EXCERPTS FROM THE CARNEGIE REPORT ON TEACHING
MAY 16, 1986
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Following are excerpts from ''A Nation Prepared: Teachers for the 21st Century,'' a report by a task force assembled by the Carnegie Corporation of New York:
We do not believe the educational system needs repairing; we believe it must be rebuilt to match the drastic change needed in our economy if we are to prepare our children for productive lives in the 21st century. It is no exaggeration to suggest that America must now provide to the many the same quality of education presently reserved for the fortunate few. The cost of not doing so will be a steady erosion in the American standard of living.
But even if by some economic miracle this country could remain competitive without rebuilding our education system, we must do so for other compelling reasons: equal opportunity for all our children and preservation of an informed population capable of self-government - a citizenry with a shared sense of democracy and a vision of our potential as a nation.
This task force rejects the view that America must choose between quality and equity in education policy. It cannot afford to do so. The country must have both.
As the world economy changes shape, it would be fatal to assume that America can succeed if only a portion of our schoolchildren succeed. By the year 2000, one out of every three Americans will be a member of a minority group. At present, one out of four American children is born into poverty, and the rate is increasing. While it was once possible for people to succeed in this society if they were simply willing to work hard, it is increasingly difficult for the poorly educated to find jobs. A growing number of permanently unemployed people seriously strains our social fabric. A heavily technology-based economy will be unable to invest vast sums to maintain people who cannot contribute to the nation's productivity. American business already spends billions of dollars a year retraining people who arrive at the workplace with inadequate education. A Trap of Our Own Making
The country is in a trap of our own making. Not all of our children actually master the basic skills. America has a serious functional literacy problem that must be corrected.
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The skills needed now are not routine. Our economy will be increasingly dependent on people who have a good intuitive grasp of the ways in which all kinds of physical and social systems work.
If our standard of living is to be maintained, if the growth of a permanent underclass is to be averted, if democracy is to function effectively into the next century, our schools must graduate the vast majority of their students with achievement levels long thought possible for only the privileged few. The American mass education system, designed in the early part of the century for a mass-production economy, will not succeed unless it not only raises but redefines the essential standards of excellence and strives to make quality and equality of opportunity compatible with each other.
The students just described must be active learners, busily engaged in the process of bringing new knowledge and new ways of knowing to bear on a widening range of increasingly difficult problems. The focus of schooling must shift from teaching to learning, from the passive acquisition of facts and routines to the active application of ideas to problems. That transition makes the role of the teacher more important, not less.
Teachers should have a good grasp of the ways in which all kinds of physical and social systems work; a feeling for what data are and the uses to which they can be put, an ability to help students see patterns of meaning where others see only confusion; an ability to foster genuine creativity in students; and the ability to work with other people in work groups that decide for themselves how to get the job done. They must be able to learn all the time, as the knowledge required to do their work twists and turns with new challenges and the progress of science and technology. Teachers will not come to the school knowing all they have to know, but knowing how to figure out what they need to know, where to get it, and how to help others make meaning out of it. Thinking for Themselves
Teachers must think for themselves if they are to held others think for themselves, be able to act independently and collaborate with others, and render critical judgment. They must be people whose knowledge is wide-ranging and whose understanding runs deep.
People with these characteristics are among the most sought after in our whole society. They staff the upper ranges of our most important institutions. We cannot hope to bring the mass of our citizens up to the standards we have proposed unless such people are available in large numbers to teach our children. Textbooks cannot do it. Principals cannot do it. Directives from state authorities cannot do it. Only the people with whom the students come in contact every day can do it.
Though many people have vital roles to play, only the teachers can finally accomplish the agenda we have just laid out.
It will do little good to raise the standards for entry into the profession of teaching and greatly improve the professional preparation of teachers if nothing is done to make teaching a more attractive career. Few will make the effort to jump over a higher hurdle if there is little to be gained by doing so. Understanding the nature of this challenge requires an honest look at what it means to be a teacher.
The conditions under which teachers work are increasingly intolerable to people who qualify for jobs in the upper tiers of the American work force, the people who must now be attracted to teaching. Those people are, and tend to think of themselves, as professionals. Professional work is characterized by the assumption that the job of the professional is to bring special expertise and judgment to bear on the work at hand.
Because their expertise and judgment is respected and they alone are presumed to have it, professionals enjoy a high degree of autonomy in carrying out their work. They define the standards used to evaluate the quality of work done, they decide what standards are used to judge the qualifications of professionals in their field, and they have a major voice in deciding what program of preparation is appropriate for professionals in their field. Working as Professionals
Because professionals themselves are expected to have the expertise they need to do their work, organizations that employ professionals are not typically based on the authority of supervisors, but rather on collegial relationships among the professionals. This does not mean no one is in charge, but it does mean that people practicing their profession decide what is to be done and how it is to be done within the constraints imposed by the larger goals or the organization.
Work in such organizations is often challenging and fulfilling. A large body of research shows that it is these conditions of work, at least as much as the high salaries that typically accompany it, that attract our most able college graduates.
The conditions we have just described are rarely to be found in our schools. Teachers work in an environment suffused with bureaucracy. Rules made by others govern their behavior at every turn. Perceptive researchers have told us for years that teachers are treated as if they have no expertise worth having. The text and the scope and sequence of the curriculum define in detail what they are supposed to teach. Decisions made by curriculum supervisors, teacher training experts, outside consultants and authors of teachers' guides determine how a teacher is to teach.
Teachers who choose to work together as professional colleagues must constantly fight the natural tendencies of a system based on very different principles. And an endless array of policies succeed in constraining the exercise of the teacher's independent judgment on almost every matter of moment.
There may be some who believe that all this is fully justified by what they perceive as teachers of inadequate ability. But the plain fact is that the many good teachers we have are being driven out of teaching by these conditions, and it will be impossible to attract many new people of real ability to teaching until these conditions are radically altered. Why Many Are Cynical
The cynicism of many teachers today is due to the fact that, despite the many worthwhile changes being made in education policy, they see little that would change the underlying conditions just described.
In a nutshell, recruiting the most able college graduates to teaching will require the schools to offer pay and conditions of work that are competitive with those to be found in other places where professional work is done. That means fundamental change in both the schools and the profession of teaching.
There is a special problem with respect to minority teachers. The education available to minority and poor children is often lacking in quality compared to that offered to others. They drop out of the educational ''pipeline'' much faster than other children. The result is that obtaining adequate numbers of minority teachers requires more than making teaching an attractive career. There are simply not enough minority students graduating from college with strong academic records to meet the growing need for minority teachers. Only a massive effort to improve the education of minority and poor students from elementary school through graduate school will effectively address the problem.
Meeting these requirements implies far-reaching changes in our schools and in education policy. There is every reason to be optimistic about the country meeting the challenge. A strong base has been laid in many states for the advances that must come next. There is a growing awareness that further progress is unlikely without fundamental changes in structure. In fact, we suspect that dramatic change may be easier to achieve than incremental change, given the growing frustration with political gridlock and the increasing awareness that the biggest impediment to progress is the nature of the system itself.
While many polls show that Americans are relatively satisfied with their schools, they also show that voters would be willing to finance significant increases in school expenditures if they are persuaded that great improvements in performance will follow.
A version of this article appears in print on May 16, 1986, on Page A00017 of the National edition with the headline: EXCERPTS FROM THE CARNEGIE REPORT ON TEACHING. Order Reprints| Today's Paper|Subscribemore » « less