In one of the best Chronicle Review pieces I have read in a long time, Professor John Swallow argues in favor of a simple (but often forgotten) principle: "A necessary part of making an argument is the investigation of potential opposition." (It's a subscribers only piece, sorry to say.) Bravo! Far too often, professors are happy to have students regurgitate the conclusions they like. As an example, today I came across a book entitled Organizing the Curriculum: Perspectives on Teaching the US Labor Movement. It's clear that the editors want educators to "teach the labor movement" in a way that makes students think well of unions, not by taking an academically detached look at the totality of costs and benefits. Colleges so often talk about how they teach "critical thinking" to their students, but rarely do students hear an admonition to investigate potential opposition to their ideas. That's where critical thinking really begins.
Over at the leading libertarian magazine, Reason, writer Shikha Dalmia attacks conservatives for using FOIA laws to invade the privacy of historian William Cronon. At the same time, Dalmia defends Open Records laws while noting that groups may abuse their rights by going after individuals. On that score, the Left comes in for a tongue lashing for politicizing the process (and so much else in academia).
A coalition of faculty unions and organizations, including the California Faculty Association (CFA), the AAUP, the American Federation of Teachers, and the National Education Association, have created a “Campaign for the Future of Higher Education,” which outlines seven principles that these groups believe “should undergird higher-education policy over the next decade.” Today at Minding the Campus, Peter Wood comments on each of the seven principles and observes that rather than looking to the future, the campaign seeks to maintain the ivory-tower status quo. Americans are awakening to the reality that we have a system of higher education that does, on average, a poor job at very high expense. We are looking for alternatives and the chances are very good we will find them. That has the unions scared.
The University of Wisconsin's Professor William Cronon has involved himself in a partisan Wisconsin battle concerning public employees' bargaining. In his blog he bloviates against the Republican Party's open records law request for e-mails he may have sent from his university e-mail account relating to partisan advocacy. I argue that a distinction needs to be made between the GOP's political response to Cronon's political advocacy and academic freedom:
Cronon has chosen to involve himself in the political process . He states that he has been careful to separate his personal e-mails from his university computer, and makes the spurious argument that communications with students constitute records under the Buckley Law....as a public official with a partisan affiliation Cronon has entered the political fray. He ought to expect that he be treated as a political player subject to the same tactics to which Cronon and his allies would subject GOP-affiliated officials. Even in his self-serving bloviation about the GOP's request Cronon cannot refrain from partisan rhetoric.
This week Neil Gross and his colleagues released two new studies analyzing clues as to why the majority of professors are politically liberal. They focus on graduate school. What sort of person goes to graduate school? Does a certain political orientation boost a person's chances of getting in? Of wanting to go in the first place? Peter Wood discusses both reports in articles at the Chronicle of Higher Education's Innovations blog. In one study, which Peter called "well-intentioned" but "essentially worthless," the authors sent fake letters to graduate admissions officers expressing interest in attending the programs. Some letters mentioned working in either the Obama or the McCain campaign. Gross and his co-authors wanted to see whether these letters would get responses that indicated encouragement or discouragement according to which candidate was mentioned. The other study sought to analyze the reasons people have for seeking Ph.D.s. Peter wrote:
Why is the professoriate predominantly liberal? A. Because “There is an intrinsic link between liberalism and intelligence such that the more liberal views of those with advanced degrees reflect liberals’ greater academic potential.” [The liberals-are-smarter theory] B. “Because cognitive development occurs with additional years of schooling, leading the intelligentsia to find fault with what they see as simplistic conservative ideologies.” [The more-learning-makes-profs-liberal theory] C. Because the professoriate seeks a way to differentiate itself “from both the middle class and business elites.” [The profs-turn-liberal-because-they-resent-the-middle-classtheory] D. Because the entrenched liberals who dominate “knowledge work fields…refuse to hire colleagues with dissenting opinions.” [The liberals-are-biased-against-conservativestheory] E. Because “The professoriate acquired a reputation as a liberal occupation” and liberals today “acting on the basis of this reputation and seeking careers that accord with their political identities, are more likely than conservatives to aspire to become academics.” [The self-selection theory] F. Because conservatives are dogmatic and turn away from disciplines that require open-mindedness. [The liberals-are-more-open-minded theory] G. Because professors tend more than most Americans to reside in cities and have fewer children, which favors their embracing liberal political views. [The lifestyle-liberalismtheory] H. Because professors are, on average, less religious than other Americans, which corresponds with their being more liberal. [The grad-school-appeals-to-seculariststheory] I. Because conservatives are more materialistic and are drawn to private-sector jobs; while liberals, concerned more with their “sense of meaning,” are more likely to be drawn to academic work. [The conservatives-prefer-money-to-learning theory] This catalog of explanations is to be found in the first 11 pages of a new working paper by Ethan Fosse, Jeremy Freese, and Neil Gross, released yesterday. Their answer is an emphatic E. “Self-selection” in their view is the only answer for which they can find robust empirical support. If they are right, this should change one of the longest-running and often most bitter debates in contemporary higher education.
Peter concludes that self-selection by no means rules out the possibility of bias: "The most effective way to keep out a whole class of people who are unwelcome isn’t to bar entry, but to make sure that very few in that class will want to enter."
The Labor and Employment Relations Association, previously called the Industrial Relations Research Association, is a learned society devoted to industrial and labor relations. Traditionally, LERA has supported the National Labor Relations Act but it had not been overtly partisan. In fact, its most prominent member, John T. Dunlop, had served as Secretary of Labor under President Gerald Ford. When I finished my doctoral studies in 1991 I found the organization to be pro labor rather than neutral in orientation, and I had not participated in it since the January 2000 meeting. Since it is one of the only games in town, I decided to give it another chance in 2011. What I found is shocking. LERA is not merely ideologically biased, but overtly partisan and Democratic. Virtually every session I attended included an attack on the GOP. I submitted a blog to LERA's new website, called the Employment Policy Research Network (EPRN), questioning the group's partisan atmosphere. The LERA leadership, which oversees the website, not only refused to publish it but refused to respond to me in writing. I had to call the LERA office to obtain a verbal response. I posted the blog on my Website.
Inside Higher Ed interviewed NAS president Peter Wood on his thoughts on the AAUP's statement, released today, on academic freedom for professors who take sides in controversies. While NAS agrees with the AAUP on some parts of the statement, and on the importance of protecting academic freedom, we disagree on some fundamental levels. Wood said that the AAUP appears to be "trying to create a firewall around faculty" so that "no one other than faculty has a legitimate place at the table," when the conduct of a faculty member is being discussed.
Stanley Fish seems to be seeking the middle ground on revisions to Penn State's policy authorized by the faculty Senate, and now awaiting approval by PSU's president. Particularly unfortunate was the removal of a provision stipulating that academic freedom did not grant professors license to indoctrinate their students or to use their classrooms as bully pulpit for flogging their favorite political or social issues. NAS is dismayed.
In a series of posts Power Line Blog has been exposing the lurch of the National Endowment for the Humanities under Obama's appointee, Humanities Chairman Jim Leach, toward "political partisanship and rank buffoonery." In the latest of these posts Professor Penelope Blake describes, for example, an egregiously politicized and anti-American conference on the "Legacies of the Pacific War in WWII." Professor Blake rightly urges that Congress not approve the NEH's multi-million-dollar budget for 2011 until the agency eliminates its political agenda, supports objective scholarship, and offers forums which ensure diversity of opinion.
Is there a strong bias against conservatives in higher education? Researchers have produced numerous studies to examine this question. They have sought to measure bias quantitatively through various surveys. Usually they conclude that there is little evidence of bias, and that people who say there is are merely crying wolf. In a new in-depth essay at NAS.org, NAS Chairman Steve Balch argues that the burden of proof should rest with those who deny bias: they must prove that it does not exist rather than demanding proof that it does. Dr. Balch's timely essay comes the week after NAS published "They So Despise Her Politics - Do Conservative Faculty Members Get a Fair Shake?. That article describes the case of Teresa Wagner, who believes she was denied a teaching position because of her conservative politics. There we published documents from Wagner's lawsuit against the University of Iowa College of Law. What do you think? How can we know for sure whether conservatives face systemic discrimination in the Ivory Tower?
Watch out for it -- already a fixture in leading schools of art education --before it becomes the norm in K-12 classes throughout the land, thus vastly politicizing the arts by making anti-capitalist, race/gender/class-obsessed (ne0-Marxist) "art activists" of our young. So warns art critic Michelle Marder Kamhi, with the worthy view in mind of galvanizing parents against proposed provisions in the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, whose Congressional reauthorization is pending. These provisions would, in line with Paulo Freire's dictum that all education is political, mandate social-justice art. "Art"? Such as the pro-illegal immigration creation "Brinco," or "jump" in Spanish, which would teach students to construct sneakers (jammed with compass, map, etc.) for people attempting illegaly to cross our borders. Americans to the barricades, in the defense of true art education!
The careful image campaign that the higher ed establishment has conducted for decades seems to be wearing off, if this Washington Examiner piece is any indication. The writer observes that lots of American students now get their high-cost college degrees, but can't even do basic math. Many of them can (and will!) hector you about "sustainability," their concerns about social justice, institutional racism and so on -- but they can't work out the simplest of numerical problems. A large number of jobs now "require" college degrees, but that requirement rarely has anything to do with actual knowledge. It's a screening device to keep out supposedly less prepared and trainable high school graduates, but it's becoming clear that many college graduates are no better.
In today's Pope Center Clarion Call, Jay Schalin writes about the "Economic and Social Justice" minor offered at UNC-Chapel Hill. Unfortunately, the minor is the brainchild of a far-left professor who wants to turn out students who are dedicated to increasing government domination of society and the elimination of what she thinks is "capitalism." Students do not need to take a course on the principles of economics in order to earn this minor; nor will they encounter the devastating counter-attack on the very concept of "social justice" by F. A. Hayek in his book The Mirage of Social Justice. In one of the courses the students may take (Philosophy 273), however, they at least get a taste of Robert Nozick's criticism of the mega-state. This minor is far more agitprop than education.
Over at NAS.org, we occasionally re-post one or two pieces from the same month a year ago in order not to lose sight of some of NAS's best articles and the ones that have received the most attention. Today we re-post an article NAS president Peter Wood wrote after visiting Macalester College and noticing its Institute for Global Citizenship. What is "global citizenship" anyway? According to a Macalester student, it's "universal universalism." Huh?
Last fall the CUNY faculty union, the Professional Staff Congress (PSC), settled Professor David Seidemann's law suit by paying Seidemann's pro bono attorney, Jones, Day, $250,000 in legal fees, roughly 1.5% of the PSC's budget. The suit concerned the PSC's use of dues to pursue political activities unrelated to contract negotiation or administration. There have been periods when the PSC has released e-mails concerning the Iraqi War virtually every day. At issue was the agency fee arrangment whereby non-members are compelled through the threat of state violence to pay union fees. Seidemann's case went through several appeals, and was remanded to a magistrate sympathetic to the PSC at least twice. As the appellate court was mandating that more and more of the PSC's budget be reviewed for being "non-chargeable" to dissenting non-members, the PSC settled. The PSC had originally claimed that less than one percent of its budget is used for unrelated political purposes. The settlement occurred at a point where the amount had increased to over 14 percent. Seidemann suspects that the actual number is much higher. A witness heard a PSC spokesperson say that the percentage is between 15 and 20%. In a statement to its executive committee the PSC calls its payment to Jones, Day and the increase from 0% to over 14% "a victory". I wrote a two-page description of some of the details of the PSC's loss and the leadership's recidivist lying in Sharad Karkhanis's Patriot Returns newsletter that is released to 13,000 CUNY employees.
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.
This week in Frontpage Magazine Michelle Malkin has an article, "Hollywood and Howard Zinn's Marxist Education Project." Here's an excerpt:
Zinn’s objective is not to impart knowledge, but to instigate “change” and nurture a political “counterforce” (an echo of fellow radical academic and Hugo Chavez admirer Bill Ayers’ proclamation of education as the “motor-force of revolution”). Teachers are not supposed to teach facts in the school of Zinn. “There is no such thing as pure fact,” Zinn asserts. Educators are not supposed to emphasize individual academic achievement. They are supposed to “empower” student collectivism by emphasizing “the role of working people, women, people of color and organized social movements.” School officials are not facilitators of intellectual inquiry, but leaders of “social struggle.” Zinn and company have launched a nationwide education project in conjunction with the documentary. “A people’s history requires a people’s pedagogy to match,” Zinn preaches. The project is a collaboration between two “social justice” activist groups, Rethinking Schools and Teaching for Change. [...] No part of the school curriculum is immune from the social justice makeover crew. Zinn’s partners at Rethinking Schools have even issued teaching guides to “Rethinking Mathematics: Teaching Social Justice by the Numbers” — which rejects the traditional white male patriarchal methods of teaching computation and statistics in favor of p.c.-ified number-crunching [see NAS's articles on this, "Social Changelings" and "Mathematical Deceptions"]. [...] Our students will continue to come in dead last in international testing. But no worries. With Howard Zinn and Hollywood leftists in charge, empty-headed young global citizens will have heavier guilt, wider social consciences and more hatred for America than any other students in the world.
In this week's Pope Center Clarion Call, I review the new AEI book The Politically Correct University. I recommend the book highly. It provides an excellent analysis of the problem of ideological imbalance and politicization that besets our higher education system and the closing chapters explore the prospects for change.
A blog on Inside Higher Ed that I pay attention to, Getting to Green, has an interesting discussion about advocacy intruding on higher education. Note that the Getting to Green blogger writes under a pseudonym and is "a sustainability administrator at a large private research university, an adjunct faculty member, and a farmer." Michael Legaspi at Creighton University commenting on Getting to Green:
Advocacy rears its head too often, in multicultural moralism, identity politics, and, as the CRU debacle shows, in too many kinds of environmental studies. When we are concerned only to convert students to the “right” view of things, rather than to lead them through complex engagement of the intellectual substance of important questions, we make it all too easy for them to get by in our classes by telling us what we want to hear. When they do so to our satisfaction, we may have scored a cheap political victory, but we have surely done so at the expense of our best and highest ideals.
Getting to Green responds:
Michael Legaspi is concerned that too much of American higher education consists of political advocacy. He's right to be, and I agree with him. In fact, I'd go further. I'd say that too much teaching consists of social and economic advocacy, as well. Too much of what goes on in social sciences and professional schools treats how things are as the best they could possibly be (in this, the best of all possible worlds). Advocacy may be an acceptable form of consciousness-raising, but it's far from the highest form of teaching. When I work with professors at Greenback, I really don't know how much sustainability-related advocacy they indulge in. My impression, and my sincere hope, is that it's not much. Advocacy is appropriate in the marketplace of ideas, but potentially troubling in the classroom. My objective is to get students to engage both with the material -- the facts -- and in some degree of substantive analysis. If a student seriously engages with the idea that natural resources (both sources and sinks) are finite, that the systems which interact to produce the planet's climate are many and complex, and that societies may have a responsibility to address problems of their own creation, then I'm satisfied. Not everyone has to agree with my conclusions about climate disruption, its causes, its likely costs for humanity if left unchecked, or the need to address it globally and immediately. What I comment on when I review student projects and papers is whether they demonstrate an understanding of the material, not whether that understanding matches my own.
I don't agree with G2G's entire post (especially the part about the mainstream media giving credence to Climategate - think Googlegate), but he's saying the right thing here. One of the main problems with the push to "infuse" sustainability into higher education is that it brings ideological advocacy into the classroom. If we are to have sustainability education in the university, the approach G2G is talking about sounds like the right one.
Last week an NAS member, a professor at the University of Southern Indiana we'll call Professor Smith, brought to our attention a new “Center for Social Justice” at the university. He asked for advice on how to mitigate the adverse effects of such a center. I replied: Dear Professor Smith, Thank you for your inquiry last week about the recently created “Center for Social Justice” at the University of Southern Indiana. I agree that it sounds like another instance of political advocacy masquerading as academic inquiry. Centers such as this are in vogue. After getting your email Ashley Thorne and I started doing some checking and included some comments on these centers in an article we posted to the NAS website last week, “Stories We’re Watching.” In that article we noted some of the other colleges and universities that have similar centers. Your deeper question is what can you do about this? Certainly there is no silver bullet. But these centers are very dependent on a handful of conditions that can be challenged. The conditions they depend on include:
You can challenge any of these things. A successful challenge must always be based on the facts. So the first thing I suggest is that you and anyone else you can find who is interested just begin to assemble a well-organized file of what the Center for Social Justice publishes, says, and does. This doesn’t require any skullduggery—and in fact shouldn’t. the publicly available stuff will be more than adequate. That’s because the Center itself will assume until it learns otherwise that it can do and say whatever it wants. Think of ACORN before Breitbart.
This is a guest article from Alex Berezow, a Ph.D. candidate in microbiology at the University of Washington. The opinions expressed therein do not necessarily reflect the official position of the National Association of Scholars. Remember when President Obama said that he was going to “restore science to its rightful place”? Apparently, that statement needed to be translated from the vagaries of “hope and change” to modern English: Right-wing anti-science policies are out; left-wing anti-science policies are in. To Mr. Obama’s credit, he has extended federal dollars to fund embryonic stem cell research far beyond what President Bush allowed. However, that executive order marks both the beginning and the end of his love affair with sound science. For starters, President Obama appointed Cass Sunstein as the head of the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs. Mr. Sunstein believes that all recreational hunting should be banned. He also believes that meat consumption should be phased out in the United States, and he holds the unique belief that animals should have the right to sue humans in court. Naturally, the animal would be represented by a human lawyer—a policy other than that would just be silly. But who exactly would represent the animals in court is unclear at this point. Dr. Doolittle might be available, though. All satire aside, with someone this disconnected from reality working in the White House, one wonders what impact he could have on the ability of scientists to conduct biomedical animal research. Also, remember Mr. Obama’s obsession with creating green technology jobs as a way of leading us out of the recession? According to a report described by George Will in his Washington Post column, Spain’s massive subsidization of renewable energy has cost that country 110,000 jobs. Far from helping Spain’s economic crisis, this foolish subsidization appears to have contributed to its mind-blowing 19.3% unemployment rate. As if this weren’t bad enough, a fantastic op/ed by Joel Frezza brought up several more examples of “junk science” coming from the White House, a few of which I’ll summarize and expand upon. Firstly, the administration has given in to unsubstantiated claims by the Left that certain vaccine components are unsafe, despite the fact that studies have proven the claims to be false. (For instance, medical experts like Jim Carrey insist vaccines cause autism.) Unbelievably, the Obama Administration has ignored the research findings of modern medicine and issued a decree that our nation’s swine flu vaccines should have lower amounts of thimerosal. (Thimerosal is the preservative erroneously believed to cause autism.) This last-minute decision has caused backups at the pharmaceutical companies making the vaccine, and it has contributed to the swine flu vaccine shortage. Additionally, the Obama Administration has neglected to remove a federal ban on the use of certain adjuvants (immune-stimulating chemicals) which can help stretch limited vaccine supplies. This, too, has contributed to the national flu vaccine shortage. Mr. Frezza goes on to describe how the Obama Administration is asking for areas of Alaska to be deemed “critical habitat” for polar bears. This move could severely limit the ability to drill for oil and gas in the region, in a time when our nation is in desperate need of energy sources. It appears that, once again, Mr. Obama has caved to propaganda-spewing environmentalists who have ignored recent evidence indicating that polar bear populations are increasing. In fact, polar bear researcher Mitch Taylor claims that of the 19 populations of polar bears, only two have exhibited declining numbers. As a side issue, it’s also interesting to note that people like Captain Planet (Al Gore) who refer to polar bears as “endangered” don’t even have their facts straight: Polar bears are officially listed as “vulnerable”—an entirely different conservation status. This status is given to animals which may become endangered if conditions don’t change. Arguably, however, conditions are changing because their population has been increasing. Finally, Mr. Frezza points out the economically ludicrous and scientifically unsound subsidization of biofuels. Liberals see the subsidization of biofuels as killing two birds with one stone: Fixing the planet and helping out America’s farmers. However, science has something entirely different to say about biofuels. The production of biofuels emits nitrous oxide, otherwise known as laughing gas. The planet, unfortunately, doesn’t find it very funny, since nitrous oxide is a much more potent contributor to the greenhouse effect than is carbon dioxide. As The Economist points out in this article, a policy meant to make things better is merely an expensive way of making things worse. Honestly, this list could go on and on. What is so infuriating is the fact that Mr. Obama self-righteously proclaimed to be the protector of science, when the truth is that he simply replaced Mr. Bush’s special interests with his own. In what has to be the most stunning broken promise in Mr. Obama’s presidency, instead of “restoring science,” he has simply resorted to “politics as usual.”
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.
The trustees of the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU), reports the Jerusalem Post, have unanimously voted against severing ties with Israeli universities, and no one rose to argue in favor of the corrosive proposal. Good sense and respect for openness to diverse views prevailed. Had the outcome of this vote been different, a dangerous precedent would have been set for all academe. Kudos to the trustees.
During the recent election season I met two Republicans who told me about instances of Ulster County, NY public school teachers' using schools to ideologically brainwash children. In one case a middle-aged man from Kingston, NY described a fifth grade teacher who repeatedly told his class to support specific left-wing political candidates. In a second, an Olive, NY woman and advertising copy writer wrote me that "my son was told that Snow White's dwarfs represented the disaffected union workers, that conservative judges wanted to steal freedom from the people." She writes that she was "shocked, in denial, and ineffective". As a business professor at the City University of New York and adjunct at New York University I have frequently heard from undergraduate and MBA students who have been brainwashed. Last year on the first day of an MBA-level management class, a young Wall Street trader raised his hand and said that the only thing that matters for business now is "whether the United States should become a socialist country." That was not the first instance of a first-day-of-class revolutionary declaration. On another occasion an undergrad raised his hand and asked in all seriousness about the implications for business of the coming proletarian revolution. One reaction to the politicization of elementary schools and their use for brainwashing of children has been withdrawal and home schooling. The woman who contacted me has proposed a different approach--a systematic training program for parents to enable them to respond to the use of schools for political purposes.
A reader commenting on my post "Teaching Can Be Dangerous" wrote:
Speaking of politicization, I have a friend who is applying to a PhD program at Berkeley. He sent me the “personal history statement” that is required from all applicants: “Please describe how your personal background informs your decision to pursue a graduate degree. Please include information on how you have overcome barriers to access in higher education, evidence of how you have come to understand the barriers faced by others, evidence of your academic service to advance equitable access to higher education for women, racial minorities, and individuals from other groups that have been historically underrepresented in higher education, evidence of your research focusing on underserved populations or related issues of inequality, or evidence of your leadership among such groups.” This is apparently part of the general Berkeley graduate school application; i.e., it’s not just for political departments like social work. So if you want to be a graduate researcher on, say, the biology of sponges, you have to explain how your research focuses on underserved populations. (I suppose sponges don’t get nearly enough attention.) If this question isn’t a political loyalty oath I don’t know what would be. I hope NAS will look into this and see if it indeed is a required part of every Berkeley graduate application in every subject.
I did look up the Berkeley application for graduate admission, and the cited question is indeed part of the general app (see page 29). It is, as the commenter points out, a political litmus test, and it sounds very much like Virginia Tech's College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences requirement that faculty members prove their service to "diversity" as a condition for promotion and tenure. It's also interesting that the question is phrased in terms of "barriers to access in higher education," when the very question itself is posing a barrier to Berkeley admission for those who do not pledge their allegiance to political correctness.
A reader from Australia commented on Tom Wood's article "The Marriage of Affirmative Action and Transformative Education":
This year, I was in a compulsory BA class that used transformative education. Without warning us, the teachers tried to transform us into adopting their political worldview, using all the passion they could muster. Since then I have been searching the web for critiques of transformative education, and found one of your articles, and I will read more. I have written many arguments against transformative education, but I am keen to find arguments from education professionals, lawyers, etc. I thank you for speaking out. I am astounded that a university would force all BA students to be transformed "to create a better world". I thought I was purchasing knowledge and skills, but instead they considered me to be mere fodder for political transformation. University should be about teaching critical thinking, but instead I've had to teach my teachers critical thinking! Their main problem is unquestioned assumptions. They assume students have been brainwashed by society, that education is about the whole person, that teachers have the answers to the meaning of life, that globalisation is all bad, that the West (particularly USA) is colonising the world, that everything is basically political, etc. On the good side, they are idealistic and enthusiastic. But idealism and enthusiasm based on unquestioned assumptions leads to spreading delusion, not to improving the world. It seems to me that transformative education teachers do not trust that freely chosen unbiased knowledge can produce good results. So they force students to study the teachers’ worldviews.
NAS has published an interview with Holly Swanson, the founder and director of an Oregon-based group called Operation Green Out! (the exclamation point is part of its name!). We first learned of Operation Green Out! while researching Second Nature, an organization that seeks to make sustainability the “foundation of all learning and practice in higher education.” We found that thus far Operation Green Out! seems to be the sole challenger of Second Nature’s education for sustainability agenda, and that it has launched a campaign “to get green politics out in the open and out of the classroom.” Holly Swanson, the organization’s founder and director, is the author of Set Up and Sold Out: Find Out What Green Really Means, and she is a nationwide speaker on the “Green movement” and its “plan to use public education to politically indoctrinate.” By way of introducing NAS members and readers to Ms. Swanson and Operation Green Out! we present this interview. We are glad to have found an organization that sees the dangers the sustainability movement (Swanson calls it "the Greens") poses for education. As Ms. Swanson puts it,
The Education for Sustainability movement is harmful because this movement is swiftly changing the role of public education in America from a ‘politically neutral system’ to a ‘politically driven system’ rooted in the ideology of the Greens and designed to produce mass compliance and predictable support for one ideology or single party rule.
It's good to know we're not alone in saying this.
Jim Leach, the new chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities, wants to correct Americans' "disrespectful" attitude towards Muslim culture by giving the NEH a new theme: "Bridging Cultures." He is also annoyed at culture warriors and excitable people at town halls. NEH seems next on the list of government agencies to be politicized. Peter Wood wrote about this in an NAS.org article, "Politicizing the NEH." An excerpt:
NEH Chairman Jim Leach, speaking at the Carnegie Corporation of New York on September 29, described his plan for the humanities to help change “the temper and the integrity of the political dialogue” in the United States in a manner that sends, “an implicit message to Muslims in our country and in other parts of the world that we deeply value the contributions of their diverse and fascinating cultures.” The speech, titled “Bridging Cultures: NEH and the Muslim World,” is posted on the NEH website. Leach’s remarks are surprising on several counts. In tone, they depart from NEH tradition, which has generally celebrated American cultural achievement rather than castigate Americans for their failings. In substance, his speech amounts to an indictment without any evidence. American culture is not awash in “disrespect” for Muslim cultural contributions. A case could be made for the exact opposite: schools, colleges, museums, and other cultural institutions have been going way out of their multicultural way to point out the glories of Muslim civilization for the last decade.
Power Line Blogs picked up on the story in "Jim Leach's Bridge to Nowhere."
Emeritus Kings Borough Community College professor Sharad Karkhanis just sent me an e-mail concerning an effort to encourage TIAA-CREF to divest from Israel. Kakhanis's e-mail links to the website of a group called Scholars for Peace in the Middle East and urges a response to TIAA-CREF's board of trustees. One question I've wondered about is whether political activity by not-for-profits breaches section 501 (c) (3), the section of the Internal Revenue code that governs tax exemption. TIAA-CREF is tax-exempt. One of the fundamental requirements for tax exemption is avoidance of political lobbying and advocacy. In the 1980s a number of university pension funds divested from South Africa. This was an issue that few might contest. Divestiture from Israel is more controversial and likely to raise questions whether the public ought to be subsidizing political action. Universities, of course, frequently breach section 501 (c) (3), for instance when professors advocate for the election of specific presidential candidates or require classes to lobby for specific issues. As well, universities have taken stances on political issues that violate 501(c)(3)'s ban on political action. I have thought about whether it would be possible to establish a clearing house that would ferret out information about political action in universities and have an IRS reporting system. I called the IRS a couple of years ago and there are several numbers and addresses where complaints can be filed.
At Critical Mass, Erin O’Connor has an excellent take on a professor’s recent article justifying her use of the classroom for political activism. Professor Gemma Puglisi, who teaches a writing course at the American University in Washington, wrote in The Chronicle of Higher Education:
the entire experience has made me re-examine my own teaching. What role do we as professors have in our classrooms? Is it appropriate for us to use politics as a pedagogical tool? Do we have the right to use our classrooms for activism?
Puglisi thinks so, but O'Connor disagrees:
There is much to be said for fighting to ensure due process and to defend those we believe have been falsely accused. But Puglisi should have done it on her own time. The fact that she might have been on the side of the angels on this one doesn't justify her abuse of pedagogical privilege.
We couldn't have said it better.
Our posting of 11 December (below), "Psychotherapeutic Interventions, Transformative Learning, and the Dorms of U Delaware," was the second in a series that will attempt to assess whether and to what extent U Delaware's ResLife diversity training program might be typical of programs at other universities.
University social work programs rarely attract outside attention. They subsist deep down in the bowels of their host institutions, generating a decent cash flow but little in the way of intellectual excitement. They do, however, have one dubious distinction. Like no other academic program, they are politicized throughout their warp and woof. Sociology, anthropology, even education could, if fully liberated from tendentiousness, still survive as fields. It’s questionable whether this is true of social work. Launched in the spirit of progressivism, its doxology has by now absorbed almost every mental reflex of the left.