Sunday, June 07, 2009

Jonathan Alter

"Education is the dullest of subjects," Jacques Barzun wrote in the very first sentence of his astonishingly fresh 1945 classic, Teacher in America. Barzun despised the idea of "professional educators" who focus on "methods" instead of subject matter. He loved teachers, but knew they "are born, not made," and that most teachers' colleges teach the wrong stuff.

Cut to 2009, when Barack Obama thinks education is the most exciting of subjects. Even so, Obama and his education secretary, Arne Duncan, get Barzun. They understand that the key to fixing education is better teaching, and the key to better teaching is figuring out who can teach and who can't.

— Jonathan Alter, Peanut-Butter Politics: Education funding is a sticky issue, Newweek. web June 6, 2009, print June 15, 2009

This is not quite right. Barzun also says that born teachers are rarer than born poets. Since many more teachers are needed than are born, teachers who know and cannot teach should be taught how to teach.