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

Thursday, June 08, 2006

NCATE Caves on Social Justice

Inside Higher Ed reported June 6 that Arthur Wise, President of NCATE, ended the discussion on the role of social justice in teacher preparation by simply capitulating before the real debate could begin. A case of pure cowardice, neocon hardball politics, or a deadly mixture of both? To commemorate NCATE's shameful acceptance of the racist claim that the goal of social justice is a liberal ideology, I offered this bit of commentary back in December when the stink began in earnest. I posted that opinion as a comment to the IHE story yesterday, to which this response came from someone identified as DRB:

Jim Horn,

I’m having a hard time understanding your point. I think it’s that only people who think like you should be allowed to teach, but I could be wrong. So far as I can tell, none of the “neo-cons” or anyone else is suggesting that people who hold far-left views should be barred from the teaching profession. The only point is that teaching has to be open to people of different political persuasions: politics has nothing to do with the ability to teach.

As for the notion of “Dispositions” in general — well, I suppose that it makes sense to screen prospective teachers for certain personal qualities such as enthusiasm and honesty, and for primary school teachers, maybe even kindness and empathy. But it’s very difficult for me to see why political views, such as whether and to what degree the Government should support poor people, or what the proper level and distribution of taxes ought to be, or whether the Government should adopt affirmative action programs, or whether the Government should recognize homosexual marriages, have any bearing on a person’s qualifications to teach.

Consider the opposite: How would you (and Mr. Socol) feel if the accrediting bodies determined that to be qualified as a teacher one had to believe that homesexuality is immoral, that gun ownership is a key civil right, and that racial classifications are inherently demeaning and unequal? I think you’d object, and rightly so. Why, then, are you so surprised when moderates and conservatives object to far-left litmus tests for teacher accreditation?

DBL, at 10:30 am EDT on June 8, 2006

And my rejoinder (I always get the last word):

Dear Mr. or Ms. DLB, or is it Dr. DLB,

You are absolutely correct in your interpretation that I am insisting that those who teach should agree with me. Where you are wrong, of course, is in your characterization of what I believe.

I believe that a free society requires that free people allow others to be free, but that allowance does not extend to the point of using that freedom to limit others’ freedom. To allow that kind of freedom would be a direct challenge the notion of freedom, itself. Dr. King said it much better, when he said that “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

I believe that justice can only be achieved when we acknowledge that profound fact, and I believe that anyone who does not acknowledge that fact and who is unwilling to act accordingly, has no place in a classroom of children whose learning of that fact will determine the future of our democratic aspirations to be a free people.

We may distinguish, too, between legal justice and social justice. The goal of social justice was around long before legal justice arrived, and it will still be here long after legal justice leaves the arena. For instance, educational discrimination based on race was antithetical to social justice long before Brown v. the Board of Education of Topeks, and it will remain antithetical to social justice even as the Brown decision has been and continues to be eviscerated by court decisions and legislative actions aimed at protecting the rights of the majority. This is part of the historical reality of living with racism today, just as the struggle to end racism will remain central to the struggle to create a free, democratic society.

Yet I am not naive enough to expect that such freedom will be freely given: the struggle for social justice will remain a struggle. As Dr. King said, too, “freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.”

That demand for freedom, then, can only begin when that oppression is acknowledged and understood by the oppressed. And that, of course, is why Dewey, King, Freire, and anyone else aimed at unlocking the chains of ignorance are castigated and demonized by those who have much more to protect than they have to give.

Nobody said it was going to be easy, Mr. or Ms. or Dr. DLB.

Jim Horn

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