Everything Old Is New Again

I stumbled across a piece I co-wrote in 2008 that I had completely forgotten about. I was struck by how that old piece is almost identical in its message and methods to the study James Paul and I just wrote for Heritage.

In the 2008 article, Catherine Shock and I argued that ed schools pay a disproportionate amount of attention to diversity relative to math in courses offered to prospective teachers. We identified a set of 77 leading ed schools and searched their course catalogs for terms related to diversity as well as terms related to math. Here’s what we found:

The average ed school, we found, has a multiculturalism-to-math ratio of 1.82, meaning that it offers 82 percent more courses featuring social goals than featuring math. At Harvard and Stanford, the ratio is about 2: almost twice as many courses are social as mathematical. At the University of Minnesota, the ratio is higher than 12. And at UCLA, a whopping 47 course titles and descriptions contain the word “multiculturalism” or “diversity,” while only three contain the word “math,” giving it a ratio of almost 16.

We then considered reasons for this disproportionate attention to diversity:

Several obstacles impede change. On the supply side, ed-school professors are a self-perpetuating clique, and their commitment to multiculturalism and diversity produces a near-uniformity of approach. Professors control entry into their ranks by determining who will receive the doctoral credential, deciding which doctoral graduates get hired, and then selecting which faculty will receive tenure. And tenured academics are essentially accountable to no one.

On the demand side, prospective teachers haven’t cried out for more math courses because such courses tend to be harder than those involving multiculturalism. And the teachers know that their future employers—public school districts—don’t find an accent on multiculturalism troubling. Because public schools are assured of ever-increasing funding, regardless of how they do in math, they can indulge their enthusiasm for multiculturalism, and prospective teachers can, too.

Accrediting organizations also help perpetuate the emphasis on multiculturalism. In several states, law mandates that ed schools receive accreditation from the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE). NCATE, in turn, requires education programs to meet six standards, one entirely devoted to diversity, but none entirely devoted to ensuring proper math pedagogy. Education schools that attempt to break from the cartel’s multiculturalism focus risk denial of accreditation.

And compare how similar these conclusions are. From the 2008 piece: “The issue isn’t whether we should be teaching cultural awareness in education colleges or in public schools; it’s about priorities.” And from 2021: “Universities—especially those that are publicly funded—should be welcoming to all students, and it is admirable that inclusion is a priority for so many institutions of higher education…. High DEI staffing levels suggest that these programs, like many other administrative initiatives at universities, are bloated relative to academic pursuits.”

Everything old is new again.

4 Responses to Everything Old Is New Again

  1. Michael Shaughnessy says:

    Excellent analysis or re-analysis- but one or two words were left out- science and perhaps the humanities- and I am sure other scholars can note other disciplines- art, music, statistics- that should be emphasized as well as ( gasp ! ) pedagogy. The relative weighting ( another word that some people dislike ) is another issue- but that is for another time.

  2. pdexiii says:

    This post strikes a strong, intimate E-string with me.
    My credential/master’s program had over half its courses devoted to ‘diversity/cultural sensitivity.’ I was fortunate that my math methods teacher was one of the best teachers I’ve had, ever, as a student, but there were maybe only 3 courses out of 11 that I felt were worthwhile for classroom instruction.
    Of course, in CA none of those prestigious schools have a stand-alone class in classroom management. My theory about this horrible ratio is somehow the California is worried about that 22-24 yr old UC Irvine graduate from the OC having to teach in Boyle Heights or Watts. As you pointed out, that obsession has left CA blind to what teachers truly need, thus that Irvine graduate is even less prepared to teach in those neighborhoods and the academic results speak for themselves.

    • Michael Shaughnessy says:

      “Classroom management” differs from grade to grade- subject to subject- and is also dependent on the number of students with special needs that are “mainstreamed” ( sometimes appropriately and sometimes inappropriately). And I concur with the phrase ” what teachers truly need”–there is a major disconnect between the professional development offerings and what teachers ” truly need”.

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