Education Studies at Yale has reached a crossroads.
Two years ago, administrators announced that Yale’s Teacher Preparation program would end. Student voices temporarily saved the program, causing administrators to extend it until the end of last semester. But the program — and the certification it offered — is now gone.
Today, the future of its replacement, the Education Studies program, remains unclear. It is time for students to find their voices once again and to express what they wish to see in a strong and sustainable Education Studies program.
The program is not ending; it is transitioning, and this moment of transition is when students can have the greatest impact. But no students currently serve on the Education Studies Advisory Committee that will help determine the future of the program. And, at the end of this semester, the program will lose director Linda Cole-Taylor — a passionate, dedicated and experienced advocate for the study of education in an academic context. With these resources gone, students must advocate for themselves.
On campus, at a time when John Starr’s political science seminars on public schools are consistently oversubscribed, and Teach for America remains a top destination for Yalies after graduation, it makes little sense to reduce access to classes on education. What Education Studies classes need is the same sense of legitimacy that has been bestowed by administrators on any of Yale’s major departments or programs.
This can be accomplished by strengthening and expanding class offerings in Education Studies, many of which should be cross-listed with other academic departments, so that learning about learning can be part of an integrated liberal arts education. But the program must also be able to stand on its own. Education Studies should not be vocational, it should be rigorously philosophical, intellectual and multidisciplinary.
The Education Studies program has been criticized for being pre-professional, a buzzword liberally applied to courses that supposedly should not be part of a liberal arts education. But the Global Affairs major culminates in a work-based senior capstone project and the Journalism Initiative trains students to write articles. We should not eliminate offerings associated with a specific profession — studying education can only make us more effective learners, the very desire that first brought us to Yale.
Students in Cole-Taylor’s “Schools, Community, and the Teacher,” the central seminar of the Education Studies program, are placed as observers in New Haven schools. They have often worked with former members of the Yale Teacher Preparation program — graduates of the College who now teach in local New Haven high schools. Education studies at Yale, despite its shaky and uncertain future, has created a cycle of Yalies learning from one another and giving back to our greater community. Our University cannot afford to lose this invaluable resource.
We hope to see a new director of Education Studies appointed soon, one who will be able to continue Cole-Taylor’s efforts with the full financial and administrative support of the University. We expect this director to continue some form of the central Education Studies seminar, allowing students who were turned away this semester another opportunity to enroll. This new director must maintain Cole-Taylor’s relationships with local schools, so that the cycle of Yalies involved in New Haven schools can go unbroken. To truly fulfill our New Haven promise, to be full citizens of our city, we must continue to teach.
If we raise our hands and speak, we can show Yale administrators that they have underestimated the passion for teaching and education on this campus.