Dicta

The home of “things said” by the National Association of Scholars.

Education School Follies

David Randall

NAS Board Member Sandra Stotsky anatomizes education school follies.

Proposed Education Act Would Shortchange Students

Sandra Stotsky

Sandra Stotsky argues that the new version of No Child Left Behind will leave low-income students behind because it lacks an important requirement for teachers' competence in their subjects.

Saving Civilization, K-5 Edition: An Address at Great Hearts Academy

Peter Wood

Peter Wood addresses elementary school teachers on the grammar school as the "engine of civilization" at Great Hearts Academy in Phoeniz, Arizona.

Common Core State Standards: Above and Beyond

William H. Young

William Young concludes his series on CCSS by emphasizing why K-12 education is in need of a complete overhaul.

Common Core State Standards: Teacher Training and Pedagogy

William H. Young

William Young describes the measures necessary to prepare new teachers for CCSS.

Common Core State Standards: Schools of Education

William H. Young

William Young examines the serious inadequacy of education schools in preparing teachers for the K-12 classroom.

Common Core State Standards: Instructional Materials

William H. Young

William Young discusses the type of instructional materials necessary to improve K-12 educational outcomes.

Tales From an Ed School Survivor

George Leef

Mathematician and math teacher Barry Garelick writes about his unhappy experiences in the “math methods” course he took while pursuing his obligatory teaching certificate at George Mason University several years ago.

Common Core State Standards: A National Curriculum?

William H. Young

William Young examines the debate over the impact of CCSS for states.

Common Core State Standards: Our Mathematics Problem

William H. Young

William Young discusses the steep decline in mathematics education during the last half-century.

Common Core State Standards: Our Literacy Problem

William H. Young

William Young analyzes the sharp decline in reading proficiency among both high school and college students.

Smartness Is Nothing but False and Oppressive

George Leef

Why smart people are oppressive, rather than smart.

NAS's Sandra Stotsky at Teacher Education Panel

Ashley Thorne

“We no longer can count on strong high school preparation, which is what other countries rely on for those they admit to a teacher preparation program,” Stotsky said.

The Survival of Hillsdale's Teacher Preparation Program

George Leef

Education Is Not a Discipline

Bill Roden

Bill Roden observes that training in education is about method, not substance, and doesn't fit with other academic disciplines.

Revising Teacher Education: Meaningful Change or Window Dressing?

Richard Vedder

Will the newly formed accrediting agency for education schools enact some real reforms to improve K-12 education?

Professors Also Need to be Students

Jason Fertig

When you spend the bulk of your time driving, it's easy to forget how the car looks from the passenger seat.

Who Teaches College Professors How to Teach?

Jason Fertig

I have a dirty little secret.  No one has ever taught me how to teach - and that's the single biggest reason I still love teaching today.

Ed Schools Are a Big Part of the Problem

George Leef

American primary and secondary education is feeble, largely because uneffective Ed schools must certify teachers no matter what they know about the  subject matter they teach. Also, those schools cover precious little beyond "social justice."

What to Do About Ed Schools?

George Leef

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.

Keep the Critique Coming: Why Teacher Preparation Deserves the Spotlight

Nicholas J. Shudak

As education associations debate how and whether it's possible to measure the efficacy of the student teaching experience, a professor of teacher education argues that Americans must always be striving for educational reform.

A New System for Rating Ed Schools

George Leef

In today's Pope Center Clarion Call, Duke Cheston writes about the new system for rating education schools.

The Principles of Scientific Education Management

David Clemens

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.

A Comment on My "Dumbing Down" Piece

George Leef

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?  

Social Justice and Censorship

Glenn Ricketts

On the release of a new FIRE video, NAS recalls our victory for freedom of conscience with an accrediting body and its biased "dispositions" requirements.

"Good Ideas, Bad Ideas" AQ Issue in Print

Ashley Thorne

The fall issue of Academic Questions examines both good and bad ideas in higher education, including trimming the glut of academic publishing, merit-based scholarships, teaching ebonics, and disseminating "light and truth."

How Do You View the Achievement Gap?

Ashley Thorne

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:

  1. The progressive view, which "holds that social injustice, institutionalized racism, white prejudice, and other societal ills cause the achievement gap." The solution progressives offer is "for underachievers to spend more time with achievers who will model desirable behavior."
  2. The conservative view, which says that "parents and teachers of low-performing students are the cause of the gap, by failing to give the students the correct cultural values." Conservatives argue that the solution is "hard work, family values, commitment to the importance of education, and 'no excuses.'"
  3. The third view, which the author calls the "Voldemort view" (because it must not be named) and considers the achievement gap to be the result of disparity in cognitive ability.

John Derbyshire linked to the article on the Corner at NRO.

Achievement Gap Politics

Anonymous

A graduate's account illuminates why ed schools try to keep students with non-progressive views out.

Marxists in Schools of Education Respond to NAS Article

Ashley Thorne

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.

FIRE Reports: U Minnesota Promises Not to Mandate Beliefs

Ashley Thorne

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.

Guided by a Red Star: Ed Schools Bring Frankincense to the Cradle of Marxism

Ashley Thorne

A journal of Marxism and critical pedagogy erodes the distinction between classrooms and class struggle.

Mandatory Re-education for MN Teacher-Candidates?

Michael Krauss

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.

Dispositions Back in the News

King Banaian

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.

UPDATE: Mitch has a link to the U of M policy.

Teeth-Bared Teachers' Ed

Peter Wood

The University of Minnesota looks to make race, class, and gender politics the “overarching framework” for teacher education.

Ed Schools Failing Math

Ken Daniszewski

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.

Message to Ed Schools: Practice What You Teach

Ashley Thorne

Teachers-in-training should learn something before they begin teaching. But they should not learn just anything.

Horse-Hair Justice

Peter Wood

Thoughts on "21st-Century Skills" and where education should begin.

Stanford Teacher Education Program Replies

Deborah Stipek

A statement by Stanford School of Education Dean Deborah Stipek responding to an article by Michele Kerr, a graduate of the education program.

An Opinionated Pragmatist Survives Stanford

Michele Kerr

An education student's firsthand account of her time in a graduate program where she was expected to walk in lockSTEP.

Disposed to Mischief

Glenn Ricketts

Send Me In, COACHE!

Peter Wood

Dreary and discontented faculty members won't keep us away from playing in the snow.

My Degree in Diversity

Ashley Thorne

I just completed an online course on how to lead diversity education workshops. Guess what I learned?

Sheep in Wolve's Clothing: A Business-as-Usual Group Tries on the Rhetoric of School Reform

Peter Wood

One education organization seeks to solve an unnamed crisis by paying teachers more and sending more students to college.

No Fire Escape for the Copyist

Ashley Thorne

This week, Columbia announced its decision to fire Madonna Constantine, a Teachers College professor who in October said she found a noose on her office doorknob.

It's Official: The NCATE Board has ratified its decision to drop "social justice."

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.