The New Jersey Department of Education is in the process of changing the rules for teacher training. We believe this change, should it be put in place, will be detrimental to our children’s education.
Currently, all primary education majors are required to double major. One of those majors is elementary education, which teaches students education theory and practice. The second major is chosen from a list of approved majors: mathematics, English, psychology, history, Spanish, STEM and art are a few of the many from which students can choose.
The state Education Department is proposing to weaken these requirements. In their new plan, college students who want to teach kindergarten to sixth grade would have the option to major only in elementary education and to take 30 credits in liberal arts without completing enough courses to earn a traditional major. We were deeply disappointed when we heard this.
As we write this op-ed, we wear two different hats. We are faculty members from across the humanities and social sciences at The College of New Jersey, but more importantly, we are also parents of children who have benefited from the instruction of superb teachers in New Jersey’s public schools.
When our children come home from school they talk about their classroom’s reading corner, their teacher’s favorite piece of children’s literature, or how their class designed a city based on an ancient Roman model. It is intellectual adventures like these that spark a lifelong love of learning.
As college instructors of many double majors in elementary education and disciplines of the humanities and social sciences, we see how the two majors work hand in hand to lay the groundwork for meaningful classroom experiences.
We want our children’s teachers to have majored in psychology, so they can bring an understanding of child development to calming emotional kids. We want our teachers to have majored in Spanish, so they can better communicate with Spanish-speaking families.
We want our teachers to have majored in history, so students learn to contextualize their local communities in the rich history of New Jersey. Depth in content is essential to fostering creativity, inquisitiveness and critical thinking.
New Jersey public schools are ranked among the top in the country. When we talk to families from other states, we regularly note the importance of this double major model and how it enriches our children’s education. Most parents respond, “This is genius! I wish our state did that.” In fact, this change puts us in line with many of the lowest-performing states in the nation.
We ask that the Department of Education refrain from making this change. If you are a parent, and if you too are concerned by this change, please contact the governor’s office and the Department of Education by Nov. 1.
Together, we can keep New Jersey schools strong.
Dina Boero is an associate professor of history at The College of New Jersey.
Cynthia Paces, history professor, The College of New Jersey
Felicia Steele, associate professor of English, The College of New Jersey