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Thursday, March 03, 2016

University of Manitobe Fac ulty of Education Reserves Almost Half of New Slots for Minorities

University of Manitoba

A reader alerts me to a piece by Peter Shawn Taylor in the National Post regarding the University of Manitoba faculty of education. Beginning next year, the school will admit 45% of students not on their academic record, but on the basis of minority quotas.

This is profoundly discriminatory, but not really new. I talked to Queen's faculty of education when I graduated with my BA, and was shocked to discover that my high marks mattered nothing to them. The academic entrance qualification then, at a posh university like Queen's, was exactly what it is now at the U of M: a C+ average. If I recall correctly, this was also the minimum required to graduate with an honours B.A. In every course, not overall. Beyond that, it was simply first come, first served.

I asked why. The administrator said that no studies had ever shown that higher academic achievement led to better teaching. What is striking about this is how untrue it is. A lot of studies, notably those by Teach for America, based on a huge amount of data, show the opposite: that a high SAT, and graduation from a highly competitive university with good marks, is perhaps the most accurate predictor of future teaching quality. It is also just common sense: you cannot teach what you do not know. The basic requirements for a good teacher are therefore 1) subject knowledge, and 2) knowledge of how to learn, or at least how to do well at academics. Good university students with strong degrees are the experts in both.

Unfortunately, as with the almost universal prejudice against the Jews, people hate through envy anyone who is smarter or more accomplished than they. Once, up until the Sixties, teaching school was a viable option for very bright young people early in their career. At that point, as noted in the piece on John Taylor Gatto posted here recently, the teaching trade, and especially the educational administration trade, came to be dominated by weak students of relatively low intelligence:

… [O]f twenty occupational groups measured, public school teachers score seventeenth on the GRE. Who scores lower? School administrators, who score 51 or 80 points lower, depending whether you are measuring them against elementary or secondary teachers (p. 21).

This, I think, was directly related to the push to establish teaching as a “profession.” The “professionals” were those who never moved on. Drudges. Many if not most elementary school teachers, did not, at that time, even hold a university degree. I have seen this in other fields once they professionalize. Pay goes up as quality goes down. Relevant is Adam Smith's famous comment, “People of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public, or in some contrivance to raise prices.” See also this piece from The American Interest for an angle on the problem.

Once the drudges got control, disaster. They hated anyone who had genuine intelligence or academic ability as anti-Semites hate Jews. Not least of those who suffered and suffer: bright students. Of course the professionals were not going to give any new places to bright people or those with posh degrees, no matter what was in the interests of the students.

First, come first served is, however, still rather embarrassing. It makes school teaching look pretty Mickey Mouse. The U of M has hit upon a better alternative: make it look like “progressive” politics. Of course, as Taylor points out, if they were really concerned with employment equity, half the new places would be reserved for men, who are grossly underrepresented in the "profession."

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