The University of Minnesota’s ed school has found itself embroiled in controversy after a newspaper columnist claimed the school is seeking to indoctrinate would-be teachers with radical ideologies–and might prevent those who do not toe the line from teaching. As described by Katherine Kersten, a columnist for the Minneapolis Star-Tribune,
The Race, Culture, Class and Gender Task Group at the U’s College of Education and Human Development recommended that aspiring teachers there must repudiate the notion of “the American Dream” in order to obtain the recommendation for licensure required by the Minnesota Board of Teaching. Instead, teacher candidates must embrace — and be prepared to teach our state’s kids — the task force’s own vision of America as an oppressive hellhole: racist, sexist and homophobic.
The “oppresive hellhole” language is Kersten’s own; it appears nowhere in the task force report. Here’s the passage in question:
The story of the United States is often told in terms of the American Dream….Future teachers will understand that despite an ideal about what is considered common culture in the United States, that many groups are typically not included within this celebrated cultural identity and more often than not, many students with multi-generational histories in the United States are routinely perceived to be new immigrants or foreign. That such exclusion is frequently a result of dissimilarities in power and influence.
Jean K. Quam, the dean of UM’s ed school responds in the Star Tribune that discussion of these issues is not indoctrination. “Our belief is that acknowledging these issues is essential to teacher and student success and that ignoring them will not make them go away,” she writes. “A teacher with expert subject knowledge but without skills to connect with students or to be flexible and inventive in the classroom is an ineffective teacher,” she says.
All well and good, but one still might ask to what degree the University concerns itself with ensuring its graduates are teachers with “expert subject knowledge,” something that is typically not a huge ed school concern. The UM controversy raises the issue of ed schools insistence on evaluating teacher ”dispositions,” a hot-button term for many. In a 2007 Education Next piece, Kent State professor Laurie Moses Hines questioned the purpose of such assessments:
Whether the standard is mental hygiene or possessing the proper political and ideological disposition, the elimination of candidates who do not pass muster gives teacher educators the power to determine who gains access to a classroom based on the values the teacher educators prefer. While the courts have permitted certifying agencies to require “good moral character” of teacher applicants, as legal scholars Martha McCarthy and Nelda Cambron-McCabe note, they “will intervene…if statutory or constitutional rights are abridged.” Thus, while pledging loyalty to federal and state constitutions is a permissible condition for obtaining a teacher license, swearing an oath to progressivism is not. Given the evidence and the history, there should be real concern, as teacher educator Gary Galluzzo has said, that “students’ views and personalities are being used against them” whenever dispositions are assessed. Those committed to academic freedom within higher education should be concerned when professional socialization trumps freedom of conscience in teacher education programs.
As a purely practical matter, one wonders why “dispositions” are a criteria at all in determining who gets to teach, and if time might be better spent ensuring future teachers have mastered their subject and craft, and are well-prepared to be effective classroom managers. It seems reasonable to say that far more ground is sacrificed by teachers who are overwhelmed and unprepared than by those who are not, er, correctly disposed.
(via Joanne Jacobs)