Academic journal article Journal of Teacher Education

Weaving the Web of Democracy: Confronting Conflicting Expectations for Teachers and Schools

Academic journal article Journal of Teacher Education

Weaving the Web of Democracy: Confronting Conflicting Expectations for Teachers and Schools

Article excerpt

In Teachers for Our Nation's Schools, Goodlad (1991) called for teacher education programs to develop profound democratic consciousness within education students. He argued that this awareness would help teachers understand and resolve the inevitable tensions arising when unquestioned instructional routines are examined in light of both the governance structures and processes of [a] political democracy and the requisites of humane citizenship (p. 52). Such an examination is essential, given the increasing diversity in the public schools and pluralistic society, where teachers must be prepared to make professional decisions about how to best meet the educational needs of all students. More recently, Goodlad (1996) explained that a disposition toward moral stewardship, a formative teacher ability to be honed in professional education programs (p. 113), must characterize an educational mission in a democratic setting.

Most teacher education programs shy away from confronting schooling practices that work against the best learning and self-esteem interests of children and youth. Many teacher education programs socialize preservice teachers into status quo social climates of K-12 schools, a function of program faculty who collectively tend to avoid interrogation and critique (Greene, 1978, p. 56) about the political nature of schooling. This avoidance most acutely manifests itself in inadequate approaches to examining public school education from a multicultural perspective (Barreto, 1997; Grant, 1993).

Teacher education programs wishing to weave democratic and multicultural perspectives throughout their programs face significant dilemmas. Arising from conflicting public and personal values and representing sizable areas of contention, these challenges can be represented by statements labeled provocative declaratives, a concept that Marie Fielder, faculty emeritus, University of California at Berkeley, introduced to us. These statements are deliberately formulated to elicit reactions to held values and beliefs of groups of people. The conversation arising from them brings forth contradictory and moral perspectives that help participants clarify unexamined assumptions driving their actions and the actions of others. Provocative declaratives do not stand independently from one another nor necessarily represent discrete points of views; therefore, such statements on a similar topic may overlap or contradict one another. The following provocative declaratives that our teacher preparation program has developed for its internal program discussions highlight issues that many teacher education programs face and with which our program daily grapples:

   Provocative Declarative 1: Given current teaching practices in K-12 public
   education and most student teaching contexts, preparing teachers to create
   democratic classrooms is unrealistic and professionally irresponsible.

   Provocative Declarative 2: It is not legitimate for a teacher education
   program to require its teacher candidates to adopt a specific conceptual
   framework or emphasis to successfully complete program requirements.

   Provocative Declarative 3: It is legitimate for the values embedded within
   teacher preparation programs to conflict with current political parameters
   and curricular practices of public schools.

   Provocative Declarative 4: In preparing future teachers for a democratic
   society, teacher preparation programs must not recommend for certification
   or licensure students who are openly racist, classist, sexist, or
   homophobic--regardless of the candidates' content area knowledge and

   Provocative Declarative 5: Issues of technical proficiency in teaching
   along with a sound knowledge base in learning theory must ultimately take
   priority over other topics within the teacher education curriculum.

   Provocative Declarative 6: Incorporating democratic education concepts into
   full-time student teaching distracts from the sharpening of technical
   teaching skills beginning teachers require. … 
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