Create some room for alternative viewpoints

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According to a recent article in The New York Sun, you are less and less likely to find room for alternative viewpoints in America's public schools. Aspiring teachers are now being evaluated not only unofficially and informally according to their political beliefs; such evaluation standards have been formally adopted into the accreditation standards of the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education.

That 51-year-old agency, composed of 33 professional associations, says it accredits 600 colleges of education - about half the country's total. Thirty-nine states have adopted or adapted the council's standards as their own, according to the agency.

In 2000 the council introduced new standards for accrediting education schools. Those standards incorporated the concept of dispositions, which the agency maintains ought to be measured, to sort out teachers who are likeliest to be successful. In a glossary, the council says dispositions "are guided by beliefs and attitudes related to values such as caring, fairness, honesty, responsibility, and social justice." . . .

It is that last value, "social justice," that causes consternation.

Critics of the dispositions standard contend that the idea of "social justice," a term frequently employed in left-wing circles, is open to politicization.

And so we find a course called Language Literacy in Secondary Education. It is a required course for all Brooklyn College education candidates who aspire to become secondary school teachers.

The course, which instructs students on how to develop lesson plans that teach literacy, is built around themes of "social justice," according to the syllabus, which was obtained by The New York Sun. One such theme is the idea that standard English is the language of oppressors while Ebonics, a term educators use to denote a dialect used by African-Americans, is the language of the oppressed. . . .

Among the complaints cited by students in letters they delivered in December to the dean of the School of Education, Deborah Shanley, is Ms. Parmar's alleged disapporval of students who defended the ability to speak grammatically correct English.

Speaking of Ms. Parmar, one student, Evan Goldwyn, wrote: "She repeatedly referred to English as a language of oppressors and in particular denounced white people as the oppressors. When offended students raised their hands to challenge Professor Parmar's assertion, they were ignored. Those students that disagreed with her were altogether denied the opportunity to speak."

Students also complained that Ms. Parmar dedicated a class period to the screening of an anti-Bush documentary by Michael Moore, "Fahrenheit 9/11," a week before last November's presidential election, and required students to attend the class even if they had already seen the film. Students said Ms. Parmar described "Fahrenheit 9/11″ as an important film to see before they voted in the election.

"Most troubling of all," Mr. Goldwyn wrote, "she has insinuated that people who disagree with her views on issues such as Ebonics or Fahrenheit 911 should not become teachers."

Students who filed complaints with the dean said they have received no response from the college administration. Instead, they said, the administration and Ms. Parmar have retaliated against them. . . .

[According to Christina Harned, one student who alleges she was discriminated against, f]our students . . .. dropped out of Ms. Parmar's course during the semester. One of the students was a former mechanic from Bay Ridge, Scott Madden, who said he wanted to become a teacher because "I like explaining things."

Mr. Madden, 35, said that after he disputed a grade he received from her, Ms. Parmar encouraged him to withdraw from the course. He said he changed his plans to take the course in the summer after finding out that Ms. Parmar was again teaching both sections of the required course.

"Basically, she's a socialist, she's racist against white people," Mr. Madden said. "If you want to pass that class you better keep your mouth shut."

In an interview with the Sun, Ms. Harned said she dropped out of the School of Education and switched her major to political science because of her experience in Ms. Parmar's course.

"I'm blacklisted," she said. "How am I supposed to move forward in a department I'm not comfortable in?"

That is the point of the new format, critics of the dispositions standard said.

"In its most pernicious form, then, dispositions theory is a tool for education schools to ensure that the next generation of public school students is educated solely by those teachers who have accepted the kind of extremist beliefs articulated by Professor Parmar," [wrote a prominent history professor at Brooklyn College, Robert David] Johnson.

Will homeschoolers provide the last opportunity for students to learn truly diverse viewpoints?

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  1. Pingback: And so the plot thickens. | Sonlight Blog