Washington State University: Use of Dispositions Theory to Enforce Ideological Orthodoxy

Category: Freedom of Conscience
Schools: Washington State University

Washington State University (WSU) repealed partisan evaluative criteria used to punish a student whose views on diversity and gun control differed with those of other professors at WSU. Student Ed Swan had received poor evaluative teaching marks on his “dispositions” criteria, which had “required students to have a commitment to vague ideological concepts such as “appreciat[ing] and valu[ing] human diversity,” sensitivity to “community and cultural norms,” and respecting “others’ varied talents and perspectives.” Swan was penalized for admitting that he opposes gun control and does not believe that white privilege and male privilege exist, and was forced to sign a contract submitting him to more ideological litmus tests. FIRE intervened on behalf of Swan so he could have a clear a path to graduation, first convincing WSU to not use “dispositions” in an unconstitutional manner; WSU eventually revamped the dispositions evaluation forms that contained the unconstitutional requirements.

  • Campus Alert: Think like us–or else

    June 4, 2007

    Columbia University’s Teachers College is one of America’s most prestigious education schools. For many students, it’s probably the best—but not if you don’t buy the school’s definition of “social justice.” Teachers College evaluates students in part on the basis of so-called “dispositions,” defined as “observable behaviors” that “involve the use of certain skills.” One “disposition” is the student’s “Respect for Diversity and Commitment to Social Justice.” This warps the discussion of whether a student might make a good teacher into whether that student has the “correct” personal, religious or political beliefs. Evaluating students’ aptitude for teaching based on their commitment […]

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  • University presidents battle for honors in spinelessness

    May 1, 2006

    It’s time for this column to announce its Sheldon Award, given annually to the university president who does the most to look the other way when free speech is under assault on campus. As all Sheldon fans know, the prize is a statuette that looks something like the Oscar, except that the Oscar shows a man with no face looking straight ahead, whereas the Sheldon shows a man with no spine looking the other way. The award is named for Sheldon Hackney, former president of the University of Pennsylvania and a modern legend in looking the other way. College presidents, […]

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  • Education School Revises Policy on ‘Dispositions’

    March 10, 2006

    by Paula Wasley The Chronicle of Higher Education   Washington State University’s College of Education has revised a form that it uses to evaluate students’ dispositions to become schoolteachers, one that, in its previous version, had led to complaints of discrimination against political conservatives. The previous 10-point “professional dispositions evaluation” form required, among other things, that students in training to become teachers exhibit “an understanding of the complexities of race, power, gender, class, sexual orientation, and privilege in American society.” … To read the full story, please click here: http://chronicle.com/temp/reprint.php?id=1y5zb4lghnfx2k74gh6t7knhjsmfn7xq     View this article at The Chronicle of Higher […]

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  • Washington State U. Revises Evaluation Form for Would-Be Teachers That Led to Bias Complaints

    March 1, 2006

    Washington State University’s College of Education has revised a form that it uses to evaluate students’ dispositions to become teachers, one that, in its previous version, had led to complaints of discrimination against political conservatives. The previous 10-point “professional dispositions evaluation” form required, among other things, that students in training to become teachers exhibit “an understanding of the complexities of race, power, gender, class, sexual orientation, and privilege in American society.” …   To read the full story, please click here: http://chronicle.com/temp/reprint.php?id=8f9q1sw25vnxj6mmdh3n1pfpdb9wkkvt

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  • Undergraduate education majors to be evaluated by new form

    February 22, 2006

    An evaluation form for education majors that sparked a controversy over political correctness will be replaced at Washington State University, school officials said. The new form will not record the political or religious beliefs of students who are seeking to become teachers, according to the WSU College of Education. “We never had the intent to exclude anyone,” said Judy Mitchell, dean of the College of Education The evaluation forms, known as “professional disposition evaluations,” generated controversy last August when undergraduate Ed Swan, 42, was threatened with termination as an education major after failing four PDEs the previous school year. A […]

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  • Campus Conscience Police?

    December 21, 2005

    “Over one’s inner mind, and self, no one has coercive power.” So write attorneys Jordan Lorence and Harvey A. Silverglate, authors of the just-published Guide to First-Year Orientation and Thought Reform on Campus from the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE). The Guide is yet another indication that political correctness is faltering on campuses across North America. To those who value the right of individuals to a conscience—that is, to judge right and wrong for themselves—this is welcome news. Political correctness is the belief that certain ideas and attitudes are improper and, so, should be discouraged or prohibited by […]

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  • WSU ends ‘hecklers veto’ aid but threatens conservative student’s graduation

    December 17, 2005

    It shouldn’t have taken a threatened law suit and being held up to nationwide public scorn but Washington State University officials have stopped paying student hecklers who shout down speakers with whom they disagree. Unfortunately, the stench remains strong at Washington State University of a Stalinist suppression of political views that deviate from the politically correct academic liberal orthodoxy. Regular readers of this space will recall from this July column that the controversy began when it was learned university administrators were paying students to heckle the production of a controversial play by a student author. Student playwright Chris Lee warned […]

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  • ‘We Don’t Need That Kind of Attitude’

    December 16, 2005

    Partway through her teacher-training program, Karen K. Siegfried started pulling her red compact car to the far end of the campus parking lot. She didn’t want her professors at the University of Alaska at Fairbanks to see her bumper stickers: One proclaims her opposition to abortion, and the other is emblazoned with the name of one of Alaska’s Republican senators.”It worried me what they could do based on my politics,” says Ms. Siegfried, who had already clashed with education professors over her views on affirmative action and gun control. When Ms. Siegfried disagreed with one professor’s contention that video games […]

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  • FIRE to the rescue

    December 1, 2005

    What is the biggest swindle in the educational establishment today? A tough question, that: the contenders for the prize are many. But there is a lot to be said—by which we mean “said against”—the whole teacher-training and teacher-certification industry. It nurtures a closed-shop, guild-like mentality, and one, moreover, that is reflexively committed to the entire menu of illiberal, politically correct causes. Consider, for example, the use of so-called “dispositions tests” as one element in judging a teacher’s qualifications. As the indispensable John Leo reported recently in U.S. News & World Report, the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (how’s […]

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  • WSU challenge underscores true meaning of diversity

    November 29, 2005

    A recent case involving the conservative political views of a Washington State University student has provided an opportunity for academia to revisit a meaningful definition of “diversity” in teacher education programs. Diversity means just that — a wide-ranging approach that must embrace the entire spectrum of views and issues. Ed Swan, a 42-year-old who wants to be a teacher, has made no bones of the fact he’s a social conservative, predictably opposed to the likes of gay marriage and abortion. The Associated Press reported that a form used by the university asks professors to evaluate whether a student exhibits an […]

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  • Unpopular political opinions part of diversity too

    November 20, 2005

    Teachers have to deal with a wide range of kids. A student might be the child of illegal immigrants or have two daddies. Children come from all kinds of social, economic, ethnic and religious backgrounds. A teacher who believes “diversity is perversity” might have trouble checking his biases at the door. Washington State University student Ed Swan certainly has trouble keeping his mouth shut. He let his views on diversity be known in a variety of ways. Aside from scribbling “diversity is perversity” in a textbook, he failed four times to meet the College of Education’s benchmarks for understanding the […]

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  • Politically Correct?

    November 18, 2005

    Has political correctness run amok at Washington State University’s College of Education in Pullman? We don’t think so. But the college might have pushed the envelope further than necessary in its efforts to ensure that the teachers it produces are prepared and eager to work positively with culturally diverse enrollments. Certainly Ed Swan and the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education  (www.thefire.org) think WSU was out of line. But, if things go well from here on, the 42-year-old Swan, from Othello, Wash., will be teaching elementary school next fall. Swan, who calls himself a “traditionalist” in gender relations, marriage etc., […]

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  • WSU student claims discrimination because of conservative views

    November 12, 2005

    PULLMAN, Wash. — Ed Swan considers himself a basic social conservative, opposed to gay marriage, affirmative action and the notion that affluent white men are responsible for a lot of social injustice. The Washington State University student also opposes abortion and wrote “diversity is perversity” in the margins of a textbook. Swan’s attitude prompted his professors in the WSU College of Education to order him into diversity training, and almost caused Swan, 42, to be kicked out of the teacher training program. He fought back by contacting the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, a Philadelphia-based group that battles political […]

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  • Scholars Group: Accrediting Agency Violating First Amendment

    November 4, 2005

    The National Association of Scholars, a group that advocates for traditional academic standards in higher education, is accusing the nation’s largest accrediting agency of teacher education programs of imposing standards that violate the First Amendment. The association Wednesday filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education against the accrediting agency. The complaint demands that the Education Department strip the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education of federal recognition as an accrediting agency unless it changes its standards for evaluating schools. The 51-year-old agency accredits 602 colleges of education – about half the country’s total. Addressed to the assistant […]

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  • Class(room) Warriors

    October 24, 2005

    The cultural left has a new tool for enforcing political conformity in schools of education. It is called dispositions theory, and it was set forth five years ago by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education: Future teachers should be judged by their “knowledge, skills, and dispositions.” What are “dispositions”? NCATE’s prose made clear that they are the beliefs and attitudes that guide a teacher toward a moral stance. That sounds harmless enough, but it opened a door to reject teaching candidates on the basis of thoughts and beliefs. In 2002, NCATE said that an education school may require […]

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  • WSU takes hit on free speech

    October 22, 2005

    A national higher education watchdog group says Washington State University is failing to protect the speech rights of students who have controversial or unpopular opinions. In the latest case, an education student who describes himself as a conservative Christian was threatened with dismissal and ordered into diversity training over comments that he didn’t believe that whites are privileged, opposed adoption by gays, and wrote “diversity is perversity” in the margins of a book. Professors accused the man, 42-year-old Ed Swan of Othello, of being a white supremacist and anti-gay, but WSU dropped its threat of dismissal against Swan after the […]

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  • WSU’s Politburo enforces dogma

    October 22, 2005

    Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart once said of pornography that although he could not intelligibly define it, “I know it when I see it.” The same might be said of bias at Washington State University. Incidents of bias are forbidden at WSU, but are bias incidents easier to identify than they are to define? I am far from certain that forbidden acts of bias are anywhere near as universally recognizable as obscenity. And I doubt that there is anyone in any position of authority at WSU whom I would trust to judge bias crimes. A poster found all over campus […]

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  • Demerit System

    October 22, 2005

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  • WSU Education Department studying ‘litmus test’

    October 20, 2005

    Washington State University is reviewing its policies on evaluating the character of students in the teacher training program after a student alleged the College of Education was biased against conservatives. Provost Robert Bates said Tuesday the matter is under review within the college, which is under fire for evaluating students in a way that makes personal political beliefs grounds for failure. At issue is an evaluation form that asks if a student exhibits an understanding of the complexities of race, power, gender, class, sexual orientation and privilege in American society. Ed Swan, 42, failed four Professional Dispositions Evaluation forms filled […]

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  • WSU responds to evaluation criticisms

    October 19, 2005

    The College of Education at Washington State University is considering how it may change its policies regarding the evaluation of “good character” for students in the teacher-training program. “The matter is under review by the college,” WSU Provost Robert Bates said Tuesday. The college has been criticized recently, including this week in an opinion piece published in U.S. News and World Report, for evaluating student character in a way that could make personal political beliefs grounds for failure in the program. At issue is language on an official form that refers to whether or not a student “exhibits an understanding […]

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  • National columnist attacks WSU

    October 19, 2005

    The test for “good character” in the College of Education at Washington State University has drawn national attention in a piece published this week in U.S News and World Report. To syndicated columnist John Leo, the test is an unconstitutional outrage because it requires students to conform to liberal rhetoric and beliefs. In keeping with national accreditation standards, the College of Education evaluates whether students pass the good character test required by the state of all teachers. The evaluation form includes an item asking whether a student “exhibits an understanding of the complexities of race, power, gender, class, sexual orientation […]

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  • Ideology creeps into academic evaluation

    October 5, 2005

    At which point does diversity, a most recent shibboleth in academe, turn around and devour its own tail? Just before the start of the fall semester, Edward Swan, a student in the College of Education at Washington State University, was informed he was in jeopardy of being removed from his program. The college is bound by state law to evaluate the character of each student at graduation. Since 2001, the college has used a system where each semester, faculty members fill out a “professional disposition evaluation” for each student they have in class. The forms ask for marks on, among […]

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  • Character evaluations are absurd, offensive

    October 4, 2005

    Washington State University’s College of Education needs to rethink how it evaluates character in future teachers. Perhaps the best way to start would be to define character because we’re obviously on different pages. A person’s character is not measured by whether or not they espouse opinions on political or social issues that you agree with. WSU’s College of Education needs to come to grips with that in a hurry, as the university works through the protests of Edward R. Swan. The college threatened to boot Swan out of the program after he “failed” four evaluations of his character. The basis […]

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  • Battle over students rights comes to head

    October 1, 2005

    A national civil liberties group is defending a Washington State University undergraduate because the College of Education threatened to terminate him from the education program this fall after he expressed conservative religious and political views in class last school year. Edward R. Swan, 42, describes himself as someone who goes to church each Sunday. He values both the U.S. Constitution and the Bible and has strong ideas about what both documents mean. Swan doesn’t support Affirmative Action programs, and he doesn’t believe gays should adopt children. He thinks men and women are naturally different and suited to different roles in […]

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  • Washington State Rejects Political Litmus Test for Education Students

    February 28, 2006

    PULLMAN, Wash., February 28, 2006—Six months ago, Ed Swan feared that his teaching career would end before it started, merely because his ideology differed from that of his professors at Washington State University (WSU). Today, thanks to a campaign of public exposure by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), WSU has completely repealed the criteria it used to punish Swan. “WSU has finally done the right thing and abandoned its unconstitutional and unfair ‘dispositions’ requirements,” stated FIRE Interim President Greg Lukianoff. “This is a tremendous victory not just for Ed Swan, but for the freedom of thought and […]

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  • Washington State University Continues Campaign of Repression

    October 12, 2005

    PULLMAN, Wash., October 12, 2005—In recent months, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) has intervened twice at Washington State University to protect students’ freedom of expression.  After publicly proclaiming respect for their students’ rights, Washington State administrators have now made clear that, between their grading students on their politics and their paying for hecklers to disrupt student plays, liberty is still in dire straits in Pullman. “The latest developments at Washington State are quite revealing,” remarked FIRE President David French.  “After the administration twice refused to apologize for subsidizing disruptive hecklers and refused to guarantee that it wouldn’t […]

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  • Education Programs May Have a ‘Disposition’ for Censorship

    September 21, 2005

    PULLMAN, Wash., September 21, 2005—A new trend in campus censorship is emerging: this summer, Washington State University used “dispositions” theory to punish an education student for his political and religious expression. The university relented only after the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) became involved. “Dispositions” theory, increasingly in vogue in education programs, requires professors to evaluate their students’ commitment to concepts such as “social justice” and “diversity” in conjunction with their actual scholastic achievement. Just last month, FIRE had to intervene when Brooklyn College professor K. C. Johnson was threatened with a secret investigation for questioning the use […]

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