A lawyer for the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities campus has confirmed to an educational rights organization that a plan described by a critic as teaching America as a “hellhole” hasn’t been adopted, and came about because of brainstorming efforts by the education department.
University of Minnesota president Robert Bruininks
The issue of the program at University of Minnesota-Twin Cities was raised by officials with The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education.
The group questioned President Robert Bruinicks about the legality of the program. The proposal included the suggestion of examinations of teacher candidates on “white privilege” as well as “remedial re-education” for those who hold the “wrong” views.
The FIRE today announced that in response to its pressure on the university, officials there are backing away from their plans “to enforce a political litmus test.”
“The plans from its College of Education and Human Development involved redesigning admissions and the curriculum to enforce an ideology centered on a narrow view of ‘cultural competence,” the FIRE announced.
“Those with the ‘wrong’ views were to receive remedial re-education, be weeded out, or be denied admission altogether,” the group said.
However, a letter to FIRE from General Counsel Mark B. Rotenberg said those plans, while recommendations, were not adopted.
“Neither the university nor CEHD has adopted or implemented any ‘new policies’ discussed in the particular … task force report submitted in July 2009 from which you quoted extensively,” his letter to the organization said. “The task force report at issue was one of seven separate task force reports; none of them has been adopted as CEHD policy…
“The various task group reports reflect the creative thinking of many faculty members charged with exploring ideas to improve P-12 education and student achievement,” he continued. “CEHD Dean Jean Quam has characterized the various task froup reports as ‘faculty brainstorming’ on how best to accomplish this curricular redesign.”
Further, he said, “no university policy or practice ever will mandate any particular beliefs, or screen out people with ‘wrong beliefs.’”
“We are relieved that the University of Minnesota has finally committed itself to upholding the freedom of conscience of its students,” said FIRE President Greg Lukianoff. “Prospective teachers will keep the right to have their own thoughts, values, and beliefs.”
He promised FIRE would continue to watch the university’s actions.
Adam Kissel, director of FIRE’s Individual Rights Defense Program, said the college’s next version of the plan “must reflect” the school’s newest commitment.
The plan from the college’s Race, Culture, Class and Gender Task Group had suggested requiring every future teacher to accept theories of “white privileges, hegemonic masculinity, heteronormativity and internalized oppression;” “develop a positive sense of racial/cultural identity;” and “recognize that schools are socially constructed systems that are susceptible to racism … but are also critical sites for social and cultural transformation,” according to the documentation.
The plans had been targeted by
Minneapolis Star-Tribune columnist Katherine Kersten, too.
She wrote the recommendations would require teachers to “embrace – and be prepared to teach our state’s kids – the task force’s own vision of America as an oppressive hellhole: racist, sexist and homophobic.”
She said the plan from the university’s Teacher Education Redesign Initiative – a multiyear project to change the way future teachers are trained – “is premised, in part, on the conviction that Minnesota teachers’ lack of ‘cultural competence’ contributes to the poor academic performance of the state’s minority students.”
“The first step toward ‘cultural competence,’ says the task group, is for future teachers to recognize – and confess – their own bigotry. Anyone familiar with the re-education camps of China’s Cultural Revolution will recognize the modus operandi,” she said.
“What if some aspiring teachers resist this effort at thought control and object to parroting back an ideological line as a condition of future employment?” she posed. “The task group has Orwellian plans for such rebels: The U, it says, must ‘develop clear steps and procedures for working with nonperforming students, including a remediation plan.’”
FIRE had cited the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1943 decision, West Virginia Board of Education v. Barnette, as one that “invalidated mandatory allegiances to political ideologies.”
Justice Robert Jackson then wrote, “Freedom to differ is not limited to things that do not matter much. That would be a mere shadow of freedom. The test of its substance is the right to differ as to things that touch the heart of the existing order. If there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion or force citizens to confess by word or act their faith therein.”
“To learn about other cultures is one thing, but to say someone with the ‘wrong’ political views should not be allowed to teach is unacceptable,” said Kissel. “We would defend the University of Minnesota professors who proposed this program if they were censored or punished for expressing their points of view, but they have gone too far by demanding that everyone in the program share their views.”
Among the issues discussed in the plans are requirements that teachers would be able to instruct students on the “myth of meritocracy” in the United States, “the history of demands for assimilation to white, middle-class, Christian meanings and values,” and the “history of white racism.”
As WND reported, the Delaware university’s office of residential life was caught requiring students to participate in a program that taught “all whites are racist.”
School officials immediately defended the teaching, but in the face of a backlash from alumni and publicity about its work, the school decided to drop the curriculum, although some factions later suggested its revival.
FIRE, which challenged the Delaware plan, later produced a video explaining how the institution of the university pushed for the teachings, was caught and later backed off: