The politics of teacher licensure are neither complicated nor surprising. Those institutions, organizations, and individuals who have helped construct existing arrangements and licensing systems see their handiwork as sensibly ordered, if imperfect, with improvement requiring the application of higher standards, additional expertise, more fieldwork and partnering with schools, and more resources. On the other hand, those who would strip down much of the existing licensure apparatus--few of whom have any station or influence in the teacher preparation community--regard such efforts as tinkering that leaves established gate-keepers unchallenged, dissuades talent from entering the field, stifles challenges to the reigning orthodoxy, and inflates the cost of educational provision. Such critics would pursue new structural arrangements that allow aspiring educators to bypass traditional preparation institutions and thus diminish the influence of existing stakeholders. These disparate points of view are the normal, healthy result of the different experiences, worldviews, and incentives of the disputants. However, while disagreement is predictable and healthy, the resulting debate has been neither. The rhetoric has too often focused on imputing untoward motives and on ad hominem attacks. Such vitriol creates armed camps that jeer at each other across the divide and works to discourage nuance and/or reasoned compromise. It is time for a discourse conducted in a fashion more fitting to the task at hand.
Frederick M. Hess is a resident scholar and the director of education policy studies at AEI.