Enrollment at the Indiana University School of Education is declining. Lemuel Watson’s solution is to shift the narrative about teaching.

Watson is in his second year as dean of the school, but he’s been talking to people about education for decades. What he’s found is a general consensus that education is a game changer. It creates productive citizens. It opens the door to economic prosperity. But the field is facing some big challenges.

Teaching has been politicized. Educators are blamed for society’s ills. And they don’t get paid very well.

As Patrick Shoulders, vice chairman of the IU Board of Trustees, pointed out during a meeting earlier this month, it’s hard to get students to pay for an education degree when a degree from the business school costs roughly the same and will likely lead to a more lucrative job after graduation.

Watson said educators have been too passive in the face of such criticisms. They’ve let other people hijack the narrative. He wants to take it back.

Watson didn’t start out studying education. He earned a bachelor’s degree in management from the University of South Carolina and started working as a systems analyst. But he brought that mindset to the dean’s office.

Society is totally different from what it was 50 years ago, yet many schools are still structured the same way, he said. Just because a child is 6 years old doesn’t necessarily mean he should be in first grade. The system should be more fluid, allowing those students who need more challenging curriculums to move ahead and those who need more time to get the remediation they need before being pushed along to the next grade.
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