We used today’s Campus Alert column in the New York Post to point out problems with Columbia University’s Teachers College student evaluation criteria, which includes the use of “dispositions” to evaluate its students. One such “disposition” the school uses is the student’s “Respect for Diversity and Commitment to Social Justice.”
This may sound admirable at first until one considers the subjectivity involved in such an evaluation. As we stated in Campus Alert:
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 to “social justice” necessarily means that only one definition of “social justice” counts: Teachers College’s definition, which demands that students recognize how “the legitimacy of the social order [is] flawed.”
Sadly, until June 2006, even the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) encouraged education schools seeking accreditation to consider candidates’ commitments to “social justice” when evaluating their students. NCATE later dropped that language after criticism from FIRE and other groups.
Still, as Campus Alert outlines, the problem with “dispositions” evaluations is alive and well, and we have fought similar cases at education and social work schools across the country, including Washington State University, Le Moyne College in New York, Missouri State University, Rhode Island College, and Brooklyn College School of Education.