What To Teach Teachers

The Education of American Teachers, by James Bryant Conant (McGraw-Hill, 1963, 275 pp., $5), is reviewed by Frank E. Gaebelein, co-editor ofCHRISTIANITY TODAYand headmaster emeritus of The Stony Brook School.

In 1910 Abraham Flexner, after extensive study under the auspices of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, published his Medical Education in the United States and Canada, a book that revolutionized the training of physicians in America. Last September James Bryant Conant, former president of Harvard University, U.S. High Commissioner of Germany and later ambassador to that country, published The Education of American Teachers, another in his series of studies of American public education made under grant of the Carnegie Corporation. The parallel is significant, for Dr. Conant’s most recent volume contains the potential of changing the face of teacher education as Flexner’s book changed medical education.

Like its predecessors, The American High School Today and Education in the Junior High School Years, this book is a refreshing example of what happens when a first-rate mind, unencumbered by the hazy professionalism that marks many educational theorists today, applies itself to the problems of public education.

Charles Malik, former president of the General Assembly of the United Nations and himself a teacher, said, “Find the good teacher and forget everything else.” This may sound extreme, yet it places the emphasis for education in the right place. Already the influence of Dr. Conant’s other books on the public schools is widely felt. But the proposals he has made in them will fall short of full effectiveness, as will every other effort toward educational reform, without drastic ...

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