would have me as a member.
OISE fails to recognize that setting unqualified teachers upon a country of innocent students is itself a social injustice. Wente describes the frustration of University professors from around the country who report that the math skills of students studying to become math teachers are “generally abysmal.” This is obviously a crucial problem, but it’s compounded because the teacher training programs you’d expect to be concerned are more concerned with politics than education. It’s like the police protesting a lawless society by encouraging rioters to find the biggest, most expensive TV to steal.
To be sure, a teacher is a part time social worker; they spend a huge chunk of time with kids who have real issues. Teaching poor children who don’t eat breakfast, or who are abused by their parents, or bullied is extremely hard work, and there’s no shortages of other issues. But if you are so concerned with politics and society, become a politician. What’s needed is concrete steps to help educate kids who suffer from inequalities, not constantly railing against them in some abstract way while failing to teach kids to read and write because the teachers don’t know how to themselves.
Every teacher’s college should subscribe to the following statement: “If you don’t know squat about what you teach it doesn’t matter how sympathetic you are to the plight of your students.” Any institution who disagrees with this final statement, in word or in action, has blood on its hands.