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Monday, February 06, 2006 

What Are the Teachers Being Taught?

In the Washington Post, Frederick Hess takes on the topic of teacher instruction and the regulation of ideology. Teachers colleges have been attempting to control and regulate the dispositions, beliefs, and views of teachers. Hess sees that as a problem...
In any event, there's good reason to be skeptical of claims that to be effective, teachers must have certain views or attitudes. Given that both kindhearted and callous doctors may be effective professionals, it's not clear why we should expect good teachers to be uniform in disposition. In fact, with the array of students that schools serve, it may be useful to hire teachers with diverse views and values. Ultimately, screening on "dispositions" serves primarily to cloak academia's biases in the garb of professional necessity.
Shouldn't we be more worried that teachers are effectively teaching kids how to read, write, and do math instead of being the diversity patrol? I think that regulation of "disposition" is pretty suspect. It often results in this...
Ed Swan is pursuing a degree in teacher education at Washington State. The Chronicle of Higher Education reports that he flunked an evaluation of dispositions last year. The teacher who failed him explained that Swan, a conservative Christian and father of four Mexican American children, had "revealed opinions that have caused me great concern in the areas of race, gender, sexual orientation and privilege." Washington State insisted that Swan agree to attend sensitivity training before being allowed to do his student teaching -- where observers could observe his classroom performance.
These standards are incredibly subjective, so the potential for abuse is great. I really don't want every teacher to have the same viewpoint on these issues. I really don't care what they think about these issues. I just want effective teachers. Demanding that teachers "... promote social justice, to be change agents, and to recognize individual and institutionalized racism, sexism, homophobia, and classism" is not only a very tall order, it reeks of ideological and political bias.

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