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‘Dispositions’ at Brooklyn College

In today’s New York Sun, reporter Jacob Gershman—one of the few reporters who fully understands the critical cultural importance of civil liberties in higher education—writes about the use of the “dispositions” theory (discussed in Robert’s post below) at CUNY Brooklyn. Gershman describes how “dispositions” is defined by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education, which accredits roughly half the nation’s education schools, and applied by Brooklyn College’s School of Education:

In 2000 the council introduced new standards for accrediting education schools. Those standards incorporated the concept of dispositions, which the agency maintains ought to be measured, to sort out teachers who are likeliest to be successful. In a glossary, the council says dispositions “are guided by beliefs and attitudes related to values such as caring, fairness, honesty, responsibility, and social justice.” To drive home the notion that education schools ought to evaluate teacher candidates on such parameters as attitude toward social justice, the council issued a revision of its accrediting policies in 2002 in a Board of Examiners Update. It encouraged schools to tailor their assessments of dispositions to the schools’ guiding principles, which are known in the field as “conceptual frameworks.” The council’s policies say that if an education school “has described its vision for teacher preparation as ‘Teachers as agents of change’ and has indicated that a commitment to social justice is one disposition it expects of teachers who can become agents of change, then it is expected that unit assessments include some measure of a candidate’s commitment to social justice.”

Brooklyn College’s School of Education, which is the only academic unit at the college with the status of school, is among dozens of education schools across the country that incorporate the notion of “social justice” in their guiding principles. At Brooklyn, “social justice” is one of the four main principles in its conceptual framework. The school’s conceptual framework states that it develops in its students “a deeper understanding of the quest for social justice.” In its explanation of that mission, the school states: “We educate teacher candidates and other school personnel about issues of social injustice such as institutionalized racism, sexism, classism, and heterosexism.”

And what if a person either disagrees with the assessment that America is beset by institutionalized racism, sexism, classism, and heterosexism? Even the selection of the classic “isms” as the primary areas of concern for young teachers is laden with political significance. What if you believe that the primary impediments to “social justice” are not institutionalized “racism, sexism, classism, and heterosexism” but instead a rampant “me first” philosophy of victimization and self-indulgence which leads to sexual irresponsibility, fractured families, and illegitimacy? Ironically, by forcing students to endure ideological indoctrination as a precondition for receiving an education degree, it is CUNY Brooklyn that is unjust. “Social justice” is not served by violating students’ freedom of conscience or by suppressing fundamental civil liberties. No matter how laudable the ends may be (and the virtue of those ends is certainly up for debate), they do not justify the use of illiberal and oppressive means.

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