by Peter Wood
In January 2010, “planners” at the flagship campus of the University of Minnesota will make a fateful decision. The College of Education and Human Development will decide whether to adopt the recommendations of the Race, Culture, Class, and Gender Task Group to make race, class, and gender politics the “overarching framework” for teacher education.
We know about this thanks to a heads-up article in the (Minneapolis) Star Tribune by NAS member Katherine Kersten. We’ve worked with Kersten before; she has been an admirable thorn in the side of the Minnesota education establishment. In this case, Kersten has snagged some mischief-in-the-making while there may still be time to stop it.
The Race, Culture, Class, and Gender Task Group, which is apparently too sensitive to call itself a task force, calls for a form of teacher education that tries to make would-be teachers into exemplars of alienation from American cultural norms. They would like to ensure that every student on track to become a teacher in Minnesota public schools has worked through and rejected “white privilege, hegemonic masculinity, heteronormativity, and internalized oppression.” If the task group has its way, Lake Wobegon won’t be the only town in Minnesota where all the children are above average. The task group calls for future teachers to understand that meritocracy is just a “myth.”
The task group’s recommendations, strange as they sound, sound familiar to us. Several years ago, the National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE), the nation’s leading accreditor of schools of education, cobbled together new standards that included rules for future teachers to have the right “disposition” to teach. Among the dispositions NCATE thought desirable was “social justice.” In 2006, NAS challenged the use of “social justice” as a disposition, arguing that it was tantamount to mandating an ideological viewpoint. Art Wise, then NCATE’s president, backed down and removed the rule. Under its new president, however, NCATE appears to have reverted to an approach that puts ideological indoctrination at the center of teacher education. Glenn Ricketts wrote about this in January.
We hope that the citizens of Minnesota will scotch this particular descent into educational malpractice. But our alert goes out to the other 49 states as well. A substantial number of people in responsible positions in our nation’s schools of education see nothing amiss and a great deal to gain by attempting to turn teacher training into hard-core leftist political agitation. The time to act is before a task force group is convened to bring agitprop to your state.
See also Katherine Kersten's "At U, future teachers may be reeducated. They must denounce exclusionary biases and embrace the vision. (Or else.)"
Update: Read the vacuous response by Jean Quam, Dean of the College of Education, published in the Star Tribune opinion section.
In her Nov. 22 column, Katherine Kersten suggested that the future of teacher preparation at the University of Minnesota will be a process of ideological indoctrination denouncing "the American Dream." Just the opposite is true. The American Dream lives and thrives in the College of Education and Human Development.
The college is engaged in a significant rethinking of its teacher education programs, and its main focus is on improving student learning across Minnesota. The Teacher Education Redesign Initiative, with support from education partners throughout the state, will be a national model for preparing teachers for the real challenges of a 21st-century classroom.
Read the whole opinion piece.