St. Ignatius of Loyola found education to be one of the most important ways of promoting “the betterment of souls.” Education is supposedly fundamental to the “Spirit of Georgetown,” which emphasizes educating the whole person and fostering academic excellence.
The values highlighted in the “Spirit of Georgetown” seemed to align perfectly with mine. I transferred to Georgetown my sophomore year after struggling with an unfulfilling academic environment at my previous institution. Then, two months ago, I decided to abandon the pre-law track I had been on for two years to instead pursue a career in early education. I had always been interested in teaching, but I was deterred by the stigma around pursuing a so-called “low-earning” field, especially attending an expensive school like Georgetown.
I knew switching majors as a junior would be complicated, but with such an emphasis on education in Georgetown’s Jesuit values, I was hopeful that Georgetown would have top-tier education courses. Instead, I learned just how limited the options for those pursuing education are at Georgetown.
The SFS has a major for every imaginable sect of government and politics, and the MSB offers courses to cater to each and every aspiring CEO, entrepreneur, and investor. Both the School of Health and the College of Arts and Sciences have options to help pre-med students prepare for different sects of medical school.
If, however, you want to pursue a field other than law, healthcare, politics, or business, you’re left with few options; there are few productive majors for a college student, like myself, who is interested in early education.
As I browsed my options for a new major, I started to question why the options were so limited. While the school offers a myriad of options for students pursuing high-earning fields, the same kind of variety doesn’t exist for students pursuing typically low-earning fields.
I’m expecting to make roughly $60,000 a year as a kindergarten teacher, while the average salary of Georgetown graduates ten years after enrolling is $118,900. I wondered if the school was intentionally deterring students from pursuing low-earning fields in an attempt to maintain its six-figure post-graduate salary. By keeping the majors for low-earning degrees limited, students may be encouraged to pursue a major that the school deems “more valuable” instead.
It seems at odds with Georgetown’s Jesuit values that education as a career is not valued in the same way that other paths are. While students are not explicitly prevented from pursuing this path, the lack of education coursework at Georgetown complicates the process to a point where it is inconvenient or unfeasible for many to pursue.
Even though Georgetown doesn’t have an education or education-adjacent major, the school does offer the interdisciplinary minor Education, Inquiry, and Justice (EDIJ). The minor focuses on education justice through policy, teaching students about education rather than teaching them to be educators. This minor is my only option to take classes that are remotely aligned with my interests. However, it does little to prepare me for a career in teaching when I graduate.
Many undergraduate teaching programs offer students coursework to hone the skills needed to teach students, such as writing lesson plans or teaching phonemic awareness, a popular method used to teach children how to read and spell. A majority of undergraduate teaching programs also offer ways for aspiring teachers to obtain their teaching certification, which federal law requires for all public school teachers. Georgetown, however, does not offer such opportunities for certification or relevant coursework in undergrad.
Georgetown’s lack of an education major is emblematic of a larger disregard for teachers that is prevalent in the United States. In other countries, teachers have high status in society, including in China, Greece, Turkey, and South Korea. A 2013 study showed that these countries ranked teaching highly amidst other professions, comparing their value to that of nurses and doctors. The U.S., however, did not share this sentiment, ranking in the middle of the 20 other countries surveyed in teacher respect. This viewpoint was also demonstrated through the salaries of teachers in the countries surveyed, with the U.S. once again ranking in the middle.
The societal attitudes towards teaching as a profession are something I’ve witnessed firsthand. When I first started considering a career in education, I was met with comments criticizing my choice to come to Georgetown. Those around me made it clear that “you don’t go to Georgetown to become a teacher. If you want to be a teacher, go to community college.” I even occasionally heard that teaching would be a waste of my intelligence, making me cautious to even consider pursuing this path.
To compensate for Georgetown’s lack of curricula, I will need to go to graduate school to get my teaching certification. Some students, however, cannot afford this luxury, thus further exacerbating socioeconomic disparities. Though I believe that college is a valuable opportunity to explore academic and career interests, many students don’t have the privilege or budget to study whatever they want and sharpen their career focus in graduate school. For many, undergrad is their only opportunity to gain the necessary credentials to join the workforce, as they cannot afford the added tuition costs of graduate school.
If education is one of the most important ways of promoting “the betterment of souls,” why are there no options for undergraduate students who want to pursue it?
Georgetown University is one of five U.S. schools in the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities (AJCU) that does not offer any opportunities to obtain teaching certification for undergraduate students. Of these five, two of them offer five-year accelerated bachelor’s/master’s programs so students can still study education as undergraduates. All 22 other U.S. schools dedicated to the Jesuit values of the “betterment of the soul” through education hold to these values through the coursework and concentrations they offer.
If Georgetown is dedicated to its Jesuit values, it should follow suit with the majority of schools in the AJCU and adjust its coursework accordingly. Though I’ve accepted that an education major is not something I’ll see at Georgetown before I graduate, future students shouldn’t have to be discouraged from pursuing the field.