Katherine Kersten wonders when dissent became so unpatriotic — and when universities began demanding ideological purity as a prerequisite to attaining a degree. The University of Minnesota will apparently demand that its education graduates, the future teachers of Minnesota, confess to their own bigotry if they believe in the American dream of equal opportunity as a means to cleanse the Minnesota education system of cultural biases. It sounds like a page out of communist show trials:
The task group is part of the Teacher Education Redesign Initiative, a multiyear project to change the way future teachers are trained at the U’s flagship campus. The initiative is premised, in part, on the conviction that Minnesota teachers’ lack of “cultural competence” contributes to the poor academic performance of the state’s minority students. Last spring, it charged the task group with coming up with recommendations to change this. In January, planners will review the recommendations and decide how to proceed.
The report advocates making race, class and gender politics the “overarching framework” for all teaching courses at the U. It calls for evaluating future teachers in both coursework and practice teaching based on their willingness to fall into ideological lockstep.
The first step toward “cultural competence,” says the task group, is for future teachers to recognize — and confess — their own bigotry. Anyone familiar with the reeducation camps of China’s Cultural Revolution will recognize the modus operandi.
The task group recommends, for example, that prospective teachers be required to prepare an “autoethnography” report. They must describe their own prejudices and stereotypes, question their “cultural” motives for wishing to become teachers, and take a “cultural intelligence” assessment designed to ferret out their latent racism, classism and other “isms.” They “earn points” for “demonstrating the ability to be self-critical.”
It sounds as though they “earn points” for obsequiously affirming the political biases of the university’s education professors. What’s the point of all these confessions?
The goal of these exercises, in the task group’s words, is to ensure that “future teachers will be able to discuss their own histories and current thinking drawing on notions of white privilege, hegemonic masculinity, heteronormativity, and internalized oppression.”
Future teachers must also recognize and denounce the fundamental injustices at the heart of American society, says the task group. From a historical perspective, they must “understand that … many groups are typically not included” within America’s “celebrated cultural identity,” and that “such exclusion is frequently a result of dissimilarities in power and influence.” In particular, aspiring teachers must be able “to explain how institutional racism works in schools.”
Isn’t the point of teaching to actually teach? As in, mathematics, reading, and science? Instead of focusing primarily on educating Minnesota youth, UM wants to indoctrinate teachers into becoming community organizers. After all, what else are we to conclude when the university states that the biggest priorities in elementary education aren’t illiteracy and scientific ignorance but “heteronormativity,” “hegemonic masculinity,” and “internalized oppression”?
That last example is high irony indeed. Want to see “internalized oppression”? This program gives a very good example of it, with its demand of ideological purity as a prerequisite to earning a teaching degree. The fact that the program’s advocates can’t see the irony of their proposal speaks volumes about Academia in general, and the people in charge of the education program at the University of Minnesota.
With Minnesota students needing teachers who can teach useful skills rather than navel-gazing concepts such as “heteronormativity,” how about we give the political correctness a rest and encourage rather than discourage young men and women to enter the classrooms? Put aside the Chomsky and Ayers political Kool-Aid, and stick to education. The only agenda that should be in place is competence.