It's Time To Look At
How Our Teachers Are Trained

Bradford P. Wilson


Mar. 11, 2001

The people of Colorado have made a deliberate decision to improve the academic performance of their children. New statewide standards for academic content and teacher performance have been enacted to achieve this result. The challenge to teacher educators is to reconstitute their programs so that they serve those standards.

Colorado citizens deserve to know about the quality and content of their teacher education programs. The state instructed the Colorado Commission on Higher Education (CCHE) to review the universities' schools of education in light of the new expectations. To assist them in that review, the CCHE invited my organization, the National Association of Scholars, to examine the programs at four institutions: Mesa State College, University of Colorado at Boulder, University of Northern Colorado and Metropolitan State College. We hired David Saxe, an education professor at Penn State and a national authority on state learning standards, to conduct the study. Saxe submitted his report to CCHE last April.

The report is now public, and ed school administrators are indignant. Attempting to deflect attention away from the central issue — is the report true, and if so, does it matter? — they have attacked the messengers. The NAS, they say, is conservative and therefore cannot be trusted. This is nonsense: The NAS is an association of thousands of professors from across the political spectrum whose only bias is in favor of high academic standards.

Saxe, they say, based his report on nothing more than a brief and inadequate onsite visit.

False again: These same administrators provided Saxe in 1999 and early 2000 with a mountain of documents fully describing their programs.

What was in Saxe's report from which ed school spokesmen wish to divert the public's attention? Saxe found that the programs at CU-Boulder and Metro were saturated with political dogmas and pedagogical theories that were incompatible with the educational reforms mandated by Colorado law.

Current reform efforts are motivated by a desire to teach all of America's children to be literate and numerate in order to be successful in our complex modern economy. A commitment to relevant instructional methods and course content is essential. In the schools of education at CU-Boulder and Metro, Saxe found instead a commitment to a radical social and political agenda nowhere called for by Colorado law or policy.

To those who embrace that agenda, Western civilization is something to be scorned rather than understood and perpetuated. American history is taught as a sorry record of injustice and oppression of minorities. The diversity of human thought and experience is reduced to a set of crude variations on the theme of racial, ethnic, class, gender and homophobic bigotry.

The introductory course at CU-Boulder, "Becoming a Teacher," is taken by all future elementary or secondary school teachers. Saxe found no reference in its syllabus to Colorado education laws and learning standards. But it did promise a "learning experience" built on an examination of "contemporary issues like race, class, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation and power." A week was devoted to "Understanding White Privilege''; another week to "Race and Ethnicity in Education''; another week to "Sex, Gender and Teaching Values''; and another week to "Heterosexism and Homophobia: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Students." This course begins the project of ideological indoctrination that guides the rest of the program.

The schools have a responsibility to impart a knowledge of our country's unique contributions to the progress of human rights and constitutional democracy. Equipped with such an education, we can intelligently identify and debate our culture's shortcomings. The "civic education" championed by many ed schools, however, subordinates our common humanity to racial, economic and sexual "identities" and subsumes them under two simple human types: victims and victimizers. This shallow approach poisons the wells of democracy by producing bitterness, hostility and a nagging sense of grievance against the past and the present.

No attempt at education reform is likely to succeed as long as radical ideological commitments and pedagogies are permitted to trump common sense and common values in teacher-training programs. The ed schools know this, but hope that no one will notice. With the release of the Saxe report, those days are over.


Bradford P. Wilson is executive director of the
National Association of Scholars in Princeton, N.J.
Copyright 2001 The Denver Post. All rights reserved.

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17 mar 2001