CEHD proposal a step forward

Enrollment trends in Minn. public schools underscore the need for stronger teacher diversity training.

by Beth Blankenheim

Danielle NordineâÄôs December article âÄúCEHD proposal under scrutinyâÄù about the negative response to some suggestions to help redesign the teacher education curriculum at the University of MinnesotaâÄôs College of Education and Human Development brings up an important issue that needs to be addressed in our public school system today. The specific proposal under scrutiny was from the race, culture, class and gender task group, one of seven different task forces working on the Teacher Education Redesign Initiative. Their general proposal calls for all teacher education courses to address issues of race, class, culture and gender, as well as having teachers meet certain cultural competency guidelines. Criticism of this proposal came from the national organization Foundation for Individual Rights in Education who stated, âÄúAs much as possible, we do want to defer to experts in the field to promote the views and values they feel are right, but they cross the line when they say everyone should hold those views, especially when itâÄôs an issue of genuine controversy.âÄù I think the real problem comes in deciding that we can let our future teachers go into schools without this kind of cultural training. According to a 2009 report by the Minnesota Minority Education Partnership, the Minnesota public school district continues to see increasing enrollment of Asian American, African-American and American Indian students coupled with the declining enrollment of white students. At the same time as enrollment is changing, the dropout rates of minority students continue to increase. These facts represent a significant gap in our public education system that will continue to widen unless we can effectively address the issue using certain measures. I believe increased cultural competency education for future teachers is a step in the right direction. New immigrants are also changing the education landscape. According to the same report, students in Minnesota public schools now speak 97 different languages. As the student body continues to change, doesnâÄôt it make sense that a teacherâÄôs education should continue to adapt in order to be a more effective teacher? Teachers need to be prepared to effectively equip all students with the knowledge that they need to succeed in an increasingly multi-ethnic, multi-cultural and global environment. I donâÄôt think cultural understanding and awareness should be an issue of controversy considering the diverse world in which we live; itâÄôs a foundation that is necessary to have in order to operate effectively and fairly. Beth Blankenheim University undergraduate student Please send comments to [email protected]