A few years ago, under intense pressure from Congress, NCATE (the national organization that accredits Education programs) abandoned its requirement that, in order to obtain accreditation, Education schools needed to measure the “disposition” of each and every prospective public school teacher to promote social justice. (The mandate didn’t apply to schools that don’t list promotion as social justice as a goal, but virtually all Education programs do so.) The work of FIRE, ACTA, and NAS helped expose how this requirement amounted to little more than a license for Education professors to terminate students with whom they disagreed politically–on matters ranging from affirmative action to the propriety of using class time to show anti-Bush films just before the 2004 Election Day.
The victory over NCATE, however, shouldn’t obscure a related problem: that the Education professors that the organization confidently–and correctly–would implement their “social justice” mandate remain in place. Last week, the NAS blog ran a column that should remind everyone of the continuing problem.
A teacher–whose name was concealed due to fear of career retaliation–wrote of an experience as an M.A. student in Ed school, and in particular his/her challenging of professors’ views regarding the “achievement gap”–the tendency of African-Americans, and in some cases Hispanics, to score lower on standardized tests. As the anonymous teacher explained, the overwhelmingly dominant interpretation of this phenomenon in Ed schools is “the progressive view, . . . which holds that social injustice, institutionalized racism, white prejudice, and other societal ills cause the achievement gap.” Progressive educators oppose tracking, or virtually anything else that would aid gifted and talented students; and, the NAS poster correctly noted, “a large part of the progressive view involves changing the students’ values with sympathetic teachers who understand how to develop ‘accessible’ curriculum for students who aren’t performing at grade level.” Conservatives, on the other end, tend to place more of the blame for poor performance on the teachers and parents of the poorly-performing students.
(“Progressive” and “conservative” don’t correspond to mainstream political ideology–both the Bush and Obama administrations could be characterized as educational “conservatives.”)
The NAS teacher correctly came to realize that “Ed schools see the public rejection of affirmative action, its embrace of welfare reform and crackdowns on illegal immigrants, and all the other rollbacks of the liberal agenda as profoundly wrong and evil acts. They see education as a means of rectifying the injustices committed by an ignorant society, with themselves as one of the last bastions of protection for under-represented minorities.”
After the teacher made clear a disagreement with the prevailing philosophy on the achievement gap, his/her Ed professor made clear an intent to see the student removed from the program, allegedly on trumped-up charges. The student fought back, and obtained the M.Ed. degree.
The story serves as yet another reminder that the one-sided nature of the nation’s Education faculty all but ensures that the best for which society can hope of prospective public school teachers is that these teachers will not be in any way influenced by their Education professors. And the tale serves as yet another reminder of how those interested in upholding academic freedom need to be especially vigilant of protecting students’ rights in Education programs.