Quick Hits: Columbia University ignores objections to thought reform amid free speech controversy

November 7, 2006

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) is calling on Teachers College—Columbia University’s graduate school of education—to abandon its ideological litmus tests for students. These policies are manifestly inconsistent with Teachers College’s written promises of free speech and academic freedom as well as with Columbia President Lee Bollinger’s recent statements on the importance of free expression at Columbia University.

Teachers College’s Conceptual Framework, which represents the “philosophy for teacher education at Teachers College,” requires students to possess a “commitment to social justice.” Moreover, students are expected to recognize that “social inequalities are often produced and perpetuated through systematic discrimination and justified by societal ideology of merit, social mobility, and individual responsibility.”

FIRE wrote to Columbia President Lee Bollinger and Teachers College President Susan Fuhrman on September 15, urging them to abandon the “policy of assessing student commitment to controversial, politicized, and wholly personal concepts like ‘social justice.’” FIRE pointed out that “the twentieth century well demonstrates that one man’s idea of ‘social justice’ potentially is another man’s idea of totalitarian tyranny,” and implored Teachers College to “live up to its public promises” of freedom of thought and expression. FIRE received no response to its letter.

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