How To Screen Out Teachers With "Undesirable" Political Beliefs

October 17, 2010

How To Screen Out Teachers With “Undesirable” Political Beliefs
Blogger David Thompson wrote about an InsideHigherEd piece by Brooklyn College history prof KC Johnson, who writes about school programs that demand that their students promote “social justice” (links live in Johnson’s piece)

At the State University of New York at Oneonta, prospective teachers must “provide evidence of their understanding of social justice in teaching activities, journals, and portfolios . . . and identify social action as the most advanced level.”

The program at the University of Kansas expects students to be “more global than national and concerned with ideals such as world peace, social justice, respect for diversity and preservation of the environment.”

The University of Vermont’s department envisions creating “a more humane and just society, free from oppression, that fosters respect for ethnic and cultural diversity.”
Marquette’s program “has a commitment to social justice in schools and society,” producing teachers who will use the classroom “to transcend the negative effects of the dominant culture.”

According to the University of Toledo, “Education is our prime vehicle for creating the ‘just’ society,” since “we are preparing citizens to lead productive lives in a democratic society characterized by social justice.”

This rhetoric is admirable. Yet, as the hotly contested campaigns of 2000 and 2004 amply demonstrated, people of good faith disagree on the components of a “just society,” or what constitutes the “negative effects of the dominant culture,” or how best to achieve “world peace . . . and preservation of the environment.”

An intellectually diverse academic culture would ensure that these vague sentiments did not yield one-sided policy prescriptions for students. But the professoriate cannot dismiss its ideological and political imbalance as meaningless while simultaneously implementing initiatives based on a fundamentally partisan agenda.

…As one conference devoted to the concept explained, using this standard would produce “teachers who possess knowledge and discernment of what is good or virtuous.” Advocates leave ideologically one-sided education departments to determine “what is good or virtuous” in the world.

Thompson notes:

This egregious and sinister treatment prompted Johnson to raise an entirely legitimate question:

Must prospective public school teachers accept a professor’s argument that “white English is the oppressors’ language” in order to enter the profession?

And here’s what happened in the wake of that question:

Of course, the heroes at FIRE (Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, defending free speech rights on campus), led by constitutional lawyer Greg Lukianoff, came to his defense.

All is not well in The Academy, however. Check this out from FIRE’s blog:

Columbia University’s Teachers College requires students to demonstrate a “commitment to social justice” and employs “dispositions,” which it defines as “observable behaviors that fall within the law and involve the use of certain skills,” to evaluate students. These dispositions, “expected of Teachers College candidates and graduates” and “assessed at each transition point,” include “Respect for Diversity and Commitment to Social Justice.” FIRE has criticized such ideological requirements in several letters to Columbia University and Teachers College, arguing that evaluating students according to their commitment to an officially defined political belief is a violation of a student’s right to decide for himself or herself what is and is not socially just. Teachers College President Susan Fuhrman told FIRE that the policy would be reevaluated in 2007, but I guess Columbia likes having ideological litmus tests, since we have seen no change to this policy yet. Is Columbia willing to try to defend this policy in public?

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  • criolle johnny

    That “diversity” and “social justice” is even present in the Praxis exams that prospective teachers must take for certification. These are MULTIPLE CHOICE questions with obvious political slant.
    Go figure.

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