Mr. Lukianoff Goes to Washington

June 5, 2006

As we noted in our press release, FIRE President Greg Lukianoff is in Washington today to warn a committee of the Department of Education about the growing threat to students’ freedom of conscience at our nation’s education schools.
The National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) is an organization that accredits over 600 schools of education throughout America. In its standards for accreditation, NCATE promotes the use of “dispositions,” a method of evaluating teacher candidates that often requires schools to evaluate students on the basis of their commitments to vague and politically loaded concepts such as “social justice” and “diversity.” A committee of the Department of Education (specifically, the National Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity) is meeting today to review, among other things, whether to renew NCATE’s status as a federally authorized accreditor of education schools.
In November 2005, the National Association of Scholars (NAS) wrote to the Department of Education to express concern over the “educational and constitutional propriety of the accreditation criteria currently employed” by NCATE. In that letter, NAS President Stephen Balch wrote that “NCATE is clearly encouraging and legitimating the adoption by teacher education programs of what appears to be a political viewpoint test for students seeking state teacher certification,” and stated that because NCATE’s authority is “reinforced by federal recognition,” the federal government is involved in a “constitutionally impermissible situation.”
In response, the Assistant Secretary for Post-Secondary Education wrote that NAS’ concerns “are serious and bear further investigation,” and informed NAS that the Department of Education had sent a letter of inquiry asking NCATE to “explain their use of teacher dispositions in its standards.” Four months later, however, NCATE still maintains the suspect standards. Greg Lukianoff, Stephen Balch and others are in Washington today to make it clear to the Department of Education that this issue is not going to go away, and to urge the Department to take action against unconstitutional viewpoint discrimination in America’s education schools. We’ll keep you posted!