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January 10, 2006

Teacher Colleges screen for political beliefs
 
Columnist George Will begins an excellent column on the role of teachers colleges in undermining education ("Ed Schools vs. Education"- click here to read the entire article) by saying:
The surest, quickest way to add quality to primary and secondary education would be addition by subtraction: Close all the schools of education. Consider The Chronicle of Higher Education's recent report concerning the schools that certify America's teachers.

Many education schools discourage, even disqualify, prospective teachers who lack the correct "disposition," meaning those who do not embrace today's "progressive" political catechism. Karen Siegfried had a 3.75 grade-point average at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, but after voicing conservative views, she was told by her education professors that she lacked the "professional disposition" teachers need. She is now studying to be an aviation technician.
Teacher colleges have taken to screening students for proper political dogma, or dispositions. The policy was unmasked last October with the story that Washington State University informed 42 year old Edward Swan that he had failed a "professional dispositions evaluation" and didn't belong in the College of Education undergraduate program. Swan is a conservative, patriotic family man whose politics don't mesh with campus leftism.
 
Last May, the New York Sun also reported that Brooklyn College's School of Education was evaluating aspiring teachers for their commitment to social justice, code words for the Marxist oppressor-versus-oppressed idea. Radical elites, for example, identify standard English and traditional computational math as tools of oppressive white males power, giving rise to campus Ebonics and multi-cultural math.
 
That sounds nutty, but EducationNews.org quotes WSUs College of Education Dean as bragging that the whole teaching profession believes in a social justice approach to education. 
 
A well-respected Brooklyn College history professor criticized the policy as indoctrination and viewpoint discrimination, after which the faculty promised to have its "integrity committee" investigate him for threatening "academic freedom."
 
As it turns out, the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education, which accredits half the country's teacher education programs, has required social justice dispositions of teachers-to-be since 2000. Thirty-nine states have adopted the councils standards.
 
Robert Holland of Virginia's Lexington Institute says, "social justice" is being defined by those who despise the very ideal of an American common culture - considering it irredeemably racist, sexist, homophobic, etc."
 
The "national standards", meanwhile, promoted by some as what all states should be required to teach (see Ravitch's " All States Left Behind"), are successfully peddling the idea that K-12 civics classes must teach civic dispositions.  We can guess who gets to decide what that means.

Another excerpt from George Will:
Brooklyn College, where a professor of education required her class on Language Literacy in Secondary Education to watch "Fahrenheit 9/11" before the 2004 election, says it educates teacher candidates about, among many other evils, "heterosexism." The University of Alaska Fairbanks, fluent with today's progressive patois, says that, given America's "caste-like system," teachers must be taught "how racial and cultural 'others' negotiate American school systems, and how they perform their identities." Got it?

The permeation of ed schools by politics is a consequence of the vacuity of their curricula. Concerning that, read "Why Johnny's Teacher Can't Teach" by Heather Mac Donald of the Manhattan Institute (available at city-journal.org). Today's teacher-education focus on "professional disposition" is just the latest permutation of what Mac Donald calls the education schools' "immutable dogma," which she calls "Anything But Knowledge."

The dogma has been that primary and secondary education is about "self-actualization" or "finding one's joy" or "social adjustment" or "multicultural sensitivity" or "minority empowerment." But is never about anything as banal as mere knowledge. It is about "constructing one's own knowledge" and "contextualizing knowledge," but never about knowledge of things like biology or history.

Mac Donald says "the central educational fallacy of our time," which dates from the Progressive Era of the early 20th century, is "that one can think without having anything to think about." At City College of New York a professor said that in her course Curriculum and Teaching in Elementary Education she would be "building a community, rich of talk" and "getting the students to develop the subtext of what they're doing."

Although ed schools fancy themselves as surfers on the wave of the future, Mac Donald believes that teacher education "has been more unchanging than Miss Havisham. Like aging vestal virgins, today's schools lovingly guard the ancient flame of progressivism"an egalitarianism with two related tenets.

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