June 8, 2006

Dis-positioning NCATE and teacher-ed (again)

There's been a spate of online stories and blogs about NCATE's president Art Wise announcing that the definition of social justice will be removed from NCATE documents on accreditation at a hearing where critics were ready to suggest removing NCATE as a federally-approved accreditor because, they argued, the combination of requiring certain evidence of dispositions for teacher candidates together with some institutional missions of "social justice" represented potential "viewpoint discrimination." Commentary: Samantha Harris on the public-private status of NCATE as an accreditor, Jim Horn's response to Wise's statement, Margaret Soltan, Robert Shibly on social justice, and KC Johnson on his battle over dispositions at Brooklyn College (among other things).

I have a few comments here and there in those entries. One of my colleagues down the hall in the school psychology program was not convinced by my argument that trying to gauge the virtue of teacher candidates was unwise. In addition to my concerns about litmus tests and feeding into the historical denigration of teaching, this commitment to judging teacher candidates may come from the domination of education by psychology. (One of my fellow historians on the same hallway would call it colonization.) I just don't think, absent behavior we witness, we can predict with that much accuracy who's likely to be prejudiced in a classroom situation.

Then again, we do have students (and when your institution graduates hundreds a year, you have a good handful every once in a while) who behave egregiously in various ways, and we kick them out. No, you're not allowed to date students or sexually harass them. No, you're not allowed to plagiarize if you want to be an English teacher. Yes, you have to tell us if you've ever been arrested, and that would cause some serious difficulties for your being hired by a school. That's an institutional burden by itself; I'd hate to see what would happen if we tried to guess who would be poor teachers by other means in addition.

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Posted in Academic freedom on June 8, 2006 9:37 PM |