Academic journal article Journal of Teacher Education

Teacher Education and Teaching in the Present Political Landscape: Promoting Educational Equity through Critical Inquiry and Research

Academic journal article Journal of Teacher Education

Teacher Education and Teaching in the Present Political Landscape: Promoting Educational Equity through Critical Inquiry and Research

Article excerpt

The U.S. educational enterprise lacks no shortage of debate around divisive issues. Two recent events remind us of this. In October of 2016, the U.S. Department of Education released its revised regulations for teacher preparation programs, which have a heavy emphasis on using P-12 student success as a measure of quality for teacher education programs. (1) While some individuals and organizations have praised the federal government for pushing increased accountability on teacher preparation programs, many others have expressed strong opposition to the suggested ways to do so. For example, the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (AACTE) joined approximately 35 groups (including P-12, higher education, state governments, among others) in expressing formal concerns about the new regulations via a formal written statement. (2) In addition, the national climate has been negatively affected by the aftermath of the 2016 U.S. presidential election and illuminates a heightened sense of vulnerability and alienation for members of certain social groups; these sentiments are realized for many individuals in our nation's teacher education programs and P-12 schools. The campaign season brought rhetoric that perpetuated racism, sexism, misogyny, xenophobia, religious discrimination, homophobia, and ableism, and the aftermath permeates every formal institution in the nation. Continual discourse and behavior promoting bigotry has been evidenced in various forms most prominently in schools post-election. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), K-12 schools across the United States have been fertile ground for hate crimes and acts of violence against people of historically and traditionally marginalized groups (e.g., people identifying as immigrants, Muslims, African Americans, or lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender [LGBT]). In the first five weeks following the election, approximately 1,100 incidents were documented by the SPLC (Southern Poverty Law Center, 2016). The introduction of the new federal regulations for teacher preparation programs and the national divide caused by the presidential election are two major recent events that highlight the potentially costly ramifications of a new sociopolitical climate for teacher education and public education, and challenge each of us to consider what will be required to effectively prepare and support teachers and achieve educational equity for all children in the coming years.

Regardless of one's political affiliation, this is a national sociopolitical climate in which we all must exist; however, our existence does not have to be defined by this climate. In our field of teacher education, the emerging educational landscape could have dramatic impacts on professional learning, research, and advocacy as we prepare current and future educators to help P-12 students learn and participate in an increasingly divisive society and help these students develop the ability to make informed decisions about issues that affect their lives and the lives of others in their local community and perhaps globally. The current and emerging sociopolitical climate compels us as teacher educators and teacher education researchers to more closely link our roles and identities as researchers and activists; our activism can be grounded in research, and our research occurs in sociopolitical contexts. Thus, it is incumbent upon us to consider how we prepare teachers in ways that reflect what we already know from research about high-quality preparation and which also prepares them to be advocates and activists for their preparation and subsequent work in P-12 schools. This sociopolitical climate presents an equity imperative that is focused on active resistance against policy directives at all levels (e.g., federal, state, local) that result in exacerbated gaps in access to opportunities to pursue a teaching career, teach with adequate support in a variety of schools, and learn in affirming and supportive environments. …

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