Marquette Warrior: Imposing an Orthodoxy in Education Schools

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Imposing an Orthodoxy in Education Schools

Brooklyn College’s School of Education has begun to base evaluations of aspiring teachers in part on their commitment to social justice, raising fears that the college is screening students for their political views.

Critics of the assessment policy warned that aspiring teachers are being judged on how closely their political views are aligned with their instructor’s. Ultimately, they said, teacher candidates could be ousted from the School of Education if they are found to have the wrong dispositions.


Critics [...] say the dangers of the assessment policy became immediately apparent in the fall semester when several students filed complaints against an instructor who they said discriminated against them because of their political beliefs and “denounced white people as the oppressors.”


In 2000 the council introduced new standards for accrediting education schools. Those standards incorporated the concept of dispositions, which the agency maintains ought to be measured, to sort out teachers who are likeliest to be successful. In a glossary, the council says dispositions “are guided by beliefs and attitudes related to values such as caring, fairness, honesty, responsibility, and social justice.”

To drive home the notion that education schools ought to evaluate teacher candidates on such parameters as attitude toward social justice, the council issued a revision of its accrediting policies in 2002 in a Board of Examiners Update. It encouraged schools to tailor their assessments of dispositions to the schools’ guiding principles, which are known in the field as “conceptual frameworks.” The council’s policies say that if an education school “has described its vision for teacher preparation as ‘Teachers as agents of change’ and has indicated that a commitment to social justice is one disposition it expects of teachers who can become agents of change, then it is expected that unit assessments include some measure of a candidate’s commitment to social justice.”

Brooklyn College’s School of Education, which is the only academic unit at the college with the status of school, is among dozens of education schools across the country that incorporate the notion of “social justice” in their guiding principles. At Brooklyn, “social justice” is one of the four main principles in its conceptual framework. The school’s conceptual framework states that it develops in its students “a deeper understanding of the quest for social justice.” In its explanation of that mission, the school states: “We educate teacher candidates and other school personnel about issues of social injustice such as institutionalized racism, sexism, classism, and heterosexism.”

Critics of the dispositions standard contend that the idea of “social justice,” a term frequently employed in left-wing circles, is open to politicization.

“It’s political correctness that has insinuated into the criteria for accreditation of teacher education institutions,” a noted education theorist in New York, Diane Ravitch, said. “Once that becomes the criteria for institutions as a whole, it gives free rein to those who want to impose it in their classrooms,” she said. Ms. Ravitch is the author of “The Language Police: How Pressure Groups Restrict What Students Learn.”

As if to underscore how politicized classrooms have become in this new environment, one Brooklyn College Professor, Priya Parmar, made Michael Moore’s political film Fahrenheit 9/11 required classroom viewing right before the election:

Students also complained that Ms. Parmar dedicated a class period to the screening of an anti-Bush documentary by Michael Moore, “Fahrenheit 9/11,” a week before last November’s presidential election, and required students to attend the class even if they had already seen the film. Students said Ms. Parmar described “Fahrenheit 9/11” as an important film to see before they voted in the election.

“Most troubling of all,” [student Evan] Goldwyn wrote, “she has insinuated that people who disagree with her views on issues such as Ebonics or Fahrenheit 911 should not become teachers.”
Indoctrination at Marquette

To what extent is this sort of indoctrination a part of the School of Education at Marquette?

Certainly, the “word” on campus is that Education majors are required to endure courses in “multiculturalism” that are exceedingly biased and tendentious.

Some insight on this issue can be gained from the School of Education’s “Institutional Report” to the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education. Of course, bureaucratic documents of this kind are absurdly tedious to read, and may be a poor source for understanding what is really going on. On the other hand, the rhetoric people use does matter. Adopting politically biased rhetoric tends to legitimate politically biased actions.

The document is full of rhetoric about “social justice,” although sometimes this appears to mean nothing more controversial that students going out and volunteering to do good things. But sometimes one comes across more explicitly political rhetoric:
Consistent with the mission of the School of Education, the Teacher Education Program at Marquette University has a commitment to social justice in schools and society. A commitment to social justice demands that educators have a deep understanding of the disciplines they teach and use developmentally and culturally responsive pedagogies that embrace technological advances to facilitate learning for all children. An essential goal of the program is to develop in prospective teachers the strongly held ideals of care and respect for all students, racial justice, transformational leadership, and critical reflection.
We don’t know anybody who opposes racial justice, but we know a lot of people who oppose affirmative action preferences and quotas. In context, it appears that the Education school endorses the latter.

The business about promoting social justice “in society” is suspect. Teachers have no more right nor any more obligation to “promote social justice in society” than anybody else. The Education school appears to be claiming to turn out a bunch of leftist political activists.

But it gets worse:
Candidates who are preparing to teach are expected to demonstrate knowledge, skills, and dispositions in five areas of competence and in ten standards which have been identified by the Department of Public Instruction. Two additional standards have been specified by the EDPL department: commitment to social justice and use of technology. Course goals and objectives are carefully aligned with these proficiencies and standards, and assessment of candidate outcomes occurs at multiple intervals throughout the program. (Please see Section 3: Standard 1, pp 26-32 for listing of standards.)
Translation: we aim to inculcate a “disposition” in favor of “social justice.”

The further one goes, the worse it gets. The Report then quotes a 1975 statement by some Jesuits as follows:
Our faith . . . demands of us a commitment to promote justice and to enter into solidarity with the voiceless and the powerless. This commitment will move us seriously to verse ourselves in the complex problems which they face in their lives, then to identify and assume our own responsibilities to society (Document of the 32nd Congregation of the Society of Jesus, 1975).

Teaching for social justice is at the core of democratic education. It serves as a reminder not only to the inequities and biases that continue to wear away at the foundation of democratic values, but of the powerful stories which inspire us to work toward change, to make the world a better place (Ayers, 1998).
We have no problem with “solidarity with the voiceless and the powerless.” The problem is that the leftists who use this kind of rhetoric don’t think of the unborn as among the “voiceless and powerless.” And they don’t think that such “solidarity” requires favoring (say) school choice.

This rhetoric, in other words, is simply a bunch of code words for a leftist political agenda.

The rhetoric just goes on and on:

Educators must “use student culture in order to maintain it and to transcend the negative effects of the dominant culture” (Ladson-Billings, 1994, p. 17). They must use a “pedagogy that empowers students intellectually, socially, emotionally, and politically by using cultural referents to impart knowledge, skills, and attitudes. These cultural referents are not merely vehicles for bridging or explaining the dominant culture; they are aspects of the curriculum in their own right”
And what is the “dominant culture” that has negative effects? A media culture that encourages sexual promiscuity? A legal culture of litigation? Of course not! Those are elements of the “dominant culture” that leftists like.

And further:
Critical reflection:

Consistent with Ignatian pedagogy (International Commission on the Apostolate of Jesuit Education, 1993), critical thinking in teacher education is the ability to “analyze conventional wisdom, reject technocratic approaches to teaching, and view schools from the perspective of those who benefit from them the least” (Valli, 1990). With such thinking, teachers become aware of their personal beliefs, assumptions, and biases and are also able to stand back from those biases to weigh competing claims, contexts, and implications of educational practices. They are then able to “think and act at classroom, school, and systemic levels to correct societal injustice” (Valli, 1990).
Of course, “conventional wisdom” here is like “dominant culture” in the paragraph above. Politically correct professors most certainly promote a “conventional wisdom:” that of the left.
Through the courses which comprise the undergraduate program in teacher education, the unit has attempted to alter the traditional classroom dynamic by encouraging candidates to engage in critical dialogue and by reinforcing a social reconstructionist, multicultural perspective. This perspective includes attention to anti-racist education (Derman-Sparks & Phillips, 1997), pedagogical strategies deemed effective with students of diverse racial, cultural, and linguistic backgrounds, and critical inquiry into policy issues related to equity (Nieto, 2004). The recognition that multicultural education has failed to critique power relations, especially in terms of racial inequities, and has taken instead a colorblind approach (Thompson, 1998) with an aim more akin to assimilation (Ladson-Billings & Tate, 1995) has led the unit to approach undergraduate teacher education in a manner that foregrounds [sic] social justice.
In other words, a “colorblind approach” is out, and minorities are not supposed to assimilate.

And these aren’t positions that should be debated in the Education school, these positions are the official orthodoxy.

Readers with an especially high tolerance for tedium might look at page 21 of the report, where two required introductory education courses (EDUC 008 and EDUC 048) are described in ways that make it clear they are politically correct indoctrination.

Or one then might look on page 32, under “Standard 12: Leadership/Advocacy for Social Justice” which makes it clear that faculty are supposed to be leftist political activists.

Finally on page 44 we find:
Dispositions for All Candidates

Teacher education candidates are repeatedly exposed to these dispositions beginning with the program’s initial course: EDUC 008, Introduction to Schooling in a Diverse Society. In this course candidates are invited to think in new ways about the common, yet often unquestioned, construct of schooling. By focusing on the impacts of race, ethnicity, culture, socioeconomic class, gender, and identity on schooling experiences, the multiple layers of power and control in school and community contexts, and the unique concerns, demands, conditions and rewards of the teaching profession, candidates are asked to develop more complex understandings and questions about both schooling and themselves, as candidates and potential future teachers. Experiences such as the Manresa Project, service learning, and action hour requirements are built into this initial course to ensure that candidates enter the program understanding the strong expectations the unit has for them to grow in their beliefs and attitudes about teaching. All subsequent courses stress the importance of developing the dispositions required to be a successful teacher. For example, the required course, EDUC 048, Critical Inquiry into Contemporary Issues, requires candidates to consider teaching as a process of inquiry that includes learning more about issues plaguing the equitable development of all students. Since this social critique is intended to foster greater democracy, freedom, and social justice within education, candidates are guided in their understanding of how teachers can play a significant role in developing equitable educational experiences. Experiences related directly to the development of dispositions in this course include reflective journals, a critical issues project representing multiple perspectives/viewpoints, a critical issues debate around a controversial issue related to schooling, and the formation of a critical issues web site.
So students are to “grow in their beliefs and attitudes about teaching.” We wonder what happens to students whose “growth” doesn’t accord with their professors politics. Or whose views on social justice are close to those of the Republican Party.

Of course, the mere fact that School of Education promises the National Council for Accreditation that it will, in effect, engage in leftist indoctrination doesn’t prove that any such thing happens.

And we would like to hear from students and even faculty in the School of Education about how this plays out in practice.

But the rhetoric of the document is disturbing. It’s long been the case that colleges and universities claimed to present unbiased instruction, all the while leaning sharply to the left. It’s quite recent that they have admitted a leftist bias, and claimed that one can’t really be a teacher unless one holds politically correct views.


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