30.11.09

A CATECHISM FOR THE HOLY INQUISITION. The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education has challenged the University of Minnesota for treating race-class-gender-culture models of social structure as the received theory for schoolteacher preparation.

The college intends to mandate particular beliefs and values "dispositions and commitments"-for future teachers. These are not just things like the disposition to deal with classroom discipline, but demands that future teachers demonstrate "cultural competence" as defined by the college's Race, Culture, Class, and Gender Task Group.

The college even intends to redesign its admissions process so that it screens out people with the "wrong" beliefs and values as well as those who either do not have sufficient "cultural competence" or who the college judges will not be able to be converted to the "correct" beliefs and values-even after remedial re-education.

That these models have yet to produce measurable improvements in the literacy, numeracy, or sociability of K-12 graduates has not yet come up for discussion.

University Diaries anticipates the self-selection that will ensue.

Applicants who don’t want their social views investigated and approved by admissions officers might save themselves money and anxiety as to the correctness of their views by not applying.

Applicants who read the criteria by which they will be considered culturally competent, and who alter themselves to conform to the school’s standards of cultural competence should feel encouraged to apply. This group should understand, however, that even if admissions officers find their degree of competence acceptable at this time, applicants will continue to be scrutinized closely on the matter throughout their years at the school.

Peregrinus expectavi, pedes meos in cymbalis. Presumably without the ritual immolation of infants. A spirited bull session ensues, during which a commenter gets to the heart of the matter.
Minnesota has one of the widest achievement gaps in the country, and this is the school responsible for educating a large portion of the state’s workforce. If we send out a bunch of educators who have no sense of the fact that their experiences are not global, but specific to a variety of aspects of their backgrounds, then we are failing those graduates and future generations of their students.
A fair point, but to allow untested theories of oppression to trump general models of achievement runs the risk of failing those graduates in another way.
Indeed, when Jump$start first began measuring financial literacy eleven years ago, the average financial literacy score for high school students was 57.3%. Since then, the numbers actually have declined falling to 51.9% and then rebounding to 52.4%, but the latest numbers reflect a new low. And this low comes even though, since the organization’s inception, hundreds of efforts and initiatives at the state and federal level have emerged aimed at promoting financial literacy. In some cases, these actions have proved beneficial. Interestingly, early surveys found that students from families in the top income range fared worse than students from lower income ranges. This result was attributed to the thought that "students from more affluent homes did not have to be as financially literate as their less affluent counterparts since they were almost universally college-bound and would probably be "cocooned" from most financial responsibilities for at least four more years." However, student scores from families in these higher income brackets have now improved. The survey hypothesizes that this improvement stems not only from the financial literacy movement, but also from the fact that such students are in environments most capable of offering them a solution. By stark contrast, students in other income brackets have not seen similar success. Instead, sometimes educational efforts appear to be having the opposite effect. Hence, the survey found that students who take high school courses in personal finance tend to fare no better than those who do not take such a course. The overall result is that student scores remain low and there is now an increasing divide between the financial literacy of students.
I highlighted two salient passages. Consider the first. Working hypotheses: students in affluent backgrounds receive reinforcement at home that offsets any deconstruction of American Dream ideas in the curriculum; alternatively, the curriculum skews upper-middle class in its presentation. Consider the second. Same two working hypotheses, but the deconstruction of the American Dream leaves the students from less affluent backgrounds with nothing to emulate; alternatively, the upper-middle class skew is offputting. (The few Jump$tart materials I have are at the office. Perhaps more during exam week.)

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