‘Torch’ Reader Responds To Teachers College Controversy

October 13, 2006

Torch reader David Ross writes in with a useful take on the ideological litmus test controversy at Columbia University’s Teachers College. Responding to Teachers College President Susan Furhman’s letter to FIRE, Ross writes:

I am impressed that President Fuhrman has written a response to FIRE. But I am not impressed with her logic. For example, she writes:

We teach a concern for social justice, but do not legislate a vision of what social justice is.

What does it mean to teach concern for something without saying what the thing is for which you’re trying to inculcate concern? If you’re teaching students to be concerned about something, you must have identified some actual thing that is to be the object of the concern![…]

I am eager to read FIRE’s response. And, I do hope that what President Fuhrman says in her piece is true, that Teachers College does not judge its students on political ideology.

Finally, assuming it is true, I have some advice. Get rid of phrases like “social justice” and “legitimacy of the social order”….  If you’re trying to say, simply, that teachers should be fair, then say it, simply. If you want the teachers you train to think for themselves, act honorably, and make the world better, then say that, don’t gibber about “recogniz[ing] ways in which taken-for-granted notions regarding legitimacy of the social order are flawed, see[ing] change agency as a moral imperative…”

Great points, David. Look forward to our response coming early next week.

Schools:  Columbia University

Cases:  Columbia University: Ideological Litmus Tests at Teachers College