Saturday, November 28, 2009
Teaching plan: America 'an oppressive hellhole'
University outlines 're-education' for those who hold 'wrong' views
By Bob Unruh
A program proposed at the University of Minnesota would result in required examinations of teacher candidates on "white privilege" as well as "remedial re-education" for those who hold the "wrong" views, according to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education.
The organization, which promotes civil liberties on the campuses of America's colleges and universities, has dispatched a letter to University of Minnesota President Robert Bruininks asking him to intervene to prevent the adoption of policies proposed in his College of Education and Human Development.
"The university's general counsel should be asked to comment as soon as possible," said the letter from Adam Kissel, an officer with The FIRE. "If the Race, Culture, Class, and Gender Task Group achieves its stated goals, the result will be political and ideological screening of applicants, remedial re-education for those with the 'wrong' views and values, [and] withholding of degrees from those upon whom the university's political reeducation efforts proved ineffective."
By any "non-totalitarian" standards, he wrote, the the plans being made so far by the school are "severely unjust and impermissibly intrude into matters of individual conscience."
Kissel wrote that it appears that the university "intends to redesign its admissions process so that it screens out people with the 'wrong' beliefs and values – those who either do not have sufficient 'cultural competence' or those who the college judges will not be able to be converted to the 'correct' beliefs and values even after remedial re-education."
"These intentions violate the freedom of conscience of the university's students. As a public university bound by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, the university is both legally and morally obligated to uphold this fundamental right," he wrote.
WND messages left with the university requesting comment did not generate a response today.
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Among the issues discussed in the plans are requirements that teachers would be able to instruct students on the "myth of meritocracy" in the United States, "the history of demands for assimilation to white, middle-class, Christian meanings and values," and the "history of white racism."
The demands appear to be similar to those promoted earlier at the University of Delaware.
As WND reported, the Delaware university's office of residential life was caught requiring students to participant in a program that taught "all whites are racist."
School officials immediately defended the teaching, but in the face of a backlash from alumni and publicity about its work, the school decided to drop the curriculum, although some factions later suggested its revival.
FIRE, which challenged the Delaware plan, later produced a video explaining how the institution of the university pushed for the teachings, was caught and later backed off:
Minneapolis Star-Tribune columnist Katherine Kersten said the developing Minnesota plan would require teachers to "embrace – and be prepared to teach our state's kids – the task force's own vision of America as an oppressive hellhole: racist, sexist and homophobic."
She said the plan from the university's Teacher Education Redesign Initiative – a multiyear project to change the way future teachers are trained – "is premised, in part, on the conviction that Minnesota teachers' lack of 'cultural competence' contributes to the poor academic performance of the state's minority students."
"The first step toward 'cultural competence,' says the task group, is for future teachers to recognize – and confess – their own bigotry. Anyone familiar with the reeducation camps of China's Cultural Revolution will recognize the modus operandi," she said.
"What if some aspiring teachers resist this effort at thought control and object to parroting back an ideological line as a condition of future employment?" she posed. "The task group has Orwellian plans for such rebels: The U, it says, must 'develop clear steps and procedures for working with non-performing students, including a remediation plan.'"
The plan asks: "How can we be sure that teaching supervisors are themselves developed and equipped in cultural competence outcomes in order to supervise beginning teachers around issues of race, class, culture, and gender?"
The original correct answer was to have "a training session disguised as a thank you/recognition ceremony/reception at the beginning of the year." The task force later edited itself to call for a required "training/workshop for all supervisors. Perhaps as part of an orientation/thank you/recognition ceremony/reception at the beginning of the year?"
"There was no deception planned or intended as may be implied in the use of the word [disguised]," a footnote said, "We have edited this to reflect our commitment to integrity in our work. This amendment was made 11/09/2009."
Nevertheless, FIRE's concern included the apparent plan for demands that teachers "discuss their own histories and current thinking drawing on notions of white privilege, hegemonic masculinity, heteronormativity, and internalized oppression."
Further, the letter noted, "the college in its proposal promises to start screening its applicants to make sure they have the proper 'commitments' and 'dispositions.'"
"Here's the kicker," Fire said in its report. "The college even realizes that its efforts to impose such a severe ideological litmus test may be unconstitutional." T
The letter cited a proposal to consult with the university's own lawyers.
"FIRE urges you to consider the Supreme Court's ruling in West Virginia Board of Education v. Barnette, 319 U.S. 624 (1943), which invalidated mandated allegiances to political ideologies at public schools," Kissel wrote for FIRE.
Writing for the court, Justice Robert H. Jackson declared: "Freedom to differ is not limited to things that do not matter much. That would be a mere shadow of freedom. The test of its substance is the right to differ as to things that touch the heart of the existing order. If there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion or force citizens to confess by word or act their faith therein. "