Victory for Freedom of Conscience as University of Minnesota Backs Away from Ideological Screening for Ed Students

By on December 23, 2009

Today’s press release reports that the University of MinnesotaTwin Cities has backed away from its plans to enforce a political litmus test for future teachers.

As Torch readers know, the plans from its College of Education and Human Development (CEHD) involved redesigning admissions and the curriculum to enforce an ideology centered on a narrow view of "cultural competence." Those with the "wrong" views were to receive remedial re-education, be weeded out, or be denied admission altogether. In a letter to FIRE, however, the university’s top lawyer has now promised that the university will never "mandate any particular beliefs, or screen out people with ‘wrong beliefs’ from the University."

The proposal, initiated by the college’s Race, Culture, Class, and Gender Task Group, sought to require each future teacher to accept theories of "white privilege, hegemonic masculinity, heteronormativity, and internalized oppression"; "develop a positive sense of racial/cultural identity"; and "recognize that schools are socially constructed systems that are susceptible to racism … but are also critical sites for social and cultural transformation." They were to be judged by their scores on the Intercultural Development Inventory, a test of "Intercultural Sensitivity." In one assignment, they were to reveal a "pervasive stereotype" they personally held and then demonstrate how their experiences had "challenged" it. They also were to be assessed regarding "the extent to which they find intrinsic satisfaction" in being in "culturally diverse situations."

FIRE wrote University of Minnesota President Robert H. Bruininks about these plans on November 25. In response, General Counsel Mark B. Rotenberg promised that "[n]o University policy or practice ever will mandate any particular beliefs, or screen out people with ‘wrong beliefs’ from the University." 

Greg says in the press release: "We are relieved that the University of Minnesota has finally committed itself to upholding the freedom of conscience of its students. Prospective teachers will keep the right to have their own thoughts, values, and beliefs. FIRE will continue to monitor the situation to make sure that the university does not define ‘cultural competence’ or ‘dispositions’ requirements in a way that interferes with individual rights." 

Indeed, the next version of the college’s plans must reflect the university’s promise. To learn about other cultures is one thing, but the college may not demand that future teachers hold certain moral and political "dispositions" or specific views about pedagogy. The college should understand that not all great teachers have the same views about politics or education.

If you would like to contact President Bruininks about this case, you can call his office at 612-626-1616 or e-mail him at upres@umn.edu.

Schools: University of Minnesota – Twin Cities Cases: University of Minnesota – Twin Cities: Political Litmus Test for Future Teachers