It’s advising season–two weeks of spending my non-classroom time dispensing my hard-won wisdom, such as it is, and lighting fires under the butts of students to make sure that they’re meeting their degree requirements, keeping their grades up, and making sure that they have a plan to get them through Baa Ram U. and off to new adventures with an undergraduate degree in History. Officially, faculty endure advising weeks as a chore, but since the students who bother to make appointments and come see us are the ones pretty much on top of the game, it’s not that much work and in fact it’s kind of fun checking in with our advisees.
I advise students who are just majoring in History, and those who are majoring in History and at the same time pursuing teacher licensure in social studies (what we call our History-SST track, short for Social Studies teaching). That track is very demanding–aside from having at least a 3.0 grade point average, students need to take 24 credits of history and 24 credits of social science courses (economics, anthropology, sociology, political science, etc.) as well as all of the teacher training courses in the School of Education. In the past year, a number–not all to be sure–but a noticable number of the best History-SST majors have sat down in my office and told me that they don’t like the direction of public secondary education, with all of the testing and the beating up on teachers in our public discourse. Some of them hang it up and switch out of the SST track, while others just express concerns about ever being able to teach history in grades 7-12 with any degree of creativity or control over their course content. Interestingly, most of the conversations I can recall along these lines in the past year or so have been with male students.
I want to emphasize that these are not the marginal students–they’re some of the very best History-SST majors, the ones you’d like teaching your children and grandchildren someday. They’re very aware of how educrat “school reformers” and some of the general public talk about them and their work with such contempt. These are the wages of making teachers the only people responsible for the failures of K-12 education, friends. We may be losing the very teachers we need the most.