PSA: Education is Not Just About Teaching

I am tirrrrrreeeeeeddd of explaining to people that professors of education do NOT just ‘teach teachers’. And that no, education is not ‘what all professors do’. All professors educate; they do not teach education. Education, like any field, is theory driven. Music professors teach music theory; dance professors teach the history of dance; chemistry professors teach scientific concepts. To perfect a practice, you must first understand its origins, its purpose, its social influences. Professors of education teach all of that, not solely ‘how to teach’.

In fact, most undergraduate education programs do not have ‘methods’ courses (classes where you learn how to teach) as a part of their course offerings. Methods courses are reserved for people who’ve decided they want to teach as their career. In those classes you learn pedagogy, not theory or content.  Those courses are often accompanied by practicums in local schools or educational organizations. Their intent is to provide you with the required coursework and teaching experience necessary to receive a teaching licensure in your state.

That is not what I do (primarily). 85% of my year is spent teaching undergraduate courses like Intro Education, Urban Education, Educational Psychology, Policy and Politics in Educations, and Education Reform. I even throw in some cooler classes about educational cinema and sexuality in schools. Courses such as these are meant to provide students whose primary academic interests lie in other areas with a foundational understanding of the social and political influences on—and outcomes of—our educational system. Pretty cool stuff.

Education is indeed found in all aspects of life. One of the reasons I chose this field over psychology is because it is applicable everywhere and accessible to everyone. It is historical and futuristic; it is constant and dynamic; it is personal and universal. Though often viewed as a ‘soft science’ it is one of the most difficult fields in which to research and teach. Where else do theories guiding practices change with the publishing of new studies across four disciplines? In what other fields do policies passed over 50 years ago still affect the content of syllabi? Who else must watch the international, national, and local news, follow tweets, and read multiple newspapers on a daily basis just to keep up with issues that have direct effects on your lesson plan for the day? I am reminded of one of my favorite quotes from a reading I came across in graduate school:

Easy-to-do science is what those in physics, chemistry, geology, and some other fields do. Hard-to-do science is what the social scientists do and, in particular, it is what we educational researchers do. We do our science under conditions that physical scientists find intolerable. We face particular problems and must deal with local conditions that limit generalizations and theory building–problems that are different from those faced by the easier-to-do sciences.
-David Berliner (2002)

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