Tag Archives: teacher

Unionize All Those Adjuncts?–Let’s Not

adjunct union protests.jpgSome two-thirds of America’s college students are taught by adjuncts, and now the battle is on over whether these low-paid, low-status workers should be unionized. Adjuncts, also called contingent faculty, are teachers hired without tenure, paid a small fraction of those on tenure-track positions, (typically $2700 per course, with minimal benefits). All three college faculty unions–the AAUP, American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association–have recently ramped up unionization campaigns while non-academic unions like the United Auto Workers have likewise entered the battle. The stakes are high both for institutions and for individuals.

One does not have to be a Marxist to yell, “Exploitation!” Endless tales of “Gypsy Scholars” abound–young men and women struggling with no job security to teach as many as six courses per semester, occasionally at multiple schools, lacking any health or pension plan at a salary comparable to working at McDonalds. Meanwhile tenure-track colleagues, some of whom may be brain dead, enjoy a princely wage (with generous benefits) for teaching identical courses. So, what better way to eliminate this blatant unfairness than unionization?

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Writing Teachers: Still Crazy After All These Years

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After spending four depressing days this month at a meeting of 3,000 writing teachers in Atlanta, I can tell you that their parent group, the Conference on College Composition and Communication, is not really interested  in teaching students to write and communicate clearly.  The group’s agenda, clear to me after sampling as many of the meeting’s 500 panels as I could, is devoted to disparaging grammar, logic, reason, evidence and fairness as instruments of white oppression. They believe rules of grammar discriminate against “marginalized” groups and restrict self-expression.

Even noted composition scholar Peter Elbow, in his address, claimed that the grammar that we internalize at the age of four is “good enough.”  The Internet, thankfully, has freed us from our previous duties as “grammar police,” and Elbow heralded the day when the white spoken English that has now become the acceptable standard, will be joined by other forms, like those of non-native and ghetto speakers.

Freed from standards of truth claims and grammatical construction, rhetoric is now redefined as “performance,” as in street protests, often by students demonstrating their “agency.” Expressions are made through “the body,” images, and song–sometimes a burst of spontaneous reflection on the Internet.  Clothes are rhetorically important as “instruments of grander performance.”  

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More Minnesota Madness

My article yesterday on this site, “Decoding Teacher Training,” discussed the efforts of the University of Minnesota’s Education Department to purge prospective public school teachers deemed politically incorrect on “diversity” matters.
A report stresses the seemingly banal concept of “cultural competence,” which people from outside the Ivory Tower might suspect is simply making students and prospective teachers aware of the diverse country and world in which we now live.
That, of course, is not how the concept is defined in the groupthink world of Education Departments, where “cultural competence” are codewords that the general public is not supposed to understand.
In its report, the Minnesota department recommended that all Education students be required to perform the Intercultural Development Inventory (IDI), “which measures five of the six major stages of the “Developmental Model of Intercultural Sensitivity”; and the “360-degree” analysis of Cultural Intelligence (CQ), “a theoretical extension of existing facet models anchored on the theory of multiple intelligences.”

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Crunching the Numbers

In a new report on elementary teacher preparation, the National Council on Teacher Quality finds that only 10 of 77 schools surveyed did an “adequate” job of preparing aspiring math teachers. Low expectations and standards, inconsistent guidance, insufficient grounding in algebra, and a nationwide inability to agree on what math teachers should know is effectively crippling elementary math teacher preparation, the study found.

The few schools that manage to transcend these problems deserve special mention. They are: the University of Georgia, Boston College, Indiana University at Bloomington, Lourdes College, University of Louisiana at Monroe, University of Maryland at College Park, University of Michigan, University of Montana, University of New Mexico, and Western Oregon University.

Special praise was reserved for the University of Georgia, one of the institutions studied in ACTA’s recent report, Shining the Light, for requiring math of all its graduates, not just aspiring teachers. Georgia’s program was deemed “exemplary” for requiring teachers-in-training to take at least two college-level math courses, three courses specifically on the material covered in elementary math, and two method-based courses on how to make mathematical concepts accessible to children.

Well worth reading, No Common Denominator: The Preparation of Elementary Teachers in Mathematics by America’s Education Schools is a major wakeup call: “We simply must begin to appreciate the critical importance of elementary teachers gaining the knowledge and skills they need to effectively teach mathematics,” said Kate Walsh, president of the teacher quality council. “It is what our children need in order to keep up with their peers around the world – and what our country needs in order to produce a skilled workforce that can compete in today’s global economy.”

The same can be said for college graduates generally – a point ACTA made in praising the University of Georgia system for its current strong general education requirements in composition, math, and science. Rather than diluting these requirements, as some have recently proposed, Georgia can set a standard for demanding the kind of rigorous education citizens will need to compete in a global society.