Objections From a Dean

School of Education University of Miami

Since verifiable facts of law and regulation are misstated in Mrs. Stout’s article, little confidence can be placed in the inferences and conclusions drawn. let me call attention to several glaring errors of fact:

1. The paragraph beginning at the bottom of page 59 says that life certificates are no longer honored. This is a misstatement of fact. Anyone holding a life certificate issued in the state of Florida has just what it says, a certificate valid for the life of the holder. The state stopped issuing such certificates in 1939. but anyone who has a certificate issued prior to that time has a valid certificate for teaching in the Florida public schools.

2. Later in the same paragraph, on page 60, appears the statement that holders of the graduate certificate are “required to return to college periodically to take summer courses in the latest theories.” The clear inference here is that the recency credits which are required must be in education courses. This is not true, as can be easily ascertained by reading the certification regulations or inquiring from someone in a position to know. Every Florida certificate, other than the life certificate (which is valid for the life of the holder), is valid for a given number of years (five years for the graduate certificate and ten years for the post-graduate and advanced postgraduate certificates). To extend the certificate for the next period of validity, the holder must present six semester hours of college credits. The certification regulations have the following specific statements about these credits:

Credits to be used for extension purposes may be earned in any field as long as there is no duplication of work previously taken and an average grade of at least “C" is made.

As a matter of fact, teachers are encouraged to use this work to strengthen their training in their teaching fields, to fill in gaps in their general education, as well as to study advanced work in education. There is absolutely no compulsion that this work be in a school of education.

3. The statement attributed to the dean of the college of education of the University of Florida, “If you know enough about how to teach, you can always pick up enough facts to face a high school class,” is clearly preposterous and professionally defamatory. I have worked very closely with this man for over ten years in the state of Florida, and I know that this statement is completely out of line with his thinking and approach to the problems of teacher education. He tells me that he has never written such a statement nor made an oral statement that could conceivably be interpreted to mean this by any sensible person.

4. Near the end of page 60 occurs the statement, “The teacher shortage has been created by and for the colleges of education, and the certification requirements are being used to operate a closed shop.” This simple and incomplete view as to the causes of the teacher shortage is so inadequate that it is a surprise to find it seriously put forth in a reputable magazine. The explanation completely ignores the fact that there are shortages in almost all areas of professional life due to the low birth rate during the depression in the 1930s. The boom in war babies, who are now demanding services in schools as well as in many other areas, is increasing the demand for professionally trained people in all areas. As a matter of fact, the certification requirements in Florida are essentially the same today as they were over a decade ago when our problem in the colleges was to find jobs for our graduates rather than, as it is now, to find graduates for the jobs.

I do not believe there is a state in the Union that has more lenient regulations for people wishing to start teaching than does Florida. In this state any person holding a bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution is legally eligible to start teaching in the public schools. He does not have to have had his first course in education, and equally unfortunate, he does not have to have had full training in his teaching field. He is permitted to teach for three years without any interference from any certification authority as to whether or not he has completed requirements. At the end of the three years if he wishes to continue in teaching, and if he has not already done so, he must then start to take a number of required courses and has three more years in which to complete them. Because I sincerely believe that special preparation is important, I think this is an unhappy situation, but nevertheless it is true. If certification requirements were the only problem, Florida should have plenty of teachers.

LYDIA STOUT REPLIES

The certification racket is so complicated that no article could cover it completely. I attempted to show mainly the results of the shenanigans of the educationist hierarchy. However, I am glad to answer the points Dean Beery raises.

1. True, life certificates issued in Florida prior to 1939 are still honored. But among the great influx of people to Florida are thousands of experienced teachers and college graduates with life certificates from other states. Florida does not honor their certificates. It does not solve the teacher shortage nor console those individuals to tell them their certificates would have been honored if they had been issued in Florida prior to 1939. And why, you may ask, does Florida no longer issue life certificates? Education classrooms must be filled.

2. Dean Beery is quite correct when he says that there is no law or regulation that specifically states students must take their so-called recency of credit courses in a college of education, but circumstances force students to do precisely that. Therein lies part of the real racket, as I explained in the paragraph of my article directly following the one to which Dean Beery refers. An undergraduate student has had to submit to a program (state requirements plus courses piled on by colleges of education) so loaded with how-to-teach courses that he could take little but the most elementary subject matter courses. And so, when he returns periodically to meet his recency of credit requirements, the law which offers increased pay for advanced degrees induces him to take graduate courses. But, lacking sufficient background in any subject matter department, he is unprepared for graduate work in any college other than education. Therefore it may not be the law, per se, but the side effects — the curricula laid down by colleges of education that have made this racket possible,

3. Dean White of the University of Florida made the remark, “If you know enough about how to teach, you can always pick up enough facts to face a high school class,” to me in the presence of a mutual friend, and the dean was only defending the teacher training curricula of his college. I had no intention of defaming Dean White. I quoted him simply to expose the basic philosophy of people in charge of teacher education. He was just preaching what he practices.

4.A Gainesville Sun editorial called the teacher shortage “an artificial one, created by the colleges of education.” One of Florida’s ablest legislators said the colleges of education were trying to run a “closed shop.” A county superintendent noted with disapproval that “Florida is enjoying the teacher shortage.” The Florida Education Association has found the teacher shortage a very effective lever or threat to use in attaining its objectives. I traveled the state from Miami to Tallahassee. Constantly I raised the certification topic, and always there were eager listeners. Invariably someone had been kept from teaching or knew someone who had. I found the same situation in other states I visited — well-educated, experienced, potential teachers barred from classrooms. The evidence is that certification is a paramount cause not only of the teacher shortage but also of our downgraded schools.

Florida is lenient in that college graduates may start teaching without taking courses in education. The regulation is an implement that is frequently used to disarm critics of certification regulations. The catch is, of course, that initial leniency is only a postponement of the time when the how-to courses must be pursued or endured.

Dean Beery failed to mention that until June, 1957, only one year of grace was allowed. It was changed to three years because of pressures from our Parents Committee, and this token concession was intended to placate us. If a teacher performs successfully for three years, hasn’t she demonstrated that she does not need education courses?

If not a satisfactory teacher, why was she rehired for the second and third years? Thus leniency seems to be but another way to get students into colleges of education.

Dean Beery’s viewpoint is typical of the hierarchy that controls the licensing of teachers.