Adam Takes on Stanford School of Education in ‘Examiner’ Newspapers as Notoriety Surrounding Case Spreads Through Media

By on July 29, 2009

Amidst the escalating chatter following Jay Mathews’ Washington Post article exposing Stanford University’s deplorable treatment of teacher education student Michele Kerr, Adam Kissel levels another blow to Stanford’s School of Education, in a column seen today in both the San Francisco Examiner and Washington Examiner newspapers.

The School of Education, as has been well noted by now, made concerted efforts not only to prevent Kerr from entering STEP after being admitted, but also to build a case against her that would result in her removal from the program. Adam’s description of its attempts to police Kerr’s blogand its blatant use of double standards in doing somakes for particularly chilling reading:

Kerr started a blog to record her thoughts and experiences. Paulo Freire’s "Pedagogy of the Oppressed" and John Dewey’s "Experiential Education" were among the many targets. The School of Education started investigating.

One day she was reprimanded for mentioning her students anonymously and identifying herself as a Stanford student. But nobody else was being investigated, Stanford had no rules about blogging and another blogger extolled by Stanford was revealing far more about his own students. To avoid further trouble, Kerr password-protected her blog and even removed all references to Stanford.

That wasn’t good enough for STEP. An associate dean hounded her for the password so that he could investigate whether she was breaking any rules. He made sure to communicate his concerns to the principal of the school where she had been working.

This last point may be the most appalling of all, and may have played a role in the new high school principal’s decision not to hire Kerr despite positive reviews from school faculty. Fortunately, Kerr has both successfully graduated from STEP and found employment at another school, where she will be teaching math and humanities starting August 18.

Stanford, meanwhile, surely would like to be through with this sorry tale. Fortunately, others aren’t so quick to let bygones be bygones. The Washington Post returned to the issue yesterday in response to a flood of reader feedback to Jay Mathews’ column. Greg blogged about the case in The Huffington Post as well.  

Encouragingly, a number of education blogs have noticed the troubled waters at Stanford, among them education writer (and Stanford graduate) Joanne Jacobs and Alexander Russo’s widely read blog This Week in Education. Responding to Stanford’s charge that Kerr was intimidating her fellow STEP students, Eduwonk asks this question about the complainers: "Leav[ing] aside the academic freedom issues, isn’t the thing to do here to gently explain to them that part of being a professional is successfully working with people you may not like or even find domineering and intimidating?" Education blogger Matthew K. Tabor chimes in as well on Kerr’s situation in an entry that also profiles the work of another STEP graduate currently teaching in San Francisco’s Mission District, and whose methods may be more in line with STEP’s philosophy.

And blogger Matt Johnston, a political consultant who blogs frequently on education issues, offers this incisive commentary:

If you are aware of the bias and can live with it, then so be it, but you shouldn’t be surprised. The policy of non-disclosure of student records is proper-they are not for public consumption. But when the school or college has the practically unfettered right to deny a credential on an amorphous, ever shifting standard, then they can and will use policies like these to deny that credential-which is exactly what was threatened. So Mathews’ question of how these policies got used in the case at Stanford should not be a surprise. I think what happened was that this particular student and blogger didn’t tuck her tail between her legs and meekly accept the threat and Stanford caved.

Well said, and I fear the accuracy of his assessment. Check him and these other bloggers out, and be sure to read Adam’s full column along with the rest of our coverage.

Schools: Stanford University Cases: Stanford University: Education Program Tries to Keep Outspoken Student from Enrolling, Demands Access to Private Blog