SRRT’s counterparts in education – current controversy

In the area of education research and accreditation standards for primary and secondary education, there is presently a big controversy that parallels SRRT’s fight for social responsibilities in libraries.

NCATE, the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education, has long had the idea of social justice embedded into its standards – the words have appeared in its standards at different levels as a way of connecting our educational system to broader humanistic goals. Also, the standards have included non-discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. In the last few years this social justice and sexual orientation language has been a target for conservative activists in NCATE, and recently the language was replaced with the word “fairness.”

The American Educational Research Association (AERA) has a close relationship with NCATE, as it represents scholars doing education research which ends up being used by NCATE. AERA had their annual meeting in early April, and the social justice question – the removal of the language from NCATE standards and its place in education – was the talk of the conference. Proponents of social justice and non-discrimination in education standards wore red to show their support throughout the conference.

Within AERA there is a special interests group called Critical Educators for Social Justice (CESJ) which is something like its SRRT group. I believe that SRRT and/or PLG should form an alliance with Critical Educators for Social Justice and support them in this fight.

CESJ’s Call to Action, which they put out prior to their conference, spells out the issues in much greater detail, and also makes reference to an earlier request that ALA, which is an NCATE organizational member, call on NCATE to return social justice and sexual orientation non-discrimination language to the accreditation standards.

The Chronicle of Higher Ed published an article about this on April 16th, which is only available to subscribers or at subscribing institutions. Look for it if you have access.

Education Next put out an editorial on this controversy expressing opposition to social justice standards in teacher accreditation as “mental hygiene” and the job of thought police.

This is an important issue in an allied field and we should be paying attention to it.


NCATE’s Unit Assessment Board has just voted to reinstate social justice language into its nomenclature, as well as voting to add the statement: “Candidates should demonstrate knowledge of the effects of discrimination based on race, class, gender, and sexual orientation on students’ performance.” This decision was largely in response to letters from individuals and allied groups. Much of that response was due to CESJ’s work in bringing attention to the issue. The SRRT Action Council Coordinator, Elaine Harger, is now exploring a SRRT alliance with CESJ.

Thanks to Elaine for providing this news.

2 comments on “SRRT’s counterparts in education – current controversy

  1. Regarding the conservative student mentioned in the Education Next editorial, who opposed gay adoptions and affirmative action, it says the “college threatened to expel him from the teacher training program unless he signed a contract agreeing to undergo diversity training and accept extra scrutiny of his student teaching,” and it says a national civil liberties organization (ACLU?) intervened on his behalf. Do you think the college treatment of him was fair or that he should have been pressured to change his views on these particular issues before receiving his teaching credential?

  2. Two things in response:

    1. Regarding this specific case, the Education Next article is extremely one-sided. I don’t trust journalistic sources for good information, especially if they are highly ideological (whether it’s from the Right of the Left). So I think I don’t have enough knowledge of the situation to give an informed answer.

    2. Regarding the principles involved, I don’t believe that freedom of speech for teachers is an absolute right. It’s a principle I value highly, but I also place high value on the principles that limit it. Society is in almost total agreement that there are moral limits on free speech; the disagreement is not so much about how extensive those limitations should be but on the questions of morality that underlie those limits.

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