Thursday, March 05, 2015 9:12 AM
By MICHAEL HICKS
- Nationwide, student enrollment in colleges of education has plummeted
over the past few years. This trend is playing out here in Indiana,
with multi-year double digit enrollment declines yearly for the largest
programs at IU, Purdue and Ball State. Not surprisingly, this has caused
much worry among deans, whose first inclination has been to look
outside their own halls for the problem. So, a plethora of news articles
blame low teacher salaries and a general lessening of respect for
teachers as root causes. That is hogwash.
I do believe teacher
salaries are on the low side and could use a legislative boost. Still,
low wages cannot explain the recent and rapid decline in enrollment in
teachers colleges. In fact, public sector employees, including teachers,
are among the few occupations to see wage growth over the past decade.
The drop isn’t due to wages.
The debate over plunging enrollment
often turns to the lessened respect the teaching profession has today.
That is a convenient and emotionally fulfilling argument for someone in a
teacher’s college, but it is also wrong. There are many pools of the
most respected professions, and teachers always rank in the top ten and
mostly in the top three. In contrast, teachers colleges have seen a drop
off in enrollment that is greater than among military colleges during
the height of the Vietnam protests. The notion that teachers have lost
the respect of Americans is counterfactual nonsense.