May 23, 2005

Dis-positioning the institution

Today, Brooklyn College historian KC Johnson dissed colleges of education for collecting evidence of student dispositions, claiming that the response to NCATE's push for evidence about dispositions is part of the leftward tilt of campuses. Hmmm... While there certainly are examples of silly institutions trying to cram ideologies down the necks of students, such as LeMoyne College, as Robert Sibley of FIRE points out, blaming NCATE is taking responsibility away from faculty. I'm used to seeing NCATE blamed for plenty of things, and while I'm no great fan of the accrediting body, it cannot simultaneously be the font of group-think, as Johnson implies, and also the carrier of corporate reform rhetoric as I have heard from some colleagues in colleges of education around the country.

There is nothing that says that a disposition has to be about a specific political position. My institution's conceptual framework for educator preparation is pretty tame in that regard, mentioning the disposition to advocate for students in addition to things like collaboration, reflection, commitment to learning, etc. I was on one group drafting it, and there was some language floating around about social justice. We eliminated that language, precisely because the majority (or a vocal, convincing minority) thought that it was inappropriate to put in a set of institutional commitments. Teachers should advocate for students' intellectual careers. But that advocacy doesn't necessarily mean following a specific political party platform.

In addition, there is nothing in the analysis of dispositions that requires thought police. A few years ago, we invited John Johnson as a speaker (no, I don't have additional identifying information!), who suggested looking at behavior as evidence of dispositions.

I am not claiming that my college is perfect—far from it. But it is a counterexample ot KC Johnson's broad-brush approach to colleges of education.

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Posted in Random comments on May 23, 2005 10:17 PM |