Fire to the Rescue

New Criterion, December 2005 | Go to article overview

Fire to the Rescue


What is the biggest swindle in the educational establishment today? A tough question, that: the contenders for the prize are many. But there is a lot to be said--by which we mean "said against"--the whole teacher-training and teacher-certification industry. It nurtures a closed-shop, guild-like mentality, and one, moreover, that is reflexively committed to the entire menu of illiberal, politically correct causes. Consider, for example, the use of so-called "dispositions tests" as one element in judging a teacher's qualifications. As the indispensable John Leo reported recently in U.S. News & World Report, the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (how's that for a mouthful?) has been urging that teachers be evaluated not only on their knowledge and skills but also on their "dispositions." Which means? Well, according to NCATE, it simply means those beliefs and attitudes that inform a person's "moral stance." Well, that sounds okay. But what sort of moral stance? In 2002, a NCATE spokesman said that an education school may require a commitment to "social justice." You see where this is going. As William Damon, a professor at Stanford, noted, the whole idea of "dispositions tests" has given education schools "unbounded power over what candidates may think and do, what they may believe and value."

Naturally, NCATE denies any sinister intentions. But, as Leo observes, educational schools--already "a liberal monoculture"--are using dispositions theory "to require support for diversity and a culturally left agenda, including opposition to what the schools sometimes call 'institutional racism, classism and heterosexism.'" Leo provides several examples, including the case of Edward Swan, a forty-two-year-old student at Washington State University's college of education. …

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