Thursday, April 24, 2008

All that is wrong with education schools

Sol Stern has an article in City Journal about "Obama's Real Bill Ayers Problem" The problem is not that he's associated with a man who still professes pride in his efforts to place a bomb in the Pentagon bathrooms or at dances for policemen and their wives and girlfriends. (Would he be just as proud if some secretary had been killed when using that Pentagon bathroom or if the plan for the police dance had killed some young woman on a first date with a policeman?) That's bad enough. As Jim Geraghty once asked, how many of us have acquaintances who used to set bombs that might have killed people?

Stern instead is focusing on Ayers' work as a professor of education, the same work that has won him a spot as an adviser to Mayor Daley of Chicago. Given Ayers' background and his lack of repentance for that personal history, you won't be surprised to learn the focus of Ayers' education beliefs.
Instead of planting bombs in public buildings, Ayers now works to indoctrinate America’s future teachers in the revolutionary cause, urging them to pass on the lesso

ns to their public school students.

Indeed, the education department at the University of Illinois is a hotbed for the radical education professoriate. As Ayers puts it in one of his course descriptions, prospective K–12 teachers need to “be aware of the social and moral universe we inhabit and . . . be a teacher capable of hope and struggle, outrage and action, a teacher teaching for social justice and liberation.” Ayers’s texts on the imperative of social-justice teaching are among the most popular works in the syllabi of the nation’s ed schools and teacher-training institutes. One of Ayers’s major themes is that the American public school system is nothing but a reflection of capitalist hegemony. Thus, the mission of all progressive teachers is to take back the classrooms and turn them into laboratories of revolutionary change.
Think of the problems that we have today in teaching literacy and basic math skills. Would any of those problems be ameliorated by teaching "social justice and liberation?" And Ayers isn't a pariah among the educrat crowd. Instead, he has a leadership role.
Ayers’s influence on what is taught in the nation’s public schools is likely to grow in the future. Last month, he was elected vice president for curriculum of the 25,000-member American Educational Research Association (AERA), the nation’s largest organization of education-school professors and researchers. Ayers won the election handily, and there is no doubt that his fellow education professors knew whom they were voting for. In the short biographical statement distributed to prospective voters beforehand, Ayers listed among his scholarly books Fugitive Days, an unapologetic memoir about his ten years in the Weather Underground. The book includes dramatic accounts of how he bombed the Pentagon and other public buildings.

AERA already does a great deal to advance the social-justice teaching agenda in the nation’s schools and has established a Social Justice Division with its own executive director. With Bill Ayers now part of the organization’s national leadership, you can be sure that it will encourage even more funding and support for research on how teachers can promote left-wing ideology in the nation’s classrooms—and correspondingly less support for research on such mundane subjects as the best methods for teaching underprivileged children to read.
Doesn't that just put the cherry on top for all that is wrong with education schools - that they would have elected him to a national leadership role to insert even more social justice blather into curriculum?

The mind shudders. A satire by Tom Wolfe couldn't have done more to encapsulate the idiocy that is our system for educating teachers than the fact that those professors just elected Bill Ayers to a leadership position.

If you want to know more about the type of education that Bill Ayers advocates, read this illuminating, albeit depressing, account that Sol Stern wrote earlier before Bill Ayers became part of our political conversation.
Future teachers signing up for Ayers’s course “On Urban Education” can read these exhortations from the course description on the professor’s website:

“Homelessness, crime, racism, oppression—we have the resources and knowledge to fight and overcome these things.”

“We need to look beyond our isolated situations, to define our problems globally. We cannot be child advocates . . . in Chicago or New York and ignore the web that links us with the children of India or Palestine.”

“In a truly just society there would be a greater sharing of the burden, a fairer distribution of material and human resources.”

For another course, titled “Improving Learning Environments,” Ayers proposes that teachers “be aware of the social and moral universe we inhabit and . . . be a teacher capable of hope and struggle, outrage and action, a teacher teaching for social justice and liberation.”
As Stern documents, these ideas are spreading from the education schools to many schools across the nation without any real interest in actual pedagogical outcomes as far as teaching reading and math skills.
Social justice teaching is a frivolous waste of precious school hours, grievously harmful to poor children, who start out with a disadvantage. School is the only place where they are likely to obtain the academic knowledge that could make up for the educational deprivation they suffer in their homes. The last thing they need is a wild-eyed experiment in education through social action.

So why do education professors who claim to care for the poor continue to agitate for instruction that holds back poor children? Either the professors are stupid (possible), or (more likely) they care more about their own anti-American, anticapitalist agendas than they do about the actual education of children. The literature of social justice education is obsessed with the allegedly “dark” side of American political, social, and economic life
And with Bill Ayers now leading the curriculum efforts for the nation's education schools, this situation will deteriorate before it improves.