The February 2010 issue of Mpls.St.Paul Magazine features an interview with Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota in which she discusses the teacher education scandal at the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities, where the Race, Culture, Class, and Gender Task Group proposed an ideological litmus test for future teachers based on a highly politicized notion of "cultural competence." FIRE intervened, and the case made national news before the university’s top lawyer finally promised that the university would never screen out prospective students with the "wrong" views.
In the interview, Bachmann complains of "politically correct indoctrination" in the materials that her foster children were bringing home from school. When the interviewer, Steve Marsh, asks her whether she means an "obsession with multiculturalism," Bachmann replies:
Your perfect example is from the University of Minnesota’s school of education—their new standard . . . a prescribed level of indoctrination that students [are tested on] in order to matriculate. That’s wrong. The state should not impose a value system in order to receive a teaching certificate. That’s a First Amendment issue. (Footnote omitted; brackets in original.)
Rep. Bachmann has it right. As we said from the beginning, freedom of conscience is a First Amendment right, and the task group sought to impose its value system on students and faculty members in violation of that right. I hope that everyone will agree, whether one likes the task group’s views or not, that it’s the opposite of education in a free society when teachers mandate the values, attitudes, and beliefs of their adult students.
Meanwhile, Paul Greenberg, editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, is one of the latest to write about the scandal. In an opinion piece last week, "The Newest Cliché" (reprinted in, for instance, the New Bern, NC, Sun Journal), Greenberg writes:
An excerpt or two from this Task Group’s communique sums up the flavor of the whole, dubious enterprise: "Our future teachers will be able to discuss their own histories and current thinking drawing on notions of white privilege, hegemonic masculinity, heteronormativity, and internalized oppression. … Future teachers will recognize and demonstrate understanding of white privilege. … Future teachers will understand the importance of cultural identity and develop a positive sense of racial/cultural identity."
Like many other commentators since November, Greenberg realizes that quotations from the task group’s report pretty much speak for themselves. It is good to know that so many people recognize violations of freedom of conscience when they see them.