Different River

”You can never step in the same river twice.” –Heraclitus

June 2, 2005

Politics in the Classroom

Filed under: — Different River @ 6:02 pm

Conservatives, especially in and around academia, have long alleged that the overwhelming predominance of liberals in academia has led to widespread discrimination against liberals, both in hiring and tenure, and in grading of students. There have been numerous documented cases of the latter, but each has been dismissed as “isolated” by liberals defenders of the status quo.

However, now it’s official. If you are in a School of Education studying to be a teacher, you will be graded on your “disposition,” which is defined by your “beliefs and attitudes related … to social justice.

‘Disposition’ Emerges as Issue at Brooklyn College

BY JACOB GERSHMAN – Staff Reporter of the Sun
May 31, 2005

Brooklyn College’s School of Education has begun to base evaluations of aspiring teachers in part on their commitment to social justice, raising fears that the college is screening students for their political views.

The School of Education at the CUNY campus initiated last fall a new method of judging teacher candidates based on their “dispositions,” a vogue in teacher training across the country that focuses on evaluating teachers’ values, apart from their classroom performance.

Critics such as [History Professor Robert David] Johnson say the dangers of the assessment policy became immediately apparent in the fall semester when several students filed complaints against an instructor who they said discriminated against them because of their political beliefs and “denounced white people as the oppressors.”

Classroom clashes between the assistant professor, Priya Parmar, and one outspoken student led a sympathetic colleague of the instructor to conduct an informal investigation of the dispositions of the student, who the colleague said exhibited “aggressive and bullying behavior toward his professor.” That student and another one were subsequently accused by the dean of the education school of plagiarism and were given lower grades as a result.

And no, it’s not just “isolated” at Brooklyn College. It’s the official policy of the agency that accredits teacher training programs. That means, if a school doesn’t grade according to political view — and guarantee that the views preferred are those of the accrediting agency — they can lose their accreditation.

Driving the new policies at the college and similar ones at other education schools is a mandate set forth by the largest accrediting agency of teacher education programs in America, the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education. That 51-year-old agency, composed of 33 professional associations, says it accredits 600 colleges of education – about half the country’s total. Thirty-nine states have adopted or adapted the council’s standards as their own, according to the agency.

In 2000 the council introduced new standards for accrediting education schools. Those standards incorporated the concept of dispositions, which the agency maintains ought to be measured, to sort out teachers who are likeliest to be successful. In a glossary, the council says dispositions “are guided by beliefs and attitudes related to values such as caring, fairness, honesty, responsibility, and social justice.”

To drive home the notion that education schools ought to evaluate teacher candidates on such parameters as attitude toward social justice, the council issued a revision of its accrediting policies in 2002 in a Board of Examiners Update. It encouraged schools to tailor their assessments of dispositions to the schools’ guiding principles, which are known in the field as “conceptual frameworks.” The council’s policies say that if an education school “has described its vision for teacher preparation as ‘Teachers as agents of change’ and has indicated that a commitment to social justice is one disposition it expects of teachers who can become agents of change, then it is expected that unit assessments include some measure of a candidate’s commitment to social justice.”

Brooklyn College’s School of Education, which is the only academic unit at the college with the status of school, is among dozens of education schools across the country that incorporate the notion of “social justice” in their guiding principles. At Brooklyn, “social justice” is one of the four main principles in its conceptual framework. The school’s conceptual framework states that it develops in its students “a deeper understanding of the quest for social justice.” In its explanation of that mission, the school states: “We educate teacher candidates and other school personnel about issues of social injustice such as institutionalized racism, sexism, classism, and heterosexism.”

It is not a stretch that a student known to believe in some religions — say, a traditional version of Christianity or Judaism — would automatically be presumed to be “heterosexist” if he or she doesn’t explicitly denounce a belief in Leviticus 18:22.

Since you need a degree or certificate from an accredited school of education to teach in the public schools in most states, this is equivalent to barring people from teaching in the public schools if they are of the wrong religion.

Where is the ACLU when you need them?

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