Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Are You Culturally Competent?

In a post titled Paying an Ideological Ransom for the Right to Teach John Leo advises ed schools are producing yet another hoop for prospective teachers to jump through.

Mr. Leo reports:

The National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) says ed schools and programs must require teachers in training to demonstrate the "dispositions necessary to help all students learn," such as a commitment to social justice. Everyone is for social justice, but it's odd that would-be teachers would have to convince their professors of such commitment before getting to teach. Since ed schools are essentially a liberal monoculture, conservative and moderate students concluded that their political opinions were being probed and that they were being asked to endorse the belief systems of their programs as the price of being allowed to teach. The Fordham Foundation posted an article by William Damon opposing the dispositions requirement, saying that his article gave credence to charges of ideological arm-twisting and Orwellian mind control.

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education or FIRE complained to the Department of Education that there is no way an ed school can evaluate a student's commitment to social justice without evaluating that student's politics. NCATE countered by backing down.

Mr. Leo goes on to explore the meaning of words such as dispositions, cultural competence, and commitment to social justice and equity. He also quotes Phyllis Edmundson, dean of the graduate school of education at Portland State University and links to an article of hers in the New York Times.

Ms. Edmundson’s article categorizes educators into specific divisions regarding their “disposition”. You may think of your position as a win in life’s lottery and feel you are the beneficiary of a privilege; you may be all about perpetuating institutional racisim, an unconscious oppressor, or an imperfect exemplar of cultural responsiveness.

Mr. Leo contends the whole dispositions argument is just another attempt at ideology being imposed on teachers.

What do you think?

Mr. Leo’s entire article can be found here.

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Jennie W said...

This is a very interesting discussion topic. I know that when I was my ed program (and I'll leave the school nameless), I felt a pressure to avoid bringing up certain political issues for this very reason. In other words, some of my more conservative opinions (and I believe in general social justice for the record, but I tend to be politically conservative) could harm me - or at least that was the feeling I got from my ed program. I felt that some of my opinions were not considered "legitimate" and would result in me getting "cards" in my field (and my program had a "card" system for your file if you displayed "problems") that would then follow me to every job. I definitely felt a pressure to conform to certain expectations while in ed school. But in the real world, this pressure was seldom there - it was just the ed school pushing these ideals.

Dennis Fermoyle said...

Political ideologues on both sides turn me off. I can't stand Tom DeLay or Nancy Pelosi and I view both Ann Coulter and Michael Moore as downright evil. Education professors definitely tend to be liberal, but I don't mind as long as they don't try to indoctrinate us to their point of view. Some do, however, and I think they do a lot of harm to all of us. It sounds like that's what was going on here. The public is somewhat conservative now, and the last thing we need is for them to see public school teachers as a bunch of left-wingers who are trying to push things on their kids that they completely disagree with.

I am slightly left of center in my political leanings. When I got my Masters a few years ago, my professors were to the left of me, and the books we were assigned were mostly way to the left. But the professors were pretty good about letting me disagree. In fact, I think a lot of them enjoyed it when I did. College professors have a right to believe what they want politically just like the rest of us. If they're willing to allow others to have different views, and have open discussion, I've got no problem with them.

Stephen Karlson said...

The accreditation organization in question has withdrawn its "dispositions" standard. See Inside Higher Ed and The Torch in recent weeks for coverage. Whether that's a win for the John Leo position or a regrouping by the identity politics lobby remains to be seen.

EHT said...

I also felt pressure sometimes when I was in ed school JennieW. I still feel it sometimes in the real world as well. Anytime someone doesn't like my "it's all about personal responsibility" line I'm countered with "Well, it's what's best for the children." I hate that line because so often it is used as a cop-out and as a method to get others to shut up by making them think their opinions don't have the kids best interests at heart.

Dennis, my son is currently in college and he reports that he is constantly pressured to write his papers in a certain way so as to please the professor. If he expresses his true opinions he usually gets papers back with all kinds of ink marks letting him know that he is misguided. That kind of teaching certainly won't create independent thinkers. I realize it is not everyone's experience but it is happening.

Steven, thanks for delurking and commenting. I hope you do so more often. My post mentions NCATE caved in but it was probably buried within my wordiness. Thanks for the links.