Walking through a mental neighborhood

Severe storms at the USF Tampa campus pushed me off campus this afternoon, and I’ve used it in part to catch up on reading, such as Joy Ann Williamson-Lott’s article “The Battle over Power, Control, and Academic Freedom at Southern Institutions of Higher Education, 1955–1965” ($$) in last November’s Journal of Southern History. It’s an important consolidation of and addition to the literature on academic freedom and the modern civil rights movement.

Part of what makes the article so pleasurable is the way Williamson-Lott layers additional dimensions onto what I know about both the history of higher education and the civil-rights movement, from the ways Alabama State’s administrators turned the other way as Jo Ann Robinson and others planned a one-day bus boycott in Montgomery, to the cross-cutting pressures on both administrators and trustees between 1955 and 1965 (and at all sorts of institutions, public and private, HBCU and historically all-white). From the first to the last page, for me this is an intellectual walking tour of a familiar neighborhood, one in which I get to hear someone I know explain more stories of the neighborhood that I know well.

If you are not an historian or otherwise familiar with the material, what you now know is how one professional experienced this article. What does that really tell you?

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Theory tic complaints about teacher ed

U.S. Secretary of Education spoke with Andrea Mitchell Friday about new teacher-education regulations that the U.S. Department of Education is preparing for a set of federal financial supports for teacher preparation programs. Most of the verbiage that you will read and hear will focus on tracking the impact of program graduates on K-12 student learning, a focus on outcomes. As Rutgers professor Bruce Baker noted on Friday, there was also an odd rhetorical tic in the middle of Duncan’s interview with Mitchell. Duncan said something that he, Arthur Levine, and others have claimed repeatedly in the past:

Mitchell: You want to see them in classrooms more, actually in classes doing work as part of their training?

Duncan: You can, absolutely. That’s the crux, that’s it, Andrea. So many schools of education [require] lots of history of education, philosophy of education, psychology of education, not enough teaching 28 or 30 diverse children in a classroom. Again, that practical, clinical experience is so important. [emphasis added; this portion starts around 2 minutes into the clip]

Apparently, Arne Duncan and I live in different universes. In Arne Duncan’s universe, teacher education is dominated by courses in theory and social/cultural foundations of education. In my universe, any specific undergraduate requirements for philosophy or history of education courses disappeared roughly a generation ago, there has not been a single tenure-track job posting this year specifically for an historian of education in any college of education in the country, and very few jobs exist for anyone in social or cultural foundations of education. Arne Duncan’s universe may not be the best world for pre-service teacher education, but apparently it’s great for historians and philosophers of education. My reality is different, and it’s based on a simple question: If historians and philosophers really controlled teacher education, where are the jobs for us? Arne Duncan’s remark is not based in the world where I work. It’s a rhetorical tic, and it is an example of the barriers to talking sensibly about teacher education. Continue reading “Theory tic complaints about teacher ed”

The first rule of White Club (privilege discourse and history)

Nevada freeloader-rancher Cliven Bundy and Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling happened to say a lot about American racism this week in ways that sometimes require open prejudice to show: we’re nowhere near a post-racial society.

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Occam’s Conspiracy Theory

I am having a hard time wrapping my head around the persistence of conspiracy theories, whether related to the Common Core or education policy more generally. Wrestling with conspiracy theories and the like matter; as Jonathan Martin’s New York Times article on GOP Common Core politics shows, education policymaking involves all sorts of claims: legitimate, fuzzy, and easily falsified.1

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  1. In the last 24 hours I’ve been involved in a minor Twitter skirmish over whether and the extent to which Martin’s article exaggerated federal influence on their adoption; such is the intensity of perceptions that every inch of factual claims matters. Martin wrote that the Obama administration “link[ed] the adoption of similar standards to states’ eligibility for federal education grants and to waivers from No Child Left Behind.” No state won Race to the Top dollars without adopting Common Core standards; several states received waivers without it. Martin’s article is well over 80% correct; in a field where the basic structure of the profession leads to errors (deadline pressure, shrinking support for editing or long research), that counts as pretty good in my book. []

Ten things I will miss about Tampa and Florida

If one were to rely on pop culture, you might get the following impression of Tampa:

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