Saturday, January 14, 2006

George Will says a bunch of dumb stuff in this week's Newsweek. As we all know, bold is for what George Will says. I still can't seem to spell check this. So it's still badly spelt, but at least it's not intellectually dishonest.

Many education schools discourage, even disqualify, prospective teachers who lack the correct "disposition," meaning those who do not embrace today's "progressive" political catechism. Karen Siegfried had a 3.75 grade-point average at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, but after voicing conservative views, she was told by her education professors that she lacked the "professional disposition" teachers need. She is now studying to be an aviation technician.

Note that he doesn't say what her views are- for all we know she could have said that Hispanics and Blacks can't learn and that they should all be forced to work in sweatshops from age 3 on.

In 2002 the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education declared that a "professional disposition" is "guided by beliefs and attitudes related to values such as caring, fairness, honesty, responsibility, and social justice." Regarding that last, the Chronicle reports that the University of Alabama's College of Education proclaims itself "committed to preparing individuals to"—what? "Read, write and reason"? No, "to promote social justice, to be change agents, and to recognize individual and institutionalized racism, sexism, homophobia, and classism," and to "break silences" about those things and "develop anti-racist, anti-homophobic, anti-sexist community [sic] and alliances."
Uh..Will,I was able to read at age 4, and not to mention, most people are able to read, write, and reason long before college. Of course, 50% of the students these future teachers will teach will be female,and forty two percent of the students in public schools are ethnic minorities. I'm not sure of the percentage of children who are budding gays or who are poor- but most teachers will have to deal with kids who are perceived as gay or kids who are having difficulty with their schoolwork because of poverty. Not being aware of racism leads to disparate treatment- a famous example is Malcolm X's teacher suggesting he'd be happier as a carpenter than in college. Not being aware of sexism leads people to lead young women away from careers in math and science. Not being aware of class issues means you're the kind of dumbass who doesn't understand that some of your students have to take care of their younger siblings for extended periods or may not understand what 'doubles tennis' is. Basically, this stuff is needed to navigate the diverse classrooms of today. You can't just ignore some students because being a decent person makes you uncomfortable.

Brooklyn College, where a professor of education required her class on Language Literacy in Secondary Education to watch "Fahrenheit 9/11" before the 2004 election, says it educates teacher candidates about, among many other evils, "heterosexism." The University of Alaska Fairbanks, fluent with today's progressive patois, says that, given America's "caste-like system," teachers must be taught "how racial and cultural 'others' negotiate American school systems, and how they perform their identities." Got it?

Anti intellectualism in an essay about education? I would have never thunk it. For you simple folk at home who don't know big scary words like heterosexism, it means not being a bigot towards gays and realizing that heterosexuality is seen as the norm.

The permeation of ed schools by politics is a consequence of the vacuity of their curricula. Concerning that, read "Why Johnny's Teacher Can't Teach" by Heather Mac Donald of the Manhattan Institute (available at Today's teacher-education focus on "professional disposition" is just the latest permutation of what Mac Donald calls the education schools' "immutable dogma," which she calls "Anything But Knowledge

Will uses the work of a conservative think tank.

The dogma has been that primary and secondary education is about "self-actualization" or "finding one's joy" or "social adjustment" or "multicultural sensitivity" or "minority empowerment." But is never about anything as banal as mere knowledge. It is about "constructing one's own knowledge" and "contextualizing knowledge," but never about knowledge of things like biology or history

Three problems here. First, they never give us a source for this. They could have made this up. Second, this is a logical fallacy called the false dictonomy. You can self actualize and learn about the internment camps. The third problem is that he's taken a very white centered view of education. Note that he's categorized things like 'finding one's joy' and 'minority empowerment' as not only equally less important than knowledge of biology, basically talking only to people who can afford to think of racial/ethnic issues as unimportant. He also seems to have no idea of how knowledge of history or biology works. He acts like constructing one's own knowledge and contextualizing knowledge are not connected to history or biology. But constructing one's own knowledge is easy in terms of biology. Just ask kids whether birds eat worms or worms eat birds? Inform them that it goes both ways, and you're on your way to them constructing their own knowledge of the food web. Contextualizing knowledge is very important in history. You need to know how the bombing of the Lusitania and the Land Lease Act went together in the road to US involvement in WW1.

One, says Mac Donald, is that "to accord teachers any superior role in the classroom would be to acknowledge an elite hierarchy of knowledge, possessed by some but not all." Hence, second, emphasis should be on group projects rather than individual accomplishments that are measured by tests that reveal persistent achievement gaps separating whites and Asians from other minorities

Note that he tossed together the emphasis on group projects(in the real world, you work together- you don't memorize a bunch of facts and write them back down) and minority 'achievement gaps'- maybe this is a nod to white racial complexes?

Numerous inner-city charter and private schools are proving that the gaps can be narrowed, even closed, when rigorous pedagogy is practiced by teachers in teacher-centered classrooms where knowledge is regarded as everything. But most ed schools, celebrating "child-centered classrooms" that do not "suffocate discourses," are enemies of rigor.

Now note that he 'casually' tosses in charter and private schools. Apparently this is just another attack on public schooling. Note that he doesn't define rigorous pedagogy, but by inference, he leads the audience to believe that it doesn't pay any attention to how kids learn or to what's going on inside and out of the classroom. Not to mention, he assumes that a child centered class is an enemy of rigor.

The steady drizzle of depressing data continues. A new assessment of adult literacy shows a sharp decline over the last decade, with only 31 percent of college graduates able to read and extrapolate from complex material. They were supposed to learn how to read before college, but perhaps their teachers were too busy proving their "professional dispositions" by "breaking silences" as "change agents."

He now tosses in a total non sequitor. Adult literacy is low, so now it's the fault of public education. However, the literacy is across the entire adult population- including kids who had a 'rigorous' education.

Fewer than half of U.S. eighth graders have math teachers who majored in math as undergraduates or graduate students or studied math for teacher certification. U.S. 12th graders recently performed below the international average for 21 countries on tests of general knowledge of math and science. But perhaps U.S. pupils excel when asked to "perform their identities."

Another random non sequitor. Instead of thinking about the competition with other high paying fields that may be thinning our herds of math majored teachers, instead he randomly blames his straw person. He also uses the good old "let's throw in a random bad statistic and blame it on something I made up" trick.

I hate this sort of crap because it seems to see us as idiots with no media literacy at all. This guy seems to think he can get away with the sort of thing a college kid with one class of Logic 101 under their belt could spot at 400 yards. In other news, here's a really good piece talking about the lies a conservative pundit tried to pull on a TV audience.

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