You've probably never heard of Teachers College, but it has profoundly affected your life and is now affecting your children's lives. TC is the graduate school of education at Columbia University and laboratory of most of the "reforms" that have corroded K-12 education over the past 50 years. New math, whole language, open classrooms, outcome-based education -- you name the fad and it probably originated in Morningside Heights in New York.
Teachers College is the most influential graduate education program in the country, and like so many leading schools, it is probably irredeemably PC. Still, Columbia University professes to uphold free inquiry and open-mindedness, so it was heartening to see a watchdog group zing the school for its ideological rigidity.
The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) got hold of TC's new "Conceptual Framework" for its students. You might ask: Why does a graduate school need a "conceptual framework"? Isn't the point to train teachers to teach? (Actually, some skeptics think teachers colleges themselves are unnecessary, but let that pass.) Well, perhaps someone in the publicity department is being paid by the word at TC, because the Conceptual Framework is the length of a novella. Most of it is the usual boilerplate and reads like this:
"We are an inquiry-based and practice-oriented community. We and our students and graduates challenge assumptions and complacency and embrace a stance of inquiry toward the interrelated roles of learner, teacher, and leader in P-12 schools."
Okay, but then there is this: "We see teaching as an ethical and political act. We see teachers . . . as participants in a larger struggle for social justice. . . . Schools and society are interconnected. Social inequalities are often produced and perpetuated through systematic discrimination and justified by societal ideology of merit, social mobility, and individual responsibility . . . "
And it gets worse: "Traditionally organized schools help to reproduce social inequalities while giving the illusion that such inequalities are natural and fair. Schools purport to offer unlimited possibilities for social advancement but they simultaneously maintain structures that severely limit the probability of advancement for those at the bottom of the social scale. Research has shown that the majority of teachers in the United States are European American and middle class and that many of these teachers do not see the invisible yet profound social forces at work that bring about inequality among different cultural groups in society and in schools."