Monday, January 09, 2006

George Will On Teacher Education

Conservative commentator George F. Will claims that some aspiring teachers are being excluded from teacher-education programs because of their conservative viewpoints. He begins by urging the closing of "all schools of education:"
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.

In 2002 the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education declared that a "professional disposition" is "guided by beliefs and attitudes related to values such as caring, fairness, honesty, responsibility, and social justice." Regarding that last, the Chronicle reports that the University of Alabama's College of Education proclaims itself "committed to preparing individuals to"—what? "Read, write and reason"? No, "to promote social justice, to be change agents, and to recognize individual and institutionalized racism, sexism, homophobia, and classism," and to "break silences" about those things and "develop anti-racist, anti-homophobic, anti-sexist community [sic] and alliances."

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 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.
There's more in the whole piece.

I completed a teacher training program in a state university in California. For whatever the program's other shortcomings, (and there were many) at no time did anyone question me concerning my political beliefs.

Our classes did not feature the type of "feel good" material that Will discusses. They were much more pragmatic courses, with names such as: "The Teaching of Reading" and "Using Technology in the Classroom."

But who knows? Perhaps the sorts of things that Will is talking about really are occurring in other education schools. After all, with each of the 50 states having different teacher credentialing requirements, just about anything is possible.

Related: Jenny D., Joanne Jacobs
, NYC Educator
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