In today’s Pope Center piece, I write about a new AEI paper reporting what has been widely known for a long time: education schools take in weak students and give them high grades. The author suggests that the schools should demand more stringent grading, but that merely scratches the surface of the problem. If it weren’t for state regulations, which mandate that almost all public school teachers get their “training” in approved programs, these schools would be much different if they’d exist at all. The Japanese, notably, don’t have ed schools at all.
The ed-blogosphere overflows with predictions of a “higher education bubble,” but I find no mention of one thing that epitomizes the whole sorry mess: the Ed.D. For many Ph.Ds, the Ed.D. represents the ticket to the administrative high life. The California State University (CSU) system has a more grandiose, if unintelligible, plan.
Annonymous Comment: In order to obtain my "Professional License" in order to be allowed to keep teaching, I have to take a bunch of inane Graduate Ed School classes. In order to pay for those classes, I have to take on a part time job. The part time job I have to earn the money to take the classes I need to be allowed to continue teaching high school math?
NAS posted an essay, "Achievement Gap Politics," by an anonymous author whose story illustrates why ed schools try to keep students with non-progressive views out. The author writes:
First, you have to understand that educational policy is consumed by the achievement gap, which is the disparity between groups of students on most educational measures, particularly the groups of race and socio-economic income—and, if I'm going to be honest, it's race that generates the most intensity. I don't just mean that this is the number one priority. It's the only priority. The achievement gap pervades every corner of American educational policy discussion. Nothing else matters. No Child Left Behind was entirely about the achievement gap and measuring schools to see if they'd closed it. Obama's Race to the Top is just another take on the achievement gap—again, focusing on testing and this time holding teachers responsible if they can't get low-performing students to improve.
The author outlines three possible views of the achievement gap:
John Derbyshire linked to the article on the Corner at NRO.
Crosspost from www.NAS.org Two weeks ago I published an article about a Marxist journal that has seized authority in the education world. The Journal for Critical Education Policy Studies (JCEPS) is published by the UK-based Institute for Education Policy Studies (IEPS), “an independent Radical Left/Socialist/Marxist institute for developing policy analysis and development of education policy.” It takes its cues from Che Guevara and Paulo Freire. Articles from JCEPS are required reading in some ed schools, and the editorial advisory board has representatives from universities in eighteen countries. In posting the NAS article on JCEPS, I thought that simply calling the journal what it is would be enough to discredit it. I wrote:
While it is appropriate to study the now discredited but historically important ideas of Marxism in political science, philosophy, and economics courses, education schools have no need for radical ideology. Ed schools should be preparing teachers to train the minds of the next generation, not to arm them with socialist politics. To do so cheats both future teachers and their future students out of the sound, unbiased education they deserve.
I assumed that most people would agree that Marxist politics have no place in the classroom, and that the JCEPS folks would be reluctant to own their radical left agenda. I was wrong. Since the article appeared on the NAS website, apologists for the journal have been coming out of the woodwork. We seem to have secured the attention of some of the last remaining Marxists on earth. One commenter, who seems not to be a native speaker of English, wrote:
Definitely, education should be explicitly involved in struggles for equity and justice, especially at the current situation. Therefore, it’s very meaningful to arouse teachers and students’ critical consciousness, as Professor Peter McLaren does. School and society shouldn’t be separated. No matter it is in John Dewey’s mind “school is society”, or in other scholar’s essay “society is school”, schools have close relationship with society. George Counts once insisted that it was a great ideal that people should mainly focus on educating the children and care little about others, however, he thought that schools and teachers had to think about the injustice since the then unequal society greatly influenced teachers and students in 1930s. As for the current situation which is much worse than in 1930s in many aspects, the “ivory tower” ideal had gone and would never come back, colleges and universities are more and more involved in the society economically and politically, students have to fight for the equality, and teachers are forced to fight for their right they deserved. There are inequity and injustice in society, so it’s teachers’ responsibility to arouse their students consciousness to seek for the equity and justice. Those behind it are the ones who give up their responsibilities or the ones who own privilege, because they dare not to change the society or don’t want to give up their privilege. [emphasis mine]
Another person, ironically self-nicknamed “Cassiodorus” after the devout Christian who kept alive the flame of liberal learning after the fall of Rome, added:
Marxism isn't discredited anywhere, education isn't unbiased, and "radical" refers to the notion of examining the roots ("radical," from the Latin radix, or root) of everyday practice, something which should be done more often in schools. The rest of this is a rather amateurish collection of soundbites on a number of subjects, the least understood of which is critical pedagogy. [emphasis mine]
This is a delightful bit of self-delusion. Marxism isn’t discredited anywhere? Marxism is discredited just about everywhere, but if “Cassiodorus” needs a for instance, I can testify firsthand that Marxism is discredited in Novokuznetsk and other parts of Russia where I have stayed. From his nom de plume, I would think Cassiodorus is implicitly acknowledging this reality. His “Rome” would appear to be the Soviet State and the nations it held captive. He is keeping the holy flame of Marxism alive in an age dominated by the barbarian idea of human freedom. “Ferlaz” also chimed in:
In Argentina we are creating a new educational movement based on the critical pedagogies, especially the works of Paulo Freire, Peter McLaren. This article only serves to confirm that we are on the correct path of struggle. This educational movement is not intended to build ideological blocs but returning to education because their political neutrality is also a way of doing politics. This article ends endorsing own knowledge of the dominant classes, their ideologies and worldviews deny the possibility of conflict as natural and accepting the hegemonic discourse. From Argentina, from the popular schools for youth and adults in factories recovered by their workers shouted: Che lives!, As in Peter McLaren's page.
The grammar here is too shaky to figure out exactly what is making “ferlaz” so excited. Che, the murderous thug of the Cuban revolution, is fortunately long dead. He enjoys only the kind of immortality conferred by T-shirts and dorm-room posters. It does seem to me of absorbing interest that the great folly of Marxism—having burned through the twentieth century as a fire that killed more than 90 million people, enslaved countless others, and brought more misery and oppression into the world than any other political doctrine in human history—still has its proud defenders. And they are in schools of education.
The Foundation for Individual Rights has announced that the University of Minnesota, in response to a letter from FIRE, promised that "[n]o University policy or practice ever will mandate any particular beliefs, or screen out people with 'wrong beliefs' from the University." The FIRE letter was prompted by a proposal for the university's school of education, to be voted on in January, that would require all ed students to study “white privilege, hegemonic masculinity, heteronormativity, and internalized oppression.” NAS wrote about it here. FIRE is cautiously optimistic about the university's response. While warning that "The next version of the college's plans must reflect this promise," it has declared a victory for freedom of conscience. The letter from General Counsel Mark B. Rotenberg, however, gives cause for continuing concern. Rotenberg asserts that the university holds the right, under academic freedom, to "engage in creative thinking, dialogue, and advocacy with respect to a broad range of ideas for improving P-12 education." He added, "Academic freedom means little if our teaching faculty is inhibited from discussing and proposing curriculum innovations simply because others find them 'illiberal' or 'unjust.'" Rotenberg is right to praise the exchange of different and competing viewpoints. But U Minnesota needs to be more thoughtful about its proposals. Even illiberal brainstorming can take root when it results in public documents ready for approval. Take Virginia Tech, for example. Its College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences recently came out with a "Strategic Diversity Plan" that aimed to put in systems for logrolling; provide incentives (some monetary) for faculty and staff to take part in diversity activities and for departments to make faculty hires; implement College-wide diversity course requirements; and enact racial preferences in spite of a Virginia Tech ban on affirmative action. It is not clear what bureaucratic hurtles remain for the Diversity Plan's approval or when it is likely to be granted (although the general CLAHS Strategic Plan has already endorsed the Diversity Plan), but it is clear that such a plan, if approved, will leave Virginia Tech's intellectual integrity in ruins. So no, proposing illiberal or unjust "curriculum innovations" is not as benign as Rotenberg would like it to sound. But for now, we join with FIRE in encouragement over the University of Minnesota's promises not to mandate particular points of view.
Here's a nice discussion of a proposal from the University of Minnesota's College of Education that aspiring teachers there must repudiate the notion of "the American Dream" in order to obtain the recommendation for licensure required by the Minnesota Board of Teaching. "The report advocates making race, class and gender politics the "overarching framework" for all teaching courses at the U. It calls for evaluating future teachers in both coursework and practice teaching based on their willingness to fall into ideological lockstep. The first step toward "cultural competence," says the task group, is for future teachers to recognize -- and confess -- their own bigotry." No, this is NOT from The Onion.
Katherine Kersten brings back an old topic on this blog: dispositions theory in education. There's a new design of teacher education at the University of Minnesota, she says:
The initiative is premised, in part, on the conviction that Minnesota teachers' lack of "cultural competence" contributes to the poor academic performance of the state's minority students. Last spring, it charged the task group with coming up with recommendations to change this. In January, planners will review the recommendations and decide how to proceed. The report advocates making race, class and gender politics the "overarching framework" for all teaching courses at the U. It calls for evaluating future teachers in both coursework and practice teaching based on their willingness to fall into ideological lockstep.
We were last down this road in 2005 during the KC Johnson controversy at Brooklyn College. Yet it continues unabated. At SCSU students in educational administration or in child and family studies have a form to fill out if they see a disposition that doesn't meet the professional standards. In the former field, if you "express an inability or unwillingness to work with some people" and "avoid collaboration", you have an area of need to work on. Teachers in graduate studies get courses in which their competencies are assessed to determine if they consider "multiple perspectives and willingness to challenge and analyze one’s own perspectives given alternatives" and "respond to items regarding lens of social justice and dispositions." Johnson reported on this blog last month that these Minnesota criteria are being highlighted at exactly the moment NCATE, the teachers' accrediting body, is turning away from them. So maybe this won't last for much longer around here.
Sandra Stotsky has an excellent article in City Journal discussing how our education schools are failing to deliver on math education - because they have become over committed to some progressive ideas about math education which really don't work as well as traditional teacher-directed approaches. She notes that:
The heart of the disagreement between progressive math educators and mathematicians is whether students are acquiring a foundation in arithmetic and other aspects of mathematics in the early grades that prepares them for authentic algebra coursework in grades 7, 8, and 9. If not, they then cannot successfully complete the advanced math courses in high school that will prepare them adequately for freshman college courses using mathematics.
In reading a bit about this subject, in seems that although there are many sincere and intelligent people on both sides of the debate, in the end it comes down to building curricula based on the best evidence of what works. As Stotsky suggests, a part of the problem with our ed schools is that they tend to produce only research which supports the researchers' own preconceptions. One supposes that part of the reason for this is that doing large-scale scientific studies has become so expensive. Nonetheless, if our ed schools wish to remain at all relevant they need to begin to hold themselves to higher evidentiary standards.
The National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) is the largest accreditor of schools of education. Several years ago it added to its standards for accreditation a demand that ed schools evaluate the “disposition” of students to be teachers. Part of what NCATE said was appropriate for the “disposition” of future teachers was a commitment to “social justice.” We at NAS saw that as a transparent invitation for ed schools to impose political litmus tests on their students.