"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

No thanks, in 40 Minutes!

From: USAT ED Forum

To: vze754n
Date: Tue Feb 14, 2006 11:35:29 AM EST
Subject: RE: op-ed submission

Thanks for your submission, but we'll decline.

From: vze754n [mailto:ontogeny1@verizon.net]
Sent: Tuesday, February 14, 2006 11:08 AM
To: USAT ED Forum
Subject: op-ed submission


Please consider the remarks below for inclusion on your op-ed pages. Thank you.

James Horn, PhD

Spring Lake Heights, NJ 07762

Teacher Education for Democracy

Every year about this time, for a month or so at least, we commemorate the struggles for freedom, social justice, and peace that were embodied in the short, remarkable life of Martin Luther King, Jr. and others who have fought to realize the ideals of equality on which the Republic was founded. They are the politics expressed by Dr. King, himself, when he said “I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” They are the same politics celebrated most recently by those attending the memorial service for Dr. King’s late widow who, as Rev. Lowery reminded us, “opposed discrimination based on race—she frowned on homophobia and gender bias.” They are the same politics urged by President Clinton, when he made this challenge to all of us: “You want to treat our friend Coretta like a role model? Then model her behavior.”

They are the same politics that, unfortunately, are now scrutinized and savaged by the representatives of a radical minority of educational fundamentalists. These neo-conservative critics have gone on the attack against the professional preparation programs for teachers that make dispositions toward social justice and equity central components in assessing the fitness of their teacher candidates to teach in the classrooms of America. These radical critics see no place in the university classroom for preparing teachers who share the values of Dr. King, or any of those, both Republican and Democrat, who rose at Coretta Scott King’s memorial to remind us of the Kings’ unfinished legacy of non-violent resistance to bigotry and oppression.

The political logic of the new critics reflects some very old sentiments that most of us, fortunately, have chosen to leave behind. In sacrificing the goal of social justice in favor of a feigned political neutrality, it no longer matters if Johnny’s teacher embraces the values of skinheads or Klansmen, just as long as she is able to get Johnny a passing grade on his proficiency exam or his AP test. Nor does it matter, in this twisted logic that makes the promotion of democracy a partisan issue, if Johnny’s teacher rejects the values expressed in our Constitution or Declaration of Independence, just as long as he gets Johnny interested in contributing to an economic future that includes, by the way, the planned oversupply of engineers and scientists.

While fitting these blinders onto teacher educators, teachers, and American children may serve those who wish to conflate political freedom, moral freedom, aesthetic freedom, religious freedom, cultural freedom, and intellectual freedom into a selective and self-serving version of economic freedom, such a plan will never work to engender a free and responsible citizenry capable of sustaining the continuing struggle for a true democratic republic, one that places human rights and civil rights at the forefront of all societal decision-making.

Although I would argue that every human is born with a preference for autonomy and liberty rather than for repression and enslavement, that preference, however, only becomes a true ethical value through modeled teaching, plenty of practice, and professional guidance in that practice. The intellectual chain gangs envisioned by those focused solely on the economic future are not intended to provide that teaching, practice, and guidance.

What the social antiquarians and the new wave of neo-empiricists disingenuously argue is that we, as a nation, must choose between a narrow intellectual competence for economic competitiveness and a broad social consciousness for cultural understanding. I believe that most Americans view this either-or proposition as the divisive and false dichotomy that it is, and if given the choice, they will choose to re-invigorate their public schools toward all these important purposes for all of our people.

Jim Horn

1 comment:

  1. I have to admit, after reading this over 3 times, and knowing very well what you might have been trying to say, I truly have no idea what you said...sorry.

    Perhaps the editor also got lost in your words...

    Simple is sometimes best-- Give it another try. I know you have very important things to say.