Victory for Freedom of Conscience in Education Schools

June 6, 2006

WASHINGTON, June 6, 2006—Would-be teachers have less to fear from political litmus tests today. Yesterday, under pressure from the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) and other groups, the president of a leading accreditor of education schools said that his organization would drop the vague and politically loaded recommendation that education students demonstrate a belief in “social justice” in order to graduate.
 
FIRE President Greg Lukianoff was present for the announcement by National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) President Arthur Wise yesterday. Lukianoff was in Washington to comment to the federal Department of Education about NCATE’s politically charged accreditation recommendations.
 
“This is a real victory for academic freedom and private conscience in our education schools,” remarked Lukianoff. “We are pleased that NCATE has taken this step toward respecting students’ most basic rights.”
 
As FIRE noted yesterday, NCATE maintains a set of official standards on the basis of which it decides whether or not to accredit an education program. The standards require that candidates in an education program “demonstrate the content, pedagogical, and professional knowledge, skills, and dispositions necessary to help all students learn.” The NCATE language to be changed currently states that “dispositions” are “guided by beliefs and attitudes related to values such as caring, fairness, honesty, responsibility, and social justice.”
 
“NCATE is an enormously influential body,” noted Lukianoff. “Its influence has led many schools of education to adopt ‘social justice’ criteria. FIRE urges these schools to re-evaluate their practices and ensure that neither ‘social justice’ nor any other disposition is used as a political litmus test for teachers. Well-intentioned or not, there is no way an education school can evaluate a student’s commitment to ‘social justice’ without evaluating his or her politics,” he concluded.
 
FIRE is a nonprofit educational foundation that unites civil rights and civil liberties leaders, scholars, journalists, and public intellectuals from across the political and ideological spectrum on behalf of individual rights, due process, freedom of expression, academic freedom, and rights of conscience at our nation’s colleges and universities. FIRE’s efforts to preserve liberty across America can be viewed at www.thefire-dev.wp.eresources.ws.
 
CONTACT:

Greg Lukianoff, President, FIRE: 215-717-3473; greg@www.thefire-dev.wp.eresources.ws

Cases: NCATE: Encouragement of Political Litmus Tests in Higher Education