Cultural Ideology and Teacher Education

The Chronicle of Higher Education just posted an article about hostile reactions to a proposal before the University of Minnesota’s Education School to consider cultural awareness as a relevant competency for future teachers.

December 2, 2009 U. of Minnesota Takes Heat for Proposal to Gauge Future Teachers’ Sensitivity
By Peter Schmidt
The University of Minnesota-Twin Cities has come under pressure to reject a faculty panel’s proposal to require students in its education school to doubt the United States is a meritocracy and to demonstrate an understanding of concepts such as “white privilege.”
Conservative pundits and a prominent free-speech advocacy group have attacked the education-school panel, called the Race, Culture, Class, and Gender Task Group, which has said future teachers should “understand the importance of cultural identity” and “be able to discuss their own histories and current thinking drawing on notions of white privilege, hegemonic masculinity, heteronormativity, and internalized oppression.” The panel also has said prospective teachers should promote social justice and have an understanding of U.S. history that takes into account the “myth of meritocracy in the United States.”

You can read the rest of the article here.

There is quite the heated comment thread following the article. I was particularly struck by this comment:

It is amazing how scholarly facts are deemed propaganda when they counter the views of those who are socially dominant. If your concern is teaching students to think critically, please explain to me how any critical thinker can examine the sociological data in the United States and not come to the conclusion that socially defined race (e.g. white-skin privilege) still exists and plays an important role in determining one’s social prospects (especially when it comes to education or employment??) For example, how do you explain Deborah Pager’s work a few years back that demonstrated that European American males with criminal records were more likely to receive call-backs for employment compared to African American males without criminal records. Please remember that in this experiment both groups were provided with identical resumes. There is an abundance of data of this kind and it is still being collected. No honest scholar can make a case against the ongoing significance of sexism and heterosexism in determining social prospects in this society as well.

This is tantamount to labeling gravitation or evolution as “propaganda” in the natural sciences. As scholars we do not champion the rights of individuals to believe things that are demonstrably false. While I might have approached this issue differently from the team at UMinn, they are to be commended for having the courage to take on the ongoing racism, sexism, and heterosexism that is pervasive in American society.

So much packed into a few short paragraphs. What I wouldn’t give to be able to write like this.

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