CEHD proposal under scrutiny

The college of education’s controversial curriculum redesign initiative has been making headlines.

by Danielle Nordine

After receiving a $4.5 million grant from the Bush Foundation on Friday to overhaul teacher education curriculum, the University of Minnesota College of Education and Human Development is moving forward with what has become a controversial redesign of its teaching curriculum. The Teacher Education Redesign Initiative (TERI) began about three years ago and has gained more momentum in the past year. The initiative aims to work with area K-12 schools to find out what qualities good teachers should have and then incorporate those qualities into the curriculum. Seven task groups worked over the summer to propose ideas for the curriculum redesign, and most of their suggestions were uncontroversial. However, suggestions from the race, culture, class and gender task group have been criticized by some as a form of indoctrination. The task group proposed that prospective teachers be required to demonstrate cultural competency and show an understanding of issues such as institutional racism in schools, white privilege and the âÄúmyth of meritocracy in the United States.âÄù The proposal calls for all teacher education courses to address issues of race, class, culture and gender. For students who donâÄôt meet the cultural competency guidelines, the plan calls for CEHD to develop remedial steps to teach students the material. Under the guidelines, teachers would âÄútake responsibility for removing cultural and linguistic barriers to classroom learningâÄù and âÄúseek to create equal and just environments for teaching and learning.âÄù CEHD Dean Jean Quam said the college is committed to having faculty who can teach diverse students from all kinds of backgrounds. âÄúThe report is not policy,âÄù she said. âÄúFor now, itâÄôs just brainstorming.âÄù The college hasnâÄôt decided yet what pieces from each task force will be used in the redesign, Quam said. Even though the task groupâÄôs statements were just ideas, many people are still worried by the proposal, especially after the initiative received a boost from the Bush Foundation. A $4.5 million grant from the foundation will help jump-start TERIâÄôs community outreach efforts and provide continued support for graduates working as teachers. A national group called Foundation for Individual Rights in Education recently sent a letter to University President Bob Bruininks criticizing the proposals and calling for the University to reject the ideas proposed in the task groupâÄôs report. âÄúTo learn about other cultures and cultural differences is one thing, but to say youâÄôre not going to be considered an acceptable teacher if you donâÄôt have these values and beliefs is unacceptable,âÄù said Adam Kissel, director of FIREâÄôs individual rights defense program and author of the letter. FIRE doesnâÄôt take a position on the actual proposals, Kissel said, but they do want to protect free speech and freedom of conscience in educational settings. âÄúAs much as possible, we do want to defer to experts in the field to promote the views and values they feel are right,âÄù he said. âÄúBut they cross the line when they say everyone should hold those views, especially when itâÄôs an issue of genuine controversy.âÄù TERI director Misty Sato said the task groupâÄôs ideas have been misrepresented as policy and current practice, but curriculum changes are still being discussed. âÄúThe seven task group reports are now being folded together and knitted together into the larger redesigned curriculum,âÄù she said. The final decisions regarding curriculum and admissions changes will be made by âÄúa broad swath of peopleâÄù from CEHD, the community and representatives from local K-12 schools, Sato said. âÄúWeâÄôre still in a lot of conversation about what we want to adopt or what we canâÄôt adopt because there isnâÄôt enough time or because people arenâÄôt in close enough agreement about it,âÄù she said. âÄúThereâÄôs going to be a lot of discussion and lots of shifting.âÄù TERI is hoping to have curriculum changes implemented by fall 2011, Sato said.