UW College of Education: Immersion in Doctrinaire Social Justice Activism

A friend sent me a link to an article back in April.  While I found the article alarming, it didn’t really surprise me.  I knew things were bad at the University of Washington College of Education but I didn’t realize things were as bad as this person presents it.  The article, What They Don’t Teach You at the University of Washington’s Ed School, is well worth the read.  Be sure to take a look at some of the many comments.

The article was penned under the pseudonym Nick Wilson.  I was glad to see he did not have this published under his real name.  If he had, he likely would have been crucified and run out of the program with the possibility of never landing a teaching job.  I commend this person for exposing this.  Will anyone pay attention to what is going on?  Probably not but I hope so.

Initially, I wanted to immediately do a post about this article.  I ended up sitting on it with concerns about whether or not this is really taking place.  If it is taking place, I wondered how the University of Washington (UW) College of Education is spinning and promoting this kind of program so I went to their website.  A link on this site led me to a page called WATCH: Preparing asset-based equity oriented teachers where I found the video provided at the end of this post.  I recommend watching this video all the way through.  In my eyes, the video confirms the information about what this author says took place in his teacher preparation program.  You can’t make this stuff up.

Nick writes about his experience in the Secondary Teacher Education Program (STEP) at UW.  Hopefully, you have or will read his article.  In the event you haven’t, here are some excerpts from it.

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Photo by dave at Morguefile.com http://www.opticgroove.com.au

Cognizant that in just over a year I would be responsible for teaching students on my own, and because of the university’s laudable reputation, I expected the program to be grounded in challenging practical work and research, both in terms of how to develop academic skills in young people, and also in the crucial role public education has in overcoming some of the most grave and intransigent problems in society.
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But whenever family and friends ask me about graduate school, I have to explain that rather than an academic program centered around pedagogy and public policy, STEP is a 12-month immersion in doctrinaire social justice activism.
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Moreover, instead of imparting knowledge about the rudiments of pedagogy or how to develop curriculum content and plan for high school classes, the faculty and leadership declare that their essential mission is to combat the colonialism, misogyny and homophobia that is endemic in American society.

Does that alarm you?  What a mission for a teacher preparation program.  Whatever happened to preparing teachers to provide all students with a classical education?  Who determined this direction?  Did parents ask for their kids’ teachers to be prepared this way at UW?  Did the state direct the UW to go in this direction?  How long will it be before school districts are openly looking for teacher candidates who are prepared to “combat the colonialism, misogyny and homophobia that is endemic in American society?”

This set me off on a mission to find what the actual missions say.  I wanted to see if UW’s mission and that of the College of Education support and promote the kinds of things taking place in STEP as portrayed in the article.  I found a webpage for the Role and Mission of the University.  I jumped for joy at reading this:

The primary mission of the University of Washington is the preservation, advancement, and dissemination of knowledge.

And then I went into a slump as I read further.  Additional information about the role of the university opens the door wide for the College’s mission and direction it is heading in.  The College of Education’s mission statement reads:

“As a public college of education, we strive to transform inequitable systems of education to create just, sustainable, and culturally-thriving democracies by engaging in dynamic, collaborative partnerships, practices, and research.”

The Statement on the College’s mission supports, promotes, and gives justification to the direction the College has taken with STEP.  It reads like a political statement.

Lots of times people don’t pay attention to mission statements and don’t see them as being important.  When you really look at them, you may find they really set the direction for the organization or institution.  Okay, enough on mission statements.  Back to excerpts from the article.

STEP’s relentless assumption is that group identity is the most important determinant of success or failure in public education and in civic life, and that all inequality can be attributed to discrimination, conscious or unconscious, perpetrated primarily by straight white men and other reactionary elements.

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Photo by abbeyburnstein at Morguefile.com

When I pressed the TA to show me the evidence that this was an effective method, I was told that these workshops are “considered valuable” and that I should “work through” my “discomfort.” Obviously, no evidence for their efficacy was ever presented.

 

 
Is “considered valuable” a synonym for evidence-based?  Are you surprised they didn’t say “research shows” these workshops are “considered valuable?”  Who are these workshops valuable for?  The people conducting them?

These kinds of ridiculous juvenile tasks and restrictions, put on by professors with little work experience outside K-12 education, make a mockery of graduate school and remind you of the worst teachers you had growing up. I suppose they had one redeeming virtue: they teach you exactly how not to behave in a classroom.

“They teach you exactly how not to behave in a classroom.”  Only if one’s crap detector is similarly calibrated.  What about those impressionable students in the program that enthusiastically drank the Kool-Aid poured by those gurus on high they worshiped?  Will they go out and behave and teach in the same manner that was modeled for them in graduate school?

The program does have some elements of practical merit. A few sessions on how to create academic assessments for students were engaging and useful. I took two social studies methods classes and found them to be excellent. These classes teach you what methods to use to engage students in critical thinking and historical debate.

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Photo by MMAARRSS at Morguefile.com

One commenter using the name Nick Podmore says:

It is quite clear from your writing that you have deeply internalised and socialised misogynistic, racist, homophobic, trans-phobic, Islamophobic beliefs forced on you by generations of deeply oppressive white patriarchal dominance which prevents you from seeing clearly and achieving enlightenment that would lead to greater social harmony as we all acknowledge our failings and take our rightful place within the correct social groupings ans structures.

Apparently, you can make this stuff up.  Mr. Podmore signs off as “The Dean, University of Washington, STEPS.”  A search does not turn up any dean at the UW named Nick Podmore.  Mia Tuan is the dean of the UW College of Education.  In the day of self-identification, Nick has dubbed himself as dean.  Surely, he has gone through the caucuses in this program and is open to and accepting of others having different viewpoints (snark alert).  I wonder, will the bank honor my request for a large withdrawal of funds if I self-identify as Bill Gates?

What can or should we make of all of this?  If it isn’t happening already, should we expect to see a shift in our public schools from providing an academic education to being social justice incubators?  For years now it seems our public schools have been saddled with the responsibility of solving of our society.  Will this approach be a viable solution?  Or will it make things worse?  After reading the College’s Statement, this article and viewing the video below, I wonder if this approach is going to stop hate speech, hostility, bullying, and harassment?  Or will it give justification for these to be used by those promoting such an approach?  Will this approach lead to sustainable, just, equitable, and culturally-thriving democracies?

Here’s the video.

Live conversation with Manka Varghese, Caryn Park and Julia Daniels

Here’s the info provided on Youtube about the video:

Manka Varghese, associate professor of education at the University of Washington, and UW College of Education alumni and Antioch University Seattle faculty members Caryn Park (PhD ’10) and Julia Daniels (PhD ‘18) discuss their new article on preparing asset-based, equity oriented teachers in a special issue of Teachers College Record. Read more about their article “Structuring Disruption Within University-Based Teacher Education Programs: Possibilities and Challenges of Race-Based Caucuses,” which draws from their work over the last several years in the UW’s elementary teacher education program, at http://www.tcrecord.org/library/abstract.asp?contentid=22738

 

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Photo by JR Wilson

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