Education, Long Read, recent

How Ed Schools Became a Menace to Higher Education

I. The Miseducation of College Administrators

Years ago, at the college where I teach, some graffiti on a restroom wall caught my eye. Inked into the tile grout was a swastika the size of a baby aspirin, and just above it, in a different hand, someone had written in large letters: “This says a lot about our community.” An arrow pointed to the offending sign.

I’d seen lots of responses to the odd swastika over the years—obscene remarks about the author’s anatomy, say, or humiliating additions to his family tree. But a claim that this itsy-bitsy spider of a swastika signaled a web of hatred permeating one of the most left-leaning colleges in the nation? That was a new one.

More evidence for this web was adduced a few months later when some racially charged fliers were posted anonymously around campus. Because the fliers offended people who failed to notice that they were meant as anti-racist satire, administrators punished the undergraduate who had put them up, even after it was discovered that he was a minority student with left-wing political leanings. Both the dean and the associate dean of students at the time gave voice to what has since become a mantra on college campuses—that the “impact” mattered more than the “intent.” But what if the “impact” is the result of flat-footed perceptions, or has been amplified by the administrators themselves? The case seemed so ill-conceived that faculty members from across the political spectrum worked for months to clear the student’s record. After all, the distinction between the letter and the spirit is hardly dispensable. Satire, irony, parody—these are things we teach. None exists without respect for intention.

Though I didn’t realize it at the time, those were my first encounters with an alternate curriculum that was being promoted on many campuses, a curriculum whose guiding principles seemed to be: 1) anything that could be construed as bigotry and hatred should be construed as bigotry and hatred; and 2) any such instance of bigotry and hatred should be considered part of an epidemic. These principles were being advanced primarily, though not exclusively, by college administrators, whose ranks had grown so remarkably since the early 1990s.

Everyone knows about the kudzu-like growth of the administrative bureaucracy in higher education over the past three decades. What most don’t know is that at many colleges, the majority of administrators directly involved in the lives of students—in dorms, conduct hearings, bias-response teams, freshmen “orientation” programs, and the like—got their graduate degrees from education schools.

Ed schools, such as Teachers College at Columbia, or Penn’s Graduate School of Education, have trained and certified most of the nation’s public-school teachers and administrators for the past half-century. But in the past 20 years especially, ed schools have been offering advanced degrees in things like “educational leadership,” “higher education management,” and just “higher education” to aspiring college administrators. And this influx of ed school trained bureaucrats has played a decisive role in pushing an already left-leaning academy so far in the direction of ideological fundamentalism that even liberal progressives are sounding the alarm. 

To anyone acquainted with the history and quality of American ed schools, this should come as no surprise. Education schools have long been notorious for two mutually reinforcing characteristics: ideological orthodoxy and low academic standards. As early as 1969, Theodore Sizer and Walter Powell hoped that “ruthless honesty” would do some good when they complained that at far too many ed schools, the prevailing climate was “hardly conducive to open inquiry.” “Study, reflection, debate, careful reading, even, yes, serious thinking, is often conspicuous by its absence,” they continued. “Un-intellectualism—not anti-intellectualism, as this assumes malice—is all too prevalent.” Sizer and Powell ought to have known: At the time they were dean and associate dean, respectively, of the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

More than three decades later, a comprehensive, four-year study of ed schools headed by a former president of Teachers College, Arthur Levine, found that the majority of educational-administration programs “range from inadequate to appalling, even at some of the country’s leading universities.” Though there were notable exceptions, programs for teaching were described as being, in the main, weak and mediocre. Education researchers seemed unable to achieve even “minimum agreement” about “acceptable research practice,” with the result that there are “no base standards and no quality floor.” Even among ed school faculty members and deans, the study found a broad and despairing recognition that ed school training was frequently “subjective, obscure, faddish, … inbred, and politically correct.”

A study from 2004, “Preparing Tomorrow’s Teachers,” examined the course syllabi used in the nation’s top-rated ed schools and found with distressing regularity one-sided curricula in which complex issues were trivialized and narrow ideological viewpoints treated as settled fact. Un-intellectualism seemed to have given way to anti-intellectualism: “The foundations and methods courses we reviewed suggest that faculty at most of these schools are often trying to teach a particular ideology—that traditional knowledge is repressive by its very nature—without directing their students to any substantial readings that question the educational implications of this view,” concluded the study’s authors, David Steiner, now executive director of the Institute for Education Policy at the Johns Hopkins University, and an associate, Susan Rozen.

It’s true, of course, that for many of the brave souls who graduate from ed schools and go on to teach in the nation’s K-12 public-school systems, ed school orthodoxy will often—though not always—give way to the practical demands of classroom teaching. In fact, some of the most perceptive criticism of that orthodoxy has been leveled by the teachers who have been schooled in it. But for those ed school graduates who join the administrative ranks of a college, practical checks may be few. They often find themselves in mini-fiefdoms of like-minded administrators and student assistants whose shared political vision is regarded less as a point of view than as a point of fact.

II. The Wages of Ideology

The weak foundations on which this vision often rests are evident in ed school scholarship. Take the essay generally regarded as the founding text of the recent microaggression movement, “Racial Microaggressions in Everyday Life,” whose lead author, Derald Wing Sue, is a professor of psychology and education at Teachers College. His six co-authors were also associated with Teachers College when the article was published, in American Psychologist in 2007. Among administrators especially, their essay has achieved canonical status.

Reading the article for the first time last year, I was dumbfounded—not just that it had gained such currency, but that it had ever been published in a journal with pretensions to intellectual rigor. I don’t doubt that microaggressions exist or that they can do harm, but the confidence with which Sue and his co-authors reduce complex interactions to Manichaean encounters between villains and victims is astonishing.

The authors accomplish these reductions, at least in part, by stacking the deck rhetorically. Accused microaggressors only “seem” to have cogent explanations for what they said or did. They don’t “explain,” they “explain away.” They don’t defend themselves, they get “defensive,” and so on. In even the most tentative passages, the drive for indictment overwhelms any hint of ambivalence or ambiguity.

Microaggressive acts can usually be explained away by seemingly nonbiased and valid reasons. For the recipient of a microaggression, however, there is always the nagging question of whether it really happened. … It is difficult to identify a microaggression, especially when other explanations seem plausible. Many people of color describe a vague feeling that they have been attacked, that they have been disrespected, or that something is not right. … In some respects, people of color may find an overt and obvious racist act easier to handle than microaggressions that seem vague or disguised. … The above incident [an account of a disagreement between the lead author and a white female flight attendant] reveals how microaggressions operate to create psychological dilemmas for both the White perpetrator and the person of color.

At the risk of belaboring the obvious, if there is in fact a “nagging question” about whether a microaggression “really happened,” why isn’t it called a “potential” or “alleged” microaggression? By the same token, can one be a “recipient” of something, the existence of which is, in any given encounter, open to question? And what exactly is the “psychological dilemma” experienced by the person of color, given that the author has already indicted a “White perpetrator”? Presumably a dilemma would arise only if one didn’t know whether one had encountered a “White perpetrator” or just a white person whom one has misjudged.

Those are rudimentary questions that anyone with an ordinary complement of so-called critical thinking skills would ask, not just about this paragraph but about the article as a whole. So why weren’t such questions asked?

Because doing so would derail a deep nostalgia, not of course for the overt brutality and dehumanization inflicted by Jim Crow and the likes of Bull Connor, but for the moral certainty those evils retrospectively allow for. “In some respects, people of color may find an overt and obvious racist act easier to handle,” so the essay obligingly develops a crude alchemy for transmuting the ambiguous into the obvious. This alchemy is little more than a way of behaving that masquerades as a way of knowing: Act as if ambiguities were certainties, and as if vague feelings were reliable registers of fact. Act, in other words, as if complex interracial encounters—which admit of both mistakes and misunderstandings—are conscious or unconscious acts of racism exercised by a “White perpetrator.” That will indeed make things “easier to handle.”

But such ease of handling is the product of presumption and simplification. It would be as if a marriage counselor approached every new couple having decided in advance that the complaints or suspicions of the shorter partner, or the male partner, or the minority partner, were necessarily legitimate, and that the other spouse’s objections, prejudged as “defensive,” were evidence of guilt. Moreover, because these objections would, in Sue’s pseudo-technical jargon, “invalidate” the “experiential reality” of the other partner (i.e. offer a different point of view), they would constitute yet another offense. Would anyone expect marital relations to improve under the counselor’s supervision? Would anyone even hire such a counselor?

By exalting “experiential reality” and “impact,” administrators portray students as pure receptors whose reactions are unmediated by expectation, projection, or choice. Hence the language of triggering, which converts students into objects for the sake of rendering their reactions “objective,” and by extension valid: a student’s triggered response is no more to be questioned than an apple’s falling downward or a spark’s flying upward.

But it’s a specious and self-serving portrayal. This is nowhere more evident than in an aspect of the Halloween-costume controversy at Yale in 2015 that has rarely been mentioned: the fact that when the ed school trained associate vice president for student engagement, Burgwell Howard, sent out an email warning students about insensitive Halloween costumes, he included links to scores of racist drawings, movie stills, and film clips, presumably as a way of refreshing their knowledge of racial stereotypes.

Without a trigger warning in sight, students who clicked on the word “Asian” were taken to a page of derogatory caricatures topped by a masthead consisting of a yellow smiley face with slanted eyes, protruding teeth, and “coolie” hat. The link for “blackface” directed students to the smiling, cartoon countenance of a black man, whose outsized pink lips and white teeth take up half his face. The page itself, with its own images and hyperlinks, invited students into a warren of mocking, racist denigration. All this, mind you, in an email warning students about the dangers of giving unintentional offense.

Though there seems not to have been a report of offensive Halloween attire on Yale’s campus in nearly a decade, maybe the entire student body really did need graphic reminders of the racist history behind all the costumes they hadn’t been wearing. Still, why weren’t students “triggered” by that trove of bigoted images the dean had invited them to view? And why weren’t they “impacted” by such claims as the one found in the “redface” link that “because of the recent proliferation of casinos on Indian lands, Americans are beginning to view Indians as rich, greedy, and corrupt”? If Yale “is our home,” as an undergraduate would shout a few days later, why didn’t this break the rules?

The likely answer is that the outrage those images may have otherwise provoked was offset by the condemnatory fervor they excited and the moral simplification they encouraged: Jim Crow bigots on one side, their demeaned victims on the other. As long as that’s the lens through which Yale is to be viewed, no problem.

To be sure, college administrators are not the only ones on campus encouraging the use of this anachronistic, reductive lens. Far too many faculty members do the same. But undergraduates can avoid or drop a course that’s less about inquiry than inquisition, or at least balance it with courses that put ideas above ideology.

Students can’t drop their dorm supervisors, though, or escape the long arm of the more than 200 “bias response teams” presuming to micromanage their conversations. Nor can they opt out from the authority of conduct-review boards or evade first-year “orientation” programs—sometimes lasting an entire semester—that too often resemble clinics in ideological groupthink. Many of these venues are now heavily influenced, where they are not dominated by, ed school trained administrators who consider themselves qualified to offer training in, among other things, equity and social justice.

There might be nothing wrong with training students in equity and social justice were it not for the inconvenient fact that a college campus is where these ideals and others like them are to be rigorously examined rather than piously assumed. It’s the difference between a curriculum and a catechism. Do ed schools recognize that difference? Perhaps some do. But it’s significant that their largest national accrediting agency, the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education, for many years included “social justice” in its glossary of so-called “dispositions” that ed schools could consider when evaluating a candidate’s fitness for the K-12 classroom. It dropped the criteria only in 2006, after complaints from both the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education and the National Association of Scholars.

But de jure is one thing, de facto another. Administrators talk not just about social justice “training” but also about social justice “literacy.” What does that mean? It was explained in an article from 2009 by two professors of education, “Developing Social Justice Literacy: An Open Letter to Our Faculty Colleagues.” Formatted like a textbook, the article contains highlight boxes and sidebars which detail the terminology of “social-justice studies” with the crisp confidence one would expect from a handbook on Windows 10 or residential wiring. Racism is defined as “white racial and cultural prejudice and discrimination.” Black people can be prejudiced, but they lack the “institutional power” that “transforms it into racism.” Reverse racism does not exist owing to “power relations that are historic and embedded.”

Whatever the merits of those propositions, splicing them into the meaning of words is the lexical equivalent of splicing herbicide resistance into the genes of tobacco plants: It’s an attempt to immunize ideas from criticism, such that the student who mentions “reverse racism” in a discussion of affirmative action might as well have mentioned a unicorn in a discussion of endangered species. If she then drops the qualifier “reverse” and simply calls it “racism,” she’s again confounded, since “racism” is something of which only white people can be guilty. As with Newspeak in Orwell’s 1984, the aim is to construct a vocabulary in which “the expression of unorthodox opinions … [is] well nigh impossible.”

Even raising questions is an offense against this version of social justice. Being an “ally” of oppressed groups, we are told, requires “validating and supporting people who are socially or institutionally positioned below yourself, regardless of whether you understand or agree with where they are coming from” [italics in original]. And a sure symptom of having “internalized” one’s own sense of “dominance”? “Feeling authorized to debate or explain away the experiences of target groups.”   

It’s hard to know what’s worse: the condescending implication that oppressed groups require unconditional support and validation (in the way that a child requires unconditional love), or the idea that “feeling authorized” to debate signals one’s racist hauteur rather than one’s democratic citizenship. To say nothing of the assumption that the range of opinion and experience among “target groups” is so narrow and homogenous that one could “validate” one person’s experience without running the risk of invalidating another’s.

For all the talk of diversity, it seems beneath the notice of those who wield the terms with such confidence that “social justice” is what anti-abortion advocates of all colors consider their highest aim; that “equity” may be as much the goal of the libertarian who wants to lower taxes for everyone as it is for the progressive who wants higher taxes for the wealthy; that in classifying as microaggressions statements such as “America is the land of opportunity,” or “Everyone can succeed in this society if they work hard enough,” one is stigmatizing not only the stereotypical views of whites but also the views of many African-, Asian-, Hispanic-, and Arab-Americans—to say nothing of the views of black youth who, as the Harvard sociologist Orlando Patterson has shown in The Cultural Matrix, overwhelmingly support a wide variety of mainstream American values, both for good and for ill.

But this kind of diversity of opinion and experience—a diversity that is no respecter of skin color, ethnicity, religion, class, or sexual orientation—is anathema to those for whom complexity is a grievous affront to, rather than a welcome elaboration of, knowledge. The map of ideology is so much neater and cleaner than the territory of actual human beings, who often say things you don’t expect and reveal things you don’t know. That’s why the phrase “This is not a debate” was shouted by protesters at Yale in 2015; why “This is not a discussion” was shouted at Evergreen State a year and a half later; and why groups of law students on my own campus declared last spring, at an event featuring the scholar Christina Hoff Sommers, that “there is no debate here.” These are variations on the same anti-intellectual, anti-democratic cri de coeur. They are the predictable fruit of a “curriculum” in which liturgy is passed off as literacy, and “social justice” signals the end of a discussion rather than the start of one.

III. From “Administrators” to “Educators”

How did college administrators become so involved in “training” undergraduates in subjects that are properly the domain of academic departments? It’s a complex story, and a long one. There are chapters in this story, however, and one of the most significant opened around 2004, when two administrators at the University of Delaware—both of whom have doctorates in “educational leadership”—determined that resident advisers should be thought of as residence-hall “educators.” And as educators, they needed a curriculum. Kathleen Kerr and James Tweedy said they felt “invited” to develop such a curriculum by the views of their professional organizations, the American College Personnel Association and the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators, which have more than 20,000 members between them. Delaware faculty members were not consulted.

The program Kerr and Tweedy developed, the “curricular model” (CM) for learning beyond the classroom, has had enormous influence on college administrators across the nation. Kerr and Tweedy celebrated that influence in an essay published last spring in About Campus, a professional journal for college administrators. They write with pride about the changes they helped initiate: how in the past decade “CM has caused a seismic shift at our campus and others across the country,” a shift in “the entire paradigm of how we approach our roles on campus and … how we view ourselves as educators.” Having implemented the model not only at Delaware but “along with hundreds of other colleagues on other campuses,” they’ve learned how important it is “to apply this approach beyond residence halls to all the learning opportunities that occur beyond the classroom in career centers, student conduct, orientation, health promotions, student engagement, and many other places on campus.” Reading this retrospective, no one could doubt its authors’ sincerity or excitement. For them, the advent of the curricular model opened a brave new world for college administrators.

But one could doubt their grasp of reality, since for many of those on the business end of their outreach, CM left a rather different impression. As was made clear once the program was exposed, back in 2007, the model was a scheme of political indoctrination and intimidation, the particulars of which outstrip parody. Students were questioned by their RAs about their political views on controversial topics; they were asked about their sexual identities and whether they would date people from different ethnic groups. As detailed in a 2009 video produced by FIRE, one program required students to stuff marshmallows in their mouths—rendering them speechless—in proportion to their lack of “privilege.” The more privilege, the fewer marshmallows, and the easier it was to speak. Groups of students were asked to list on posters the stereotypical characteristics associated with blacks, Hispanics, Asians, and Jews, thus exciting animosities while ostensibly ameliorating them. Administrators unselfconsciously referred to lesson plans as “treatments” and “interventions,” and they dictated “learning outcomes”: “Each student will learn about the forms of oppression linked with each identity group. Each student will learn that systemic oppression exists in our society. Each student will learn the benefits of dismantling systems of oppression.” 

To almost any outside observer, the crass authoritarianism of such a “curriculum” would have been obvious at first glance. Within the closed circle of administrators, however, this was a fine plan, nobly wrought. Even after the Delaware program was stopped under withering criticism from students, faculty members, parents, and the press, their confidence was unwavering. Months after it was shut down, administrators repackaged virtually the same program under an expanded definition of “sustainability” and recycled it to the faculty three times, without success. Now, more than a decade later, the only problem Kerr and Tweedy register is that of having had a “highly aspirational goal of developing engaged citizens” but without enough “contact points with students” to do it. So many treatments, so little time.

But how could a program that brought such embarrassment to the University of Delaware become so influential nationwide? In 2009, shortly after the debacle, the Delaware professor Jan Blits suggested that the only lesson administrators seem to have learned was “the need for greater stealth” when instituting programs of their own. The years following have proved him right. Residential life “curricula” are now pervasive in higher education, and most are planned and delivered without any faculty oversight. An avid promoter of such programs, Kathleen Kerr has become more influential among administrators, not less, as a result of Delaware’s experiment in thought control. She has since served as a governing-board member, vice president, and president of the American College Personnel Association, and is a trustee on its Board.

It’s tempting to attribute such blinkered persistence to the grip of ideology alone. But it’s more than that, and less. For what’s striking about Kerr and Tweedy’s 10-year retrospective essay, besides the moving sidewalk of bureaucratic jargon, is how little content there actually is, ideological or otherwise, until one gets to the issue of status—the status of administrators themselves as “educators.” That’s when things get concrete, and personal. Above all, the authors argue, their curricular model changed “how we view ourselves as educators,” “how we think about … our own roles as educators,” and “the spaces and places on campus” administrators now “occupy.” The model is “energizing and reinvigorating to professional staff,” they report, quoting new administrators in the thralls of relevance: “I finally get to use my master’s degree.” In the penultimate paragraph they declare: “The first change for everyone involved in this transformation is deciding unequivocally that we are educators.”

Such undisguised anxiety about their status as educators might provoke sympathy were it not for the authors’ lack of anxiety about the things that actually matter—the substance of education itself and the intellectual welfare of students; their right, for example, not to be coerced into facile, unreflective orthodoxy. Judging from the essay, those aren’t even peripheral considerations.

But the reason for this obsession with status has less to do with the individual authors themselves than with the institutional history of which they’re a part. Ed schools have been the buck privates of higher education for nearly a century, and no disinterested study of the institutions as a whole has raised their reputation.

This low status is partly the effect and continuing cause of the schools’ ideological rigidity. Of course, the vast majority of college campuses have leaned to the left for decades. If nothing else, though, the variety of disciplines and the internecine struggles within those disciplines have kept things relatively contentious and fertile. But ed schools have occupied a space apart. The widest street in the world, runs a famous quip, is New York’s West 120th Street, which divides Teachers College from the rest of Columbia University. This insular exile has encouraged a group cohesion and intolerance for dissent that have only magnified the problems identified by Sizer and Powell more than four decades ago.

The invisibility of the ed school influence to even the most severe critics of higher education’s leftward lean was exemplified in an article in Campus Reform, a conservative website, which collected a set of tweets from a conference on critical race studies held in May 2017. “Whiteness and the United States knows itself through the death of the subordinated.” “The term ‘diversity of opinion’ is white supremacist bullshit!” “White Tears are an act of physical and political violence.” Research is “a colonial, white supremacist, elite process.” “Some people need to be slapped into wokeness.” Described simply as “professors” by Campus Reform, the authors of all five tweets are in fact professors of education. The author of the last tweet is also an associate dean. They will be training college administrators for years to come. 

Many of those administrators will in turn train their student subordinates, most of whom, as was the case at Delaware, will have financial incentives to comply. In the fall of 2017 at Clemson University, aspiring RAs were required to “demonstrate a commitment to social justice,” and to undergo a nine day training program replete with lessons in, among other things, microaggressions and triggers. Naturally, this residence-life curriculum is overseen by the university’s ed school trained executive director of housing and dining, and the only required course for applicants is taught in Clemson’s College of Education.

And in the spring of 2017, the residential life office at the University of California at Los Angeles began taking applications from students for paid positions in “social-justice advocacy.” The grant program financing these positions is headed by a team of students, most of whom are enrolled in UCLA’s education school. According to the application form, these advocates will help their peers “navigate a world that operates on whiteness, patriarchy, and heteronormativity as the primary ideologies.” In other words, they’ll help their fellow students beg all the questions that universities are supposed to be asking, and thus deprive them of the education they’re supposed to be getting.

IV. Woke Corporatization of Higher Ed

But there’s a paradox here. How is it that administrators who often caricature what happens in a college classroom by inveighing against “the banking theory of knowledge,” “passive education,” and other ed school bugaboos, will enact that caricature themselves when they become “educators” with a “curriculum” of their own? E. D. Hirsch theorized back in the mid-’90s that much of ed school ideology was the product of low-status resentment rather than deep commitment. The ed school community’s antipathy to knowledge, he argued in The Schools We Need, was largely a reactive and displaced hostility to the prestige of college professors, whose strong suit “knowledge” was supposed to be.

Hirsch’s theory is borne out not only in the speed with which “active learning” gets replaced by authoritarian “treatments” once administrators assume the mantle of educators, but also in the way that the language and aims of campus bureaucracies, however radical their ideology may appear, dovetail with the corporate model of topdown governance and the business-friendly lingo of “efficiencies,” “competencies,” and “bottom lines.” Their monographs wave the flags of progressive liberation—”learning,” “learners,” “change agents,” “activism”—but the substance, if one can call it that, is often a Möbius strip of buzzwords in which assumptions twist into conclusions, and active leadership curls into passive obedience. Consider a line from a 2008 monograph, Toward a Sustainable Future—11 of the 13 authors have graduate degrees from ed schools—on the role of student affairs in creating “healthy environments, social justice, and strong economies”: “[B]y teaching change-agent skills, we can help members of the campus community learn to act on their commitment to sustainability and build self-concepts of a lifelong learner engaged in helping to create the triple bottom line of a sustainable future.”

To simply mock this as vacuous, bureaucratic jargon is to miss what it reveals. “To write in plain, vigorous language one has to think fearlessly, and if one thinks fearlessly one cannot be politically orthodox,” Orwell wrote. The corollary is true here: Despite all the can-do bluster, the 2008 passage and the document from which it comes are both politically orthodox and intellectually fearful—fearful of saying something definite enough to be questioned or disputed by anyone higher in the food chain. It counsels obedience and is itself obedient to the felt necessity of not simply fitting in, but of seeming indispensable to the university in its role of providing employers with what they need—students who are prepared for what the essay calls “the reality of the world of work.”

Thus the corporate techniques of “discipline, indoctrination, and control” that Noam Chomsky has identified with the increasingly bureaucratized university are registered in the defensive abstraction of the monograph’s style and replicated in its patronizing attitude toward students. “Their highly structured lives have been framed by standardized tests and inexperience questioning the status quo,” the authors write without irony, and then cast themselves as the “scholars and practitioners” whose “expertise in student development” will give these hapless students the direction their lives apparently need. First fabricate the problem, then claim to be the solution.

Even if the problem did exist as described, ed schools would be the last place to look for a solution. Asking genuine questions about the status quo, after all, requires genuine knowledge of both how it came to be and how it continues to function: the variety of the interests it serves and subverts, the dangers it courts and curtails. No institution has done more to cauterize such knowledge at the level of slogan than ed schools. As a result, the “progressive” ideology of many college administrators is a mile wide and an inch deep, and thus easily adaptable to the shortsighted, bottom-line thinking of the corporate university.

The low quality of many ed schools is itself the product of such bottom-line thinking, and their condition offers a glimpse into the dismal future of higher education generally. A recurring point in Arthur Levine’s report is how ed schools have been used as “cash cows” by their home institutions. At many universities, ed school leadership programs in particular have been engaged in a race to the bottom as they compete for students by lowering standards of both admission and graduation. His report compares the situation to The Wizard of Oz, with universities granting “an endless number of scarecrows the equivalent of honorary degrees.”

The situation was bad enough when these degrees were used to leverage higher salaries for K-12 teachers, principals, and superintendents. It was an added expense for governments and municipalities, with little to show for it in the way of administrative expertise or educational results. Now that many of these same ed schools are granting degrees to college administrators, universities are reaping more directly what they’ve sown: Thanks to an administrative sky bridge spanning “the widest street in the world,” the same resistance to inquiry and debate that has long plagued ed schools has a foothold at colleges across the country.

It’s difficult to question orthodoxies under the best of circumstances. When they come armored in the rhetoric of caring and community, it can seem impossible, especially if the purported beneficiaries are students. It’s worth remembering, though, just how much bigoted energy was coiled in the amiable phrase “family values,” and how much suffocating constriction may be required to make a university a home. After all, a home for whom? To many students, “home” is the name for a pretty restrictive place. It’s where they’ve had to hide their politics, their religious doubts, their sexuality, you name it. “My house, my rules.”

Ironically enough, no one knew the dangers of home better than Paulo Freire, whose 1968 book, The Pedagogy of the Oppressed, has for decades been canonical in ed schools. Perhaps he is more revered than read.

The atmosphere of the home is prolonged in the school, where the students soon discover that (as in the home) in order to achieve some satisfaction they must adapt to the precepts which have been set from above. One of these precepts is not to think.

So, in the spirit of Freire, it’s critical that we ask: In whose interest is it to persuade students that a university is a “home” where they’re not to think? In whose interest is it to persuade them that they’re fragile, that they’re threatened, that words are violence, that an imagined slight is as bad as a real one, and that they’re surrounded by people and ideas from whom they need so much protection? In short: Cui bono? Not our students, that’s for sure.


Lyell Asher is an associate professor of English at Lewis & Clark College.

A version of this article appeared in the April 27, 2018 issue of the Chronicle of Higher Education.


  1. E. Olson says

    Good essay, and unfortunately all too accurate. As the author correctly asserts, Education schools at universities have been known for decades to be the bottom of the barrel in terms of rigor, entry requirements, and the quality of the instruction, graduates, and research output. The interesting chicken or egg question is whether the constant movement towards social justice indoctrination and away from teaching pedagogy and real topics in science, math, social sciences and humanities is due to the inability of the weak education faculty and weak students to master more rigorous and relevant topics, or because the need to attract students to an unprestigious program required a movement away from emphasizing real and relevant topics.

    Whatever the cause, the increasing emphasis on social justice issues at the expense of education in real topics of education means that more and more graduates are unable to actually teach science, math, history, language, etc. to students, which is born out by the low passing rates on teacher competency tests, particularly among minority teachers. Yet rather than attack the real problem, teacher’s unions focus on eliminating competency testing because such tests are racist, and in the meantime the children get to learn about the joys of gay sex, women with penises and men with vaginas, that proper grammar is racist, and proper math is sexist, and that Western Civilization was built off slave labor and stealing ideas from people of color.

    The other illuminating aspect of this article is the movement of education degree holders into administration. Whenever a bureaucracy grows to a size beyond the real needs of the institution (i.e. serving students and faculty to enhance educational outcomes), they will always find ways to “make themselves useful” and justify their existence and perhaps further administrative expansion. In the case of education background administration, the ability to get a bit of revenge or status over all those faculty and programs that they were not good enough to gain entry as undergraduates is only icing on the cake.

      • Aaron Kindsvatter says

        This article is right on the money. Colleges of Education are every bit as bad as the author suggests. I experience what the author is discussing here at almost every professional meeting I attend.

        • Keith Sherman says

          Telos: as used in its original in Homer’s Odyssey is the fulfillment of one’s destiny.
          Our destiny lies very much with students whose young minds are being brainwashed.
          Thusly aware, it is our responsibility to fight this whenever and wherever. These “educators” are child abusive. Let’s not apologize otherwise.

    • jakesbrain says

      “Bureaucracy is wrong as a cancer, a turning away from the human evolutionary direction of infinite potentials and differentiation and independent spontaneous action, to the complete parasitism of a virus.” –William Burroughs

    • Kevin says

      The author has unwittingly discovered that education as it really exists, is essentially obedience training. Transmuting ‘offense taken’ into opportunity for aggression is the task at heart in narcissism-driven society. PREP = popular reproduction of enmity penetraion. PREP the kids to become good adults by puting them at each other’s throats. Left is the new right.

    • K. Dershem says

      E., I completely agree with you about the parasitic growth of administration. To that point: “Corporatization has corrupted nonprofits in general and colleges in particular …. Exceptional amounts of time and energy are wasted on ‘workplace’ initiatives. Instruction gets pushed to the margins. As staff and administrators grow in numbers, the organization loses its way. It begins to substitute a new set of ends and purposes for its originating purpose …. Soon, colleges may well become, Kafka-like, an organization of administrators with no faculty or students.” — Jeff Polet

      • E. Olson says

        K – Nice to have you back, and I agree parasitic growth of admin is a blight effecting all private and public organizations.

  2. RIP Western World, I loved you well.

    “This is the way the world ends, not with a bang but a whimper ” Elliot.

  3. The author states “I don’t doubt that microaggressions exist or that they can do harm” before criticising the paper that established the concept.

    I do doubt they exist and if they did that they cause harm.

    In interacting with people there are inevitably small misunderstandings or unintended implications or assumptions which may mildly annoy or upset people.

    Criticising those that are made by groups classified as priviliged against those classified as oppressed is arbitrary and presupposes that there is a way to avoid such incidents which there is not. Learning to accept and ignore the inevitable frictions of interpersonal communications is an important skill and seeking to avoid such ‘microaggressions’ damaging to individuals who may become emotionally fragile and unable to function effectively as mature adults where accptance of disagreements strongly and emotionally stated are essential.

    • david of Kirkland says

      Yes, be an adult, not a child. Why people think it’s their job to ensure never a harsh word or deed or bad fortune happen, or a lack of effort or interest ever matter.

  4. SommeVerdun says

    Does anybody here teach? Does anybody know of a secondary school equivalent to Heterodox Academy?

    • Sydney says


      Great question. I’m a Canadian parent, not a teacher. Overwhelming majority of Canadian teachers are employed by the government and belong to astonishingly powerful far-left unions. You can guess what the teaching is like. I don’t think I can be shocked any longer by the daily demonstrations of political correctness; the shallow and narrow intellectualism; by the Orwellian doublespeak; by the rank stupidity; by the laziness and incompetence; and more…

      There is no high-school equivalent to HA. It’s homeschooling. The province where I live actually has some great homeschool systems (we were in one for a few years for some primary levels), but I want my kids to be around other kids, and you can’t replicate that with homeschooling (even with frequent same-age group events and outings).

      But, to your point, YES, it will need to happen. High schools MUST evolve past this terrible period. I’m politically (not socially) conservative, and what’s currently passing for secondary-school education is a horrible, tragic joke. The teachers have never been taught or encouraged to THINK by any definition of the word, and so they’re fully incapable to teaching children to think, either. Something will have to change.

      • Sydney says

        whoops, my error: “…fully incapable of teaching children to think…”

      • Sydney says

        Whoops, error (Tried to publish a fix to my grammar error above, but system didn’t take it. Trying again.): “…fully incapable of teaching…”

        • SommeVerdun says


          I forgot about homeschooling, but you’re right, it’s probably not enough.

      • Sophizesthai says


        Would you be clearer when you say “I want my kids to be around other kids, and you can’t replicate that with homeschooling (even with frequent same-age group events and outings)”?
        Do you mean that you prefer your children to spend the majority of their childhood hours in the direct presence of same age peers and not adult mentors? To me, that seems another matter altogether.
        One can have their children around other children quite often while homeschooling “with frequent same-age group events and outings”.
        Furthermore, I have often found it odd that siblings are treated as if they are not peers, or as if they are not reliable samples of “other” children.
        Do you not find that our school-building children are actually just listening to adults most of the time?
        The child may well be sitting in a chair next to an age mate; yet they are usually not supposed to be interacting. Could they possibly spend quality time with peers under these conditions?
        Why is this school-building peer time important; what is accomplished between children at school that makes this an issue of note?

        I do like how you said “I’m politically (not socially) conservative”. I have often said that “I am personally liberal, politically conservative”.

    • Negation of the negation says

      I do. If you know of one, let me know!

  5. Excellent article! And thank you. Around my neck of the woods, PhD’s in Educational Leadership are a dime a dozen. The goal for millennials in the program is to teach K-12 for the requisite 5 years, progress to administration where the income is triple a teacher. And we have a huge school district of over 100,000 students.

    As one millennial told me, public education is safer than university administration. He might be right as today, for the xample, public schools are closed due to a teacher “sick out” to protest a state house bill in committee which proposes a measly 250 million toward a statewide school choice scholarship program. Too cowardly to go full bore Sweden with vouchers. But the teachers won’t have competition. And their unions and state bureaucrats are powerful.

    Last week, there was a “sick out” to protest fixing the broken state pension system. So my question is why adults don’t want a portable retirement system? The same people who teach our children demand a nanny government.

    • Jack B. Nimble says


      “……house bill in committee which proposes a measly 250 million toward a statewide school choice scholarship……”

      I assume you are referring to this, which is $25 million/year:

      Key paragraph: “…..Opponents argue the bill takes potential funding for cash-strapped public schools, and students leaving the districts won’t help save money. They also argue the bill violates Kentucky’s constitution because it allocates government educational funds toward religious private schools……”

      And that portable retirement system? Sounds like a bad deal to me [for new teachers, that is]:

      The proposal does create [for new hires] a hybrid conventional /IRA account that is portable, but new hires have to contribute more than old hires and get less. And that hybrid account can be raided for cash and depleted if the conventional/defined benefit plan runs a deficit due, for example, to stock market fluctuations or even faulty actuarial assumptions.

      Key graphs from the above article:

      “▪ The bill would create a two-tier benefit system for future teachers. They would contribute to a traditional defined-benefit plan and to a new “supplemental” account that is a hybrid between a defined-benefit pension and a 401(k) investment account.

      ▪ New teachers will have to contribute more to their retirement than current teachers. Right now, teachers contribute 12.85 percent of their salary to retirement benefits. This bill would make future teachers contribute 13.75 percent of their salary. The employee contributions would include 8 percent to the traditional defined-benefit plan, 2 percent to the supplemental plan and 3.75 percent to fund health care benefits.

      ▪ The supplemental hybrid account would guarantee an annual investment return equal to the 30-year treasury bond plus 1 percent, which is currently around 4 percent. Both teachers and the state would contribute 2 percent to the account, but with a catch. If the defined-benefit pension plan for teachers dips below 90 percent funded, KTRS would have the ability to shift contributions meant for the supplemental fund to the defined-benefit plan, cut cost-of-living adjustments and raise the retirement age.”

      Bottom Line: why would any teacher take a job in Kentucky when surrounding states offer better packages?

      • Jay Salhi says

        @Jack B. Nimble

        “Bottom Line: why would any teacher take a job in Kentucky when surrounding states offer better packages?”

        1. Some teachers might want to live in Kentucky.

        2. Teacher certification is at the state level. Many states offer reciprocity but it isn’t always automatic.

        3. In case you haven’t heard, many states and localities have massive funding gaps in public pension plans. Those gaps can be plugged by raising taxes or reducing benefits. Kentucky is trying to do the latter, many other jurisdictions just kick the can down the road. This often results in fund managers trying to plug the gap with higher rates of return by taking greater risks.

        • Jack B. Nimble says

          @Jay Salhi

          What you and the Republican nitwits in the Ky legislature don’t seem to realize is that newly-hired teachers [the only group that the reduced pension scheme applies to] are the most mobile cohort. Young teachers often don’t have spouses and children yet, so can more easily move to another state with higher teacher pay and benefits.

          Also, in a state like Ky with its long border [Kentucky shares a border with SEVEN other states] it is possible to live in Ky and commute to a teaching job in an adjoining state.

          School systems notice when an adjoining state is screwing over its teachers and will often send out recruitment teams to pick off high-achieving but underpaid teachers.

          Look, my state partially privatized its public teacher pension system decades ago. I opted to stay in the BIG GOVERNMENT-run system and was able to retire after 30 years with a comfortable pension. Faculty who opted out of the government-run system lost money and in some cases are suing to try to get into the government-run system.

          Bottom Line: Privatized 401k-style pension systems run by big insurance companies are guaranteed only to benefit the brokers and agents who rake in commissions and fees regardless of how the stock market is doing.

          • DrZ says

            “What you and the Republican nitwits in the Ky legislature don’t seem to realize is that newly-hired teachers [the only group that the reduced pension scheme applies to] are the most mobile cohort. Young teachers often don’t have spouses and children yet, so can more easily move to another state with higher teacher pay and benefits.”

            But what about the states whose benefits are good, but whose ability to pay future pensions is going into the toilet? Will a young person be better off if the state has to renege on it’s promises a few decades down the line and reduce retirement benefits?

            Something has to break, at least for some states. California is clearly in this category where a large percentage of the taxes are payed by a handful of the state’s populace. We have one of the highest marginal rates in the nation at 13%. Sales taxes are among the highest in the nation at 7.25%, but municipalities add on their slice and rates of 8.5 – 9.0% are common in the state.

            There are data showing an outflow of people from the state. To further add to a fiscal collapse of the state is that East Coast regions, Texas and others are starting to become favorable to the high tech industry which further threatens the future of the state.

            Yes, California is an exceptional example, but there are other states that are teetering on the edge because they have over extended future retirement-benefit liabilities.

            Will California raise taxes even more? Can they without pushing more people to move. As it is now, real estate prices are exorbitant and even the high-salaried Silicon Valley employees cannot afford to buy homes further fueling the desire to leave.

            IMHO, the solution to this problem is to get rid of state pension funds and convert over to defined-contribution plans for all state employees including teachers. Putting future tax payers on the hook due to the results of a corrupt Democrat-Political-Union bargaining system is immoral, but that is just my HO.

          • Jack B. Nimble says


            Look, circumstances and credit ratings vary tremendously from state to state. It is true that some state governments like Illinois, New Jersey, Kentucky and California have lower than average solvency due in part to unfunded pension liabilities [ source – ]. However, as I noted above, Kentucky is bordered by 7 states, most of which have solvent state governments. If young teachers aren’t getting a good deal in their home state, they SHOULD move to another state with better pay and benefits.

            You: ‘……the solution to this problem is to get rid of state pension funds and convert over to defined-contribution plans for all state employees including teachers….’

            In some states, courts have ruled that pension rights are contractual rights between the state govt. and individual public employees. That means that pension systems cannot be changed retroactively without mutual consent.

            Remember that pension funds typically include billions of dollars of employee contributions. State governments have a fiduciary duty to manage those employee contributions to the pension system in a way that benefits the employee. That means that the pension system shouldn’t be ‘raided’ to cover operating deficits in other areas of the state budget. Also, in some states there are laws or even provisions in the constitution that pension payments get second draw on revenue, after holders of state debt.

            When GWBush tried to privatize Social Security in 2005, GOP cheerleaders tried to make the case that it would be a better deal for future retirees. Today, Republicans don’t even try to make that argument, because they know that privatizing a pension system means that employees pay more and get less.

  6. Jack B. Nimble says

    “……..A version of this article appeared in the April 27, 2018 issue of the Chronicle of Higher Education……”

    The original version is behind an annoying paywall. However, an online rebuttal to the CHE article, by Arthur Levine, is available for free:

    Basically, Dr. Levine accuses the author of misrepresenting the work of the Education Schools Project []. The problematic claims are repeated in the eight paragraph of this article.

    • E. Olson says

      Thanks for the link Jack, but Levine’s response sounds like the typical political non-committal, vague, and evasive response to any difficult to answer question: “Are we perfect?, Of course not, but we are trying to do better, and we now have plans in place to make Education schools a model for 21st century K-12 education. And by the way, my work was misquoted in the article I am criticizing.”

    • I followe dthe link and rea dthe rebuttal. It is not a rebuttal. It simply asserts that education schools are not a problem and that is it. There is no evidence or argument presented.

    • AlfieB says

      I’m most of the way through Levine’s report, and it’s just as negative as the author contends. Often more negative; so I don’t know what Levine is talking about. The “Educating Leaders” section reads like an episode of 60 minutes. What a total scam.

  7. Common expression where I came from:

    Those who can, do
    Those who can’t, teach
    Those who can’t teach, become ed profs

    I noticed something while I was teaching, and I’m curious if this was common in other places. I taught in a suburb community of a large city, in a low SES school then a high one, and in both cases I’d estimate at least half the staff were active preppers. Even the perkiest, wokest Language Art teachers would often express their confident belief society was going to collapse within decades, and they owned land out in the boondocks where they planned to escape.

    • Nakatomi Plaza says

      I have never, ever heard of anything like that. Sounds like a bullshit story to me.

  8. DNY says

    This, of course, is a problem that can in part by solved by a political action which does not attack academic freedom: all that needs to be done to weaken colleges of education is for the several states to deny them their monopoly on producing certified (or qualified or whatever term of art the legislature chose) teachers. When my father was in high school in the 1930’s/40’s his teachers had masters degrees or even doctorates *in the subject they taught* not degrees in any sort education.

    One might think that the legislatures and governors in some of the states under full GOP control might notice that the baleful influence of the academic left is concentrated in colleges of education and take up this cause, but this hasn’t happened yet.

    • Lydia says


      Totally agree. In my state, until recently, a teacher had to have completed a masters in education within 5 years of being hired. Personally, I think a bachelor’s in education with an emphasis is just as bad. The “education” part is all indoctrination and the latest classroom management fad to experiment on kids. Restorative justice, for example. It was such a disaster here it put two teachers in the hospital.

      I don’t have recent stats but I know back in the nineties when we were looking into this, the percentage of those in higher ed who never had children is quite high. I always found that amusing in a macabre way.

    • E. Olson says

      The problem with requiring teachers to actually know the subject they teach by majoring in it is most current education majors would fail if they had to take real math courses, or real English courses, or real biology, chemistry, physics, etc. And the ones who would fail the most would be people of color (except Asians), which would make the requirement racist. To the modern educational bureaucracy, it is much more important to have teaching ranks the represent all the colors of the rainbow rather than having a staff who can actually teach their subjects effectively.

      • DNY says

        You both understate and overstate what I suggested. I suggested denying colleges of ed a monopoly on producing teachers. Let math majors teach math, history majors teach history, etc. without requiring them take a single course form a college of ed. Of course your suggestion would raise the level of rigor and deprive colleges of ed of the students who pick ed as the most content-free major on campus, maybe such students would drop out and go to trade school instead. Why is this a problem?

    • Jack B. Nimble says


      “…………When my father was in high school in the 1930’s/40’s his teachers had masters degrees or even doctorates *in the subject they taught*….”

      The high school job market in the 1930s was very different from today, for at least 3 reasons:

      1…. Teaching was one of the few stable jobs in an overall depressed economy, even for those with advanced degrees,
      2…. Lots of well-educated refugees from central Europe needed teaching jobs to make ends meet. They weren’t all Einsteins.
      3….. The ‘baby bust’ during the Depression meant that schools could be choosy when staffing their classrooms; they didn’t have to staff-up to meet demand.

  9. Geoffrey H Wingard says

    After completing an M.A. in history from a middle of the road, state university I began teaching and embarked on a program of graduate work in education. I bailed after a few semesters with an M.Ed. (that required no comps or thesis unlike my history degree) after being told that the area I had proposed for doctoral research was not within the scope of the college, would be impossible (knowledge = impossible) to study, and, most importantly, would challenge the required five-section dissertation format recently approved by the grad committee. Longer work, which involved significant archival research, was not permitted.

    I’ll never be a principal or superintendent, but I’ll have my sanity.

  10. Anonymous says

    “The low quality of many ed schools is itself the product of such bottom-line thinking, and their condition offers a glimpse into the dismal future of higher education generally. A recurring point in Arthur Levine’s report is how ed schools have been used as “cash cows” by their home institutions. At many universities, ed school leadership programs in particular have been engaged in a race to the bottom as they compete for students by lowering standards of both admission and graduation. His report compares the situation to The Wizard of Oz, with universities granting “an endless number of scarecrows the equivalent of honorary degrees.”

    The situation was bad enough when these degrees were used to leverage higher salaries for K-12 teachers, principals, and superintendents.”

    BAZINGA ! I have a Masters degree in a hard science – but at one point in my life I made the misguided decision to teach, and was forced to get an Education Masters degree.

    I viewed this as a simple tax to be paid. One pathetic thing I witnessed was prospective teachers in training being given not only extra time to finish easy tests – but actually BEING GIVEN THE ANSWERS DURING THE TEST by the professors.

    They didn’t even bother to try to hide what they were doing.

  11. William H. Casey says

    The ‘microaggressions’ industry sparks an immediate analogy with what scientists call ‘Pathological Science’.

    ‘Pathological Science’ was identified by a formal set of 5-6 observations originally codified by Irving Langmuir and that describe scientific hoaxes from N-rays to cold fusion.


    Of particular relevance is the first rule:

    ‘The maximum effect that is observed is produced by a causative agent of barely detectable intensity, and the magnitude of the effect is substantially independent of the intensity of the cause.’


    ‘Fantastic theories contrary to experience are suggested.’


    ‘Criticisms are met by ad hoc excuses.’

    Pathological Science is relevant here because the achievement gap among college-aged kids at the university, which is enormous between different ethnic groups in California, where I teach, is attributed to statements by the faculty like: ‘Where are you from?’.

    Ignored is the fact that only 10% of African American high school students in California perform math at the Proficient’ level in the 8th grade exams. Instead, the cause is a lifetime of ‘hire the best candidate’ and ‘America is the land of opportunity’ and mandated training is essential.

    Pathological Science—the putative cause of the effect is barely measurable, and requires special skills to do so, yet the effect is enormous.

  12. Tersitus says

    A fair rendering of the muck and ooze that students and teachers are made to swim in everyday.

  13. Ray Andrews says

    The whole thing has been executed so perfectly that I keep suspecting a very carefully designed plot. Yes the woke believe in what they are doing but could they have put this together by themselves? Or are they rather just ‘useful idiots’? Who wants to destroy the West? Russia? China? The global corporate class who want to cripple the social cohesion that would make it possible to resist them? Or is this merely the inevitable senility and death of a civilization and it’s no one’s fault?

    Or is it an example of the Zimbabwe syndrome where Victims Liberate a country by displacing the people who built it, which might have seemed like the path to easy wealth but in fact just destroyed the place entirely? In the same way, our Victims want to smash the Patriarchy of course. But is that all that’s going on here? Or should the whole thing be seen as a sort of religious cult, no more needing or capable of explanation that the Solar Temple? Or Jonestown and we’re all drinking the kool-aid?

    • Kencathedrus says

      @Ray Andrews: I’m currently reading ‘The Culture of Critique’ by MacDonald. I’ve just started so haven’t formed an opinion of it yet and am reading it very carefully. It’s quite controversial (you’ll know why as soon as you read it), so I’m perusing it with both an open and a critical mind.

      The book is a bit of a rabbit-hole and right now I’m poking my head in just to look, but I’m wondering if it might answer some of your questions.

      • The Evil Has Landed says


        CoC’s a good intro to the issues, but by keeping its critique restricted to a tribal model it misses a lot of the dynamic it seeks to elucidate. A great follow-up is Yuri Slezkine’s “The Jewish Century.” Very enlightening and covers a lot of ground (from an insider’s perspective) that MacDonald never mentions.

      • Ray Andrews says


        Thanks, I’d better investigate.

    • The Evil Has Landed says


      A better question is, Who convinced white elites that delegitimizing whiteness was a desirable goal?

      • Ray Andrews says

        @The Evil Has Landed

        Yes. When did it start? There is a line in one of Gilbert and Sullivan’s operas: “Any time but this, and any nation but his own” or something like that. So white self loathing goes back at least that far.

  14. Microaggression is a portmanteau that is composed of two inappropriate words. “Micro” implies that it is too small to be noticed. “Aggression transforms the not-woke-enough speaker into an enemy.

    • Anonymous says

      Good point. “Microaggression” is an oxymoron ! I hadn’t noticed that before.

    • david of Kirkland says

      I’m offended by “woke” and “portmanteau.” The former because it’s lame, the latter because I had to learn a new word!

    • Kencathedrus says

      @interguru: I really hate that term. It’s made people so afraid to talk to each other in case they slip up and cause unintended offense which might result in loss of reputation and/or employment. Instead of bringing people together, social justice theory is dividing people into identity groups and placing a metaphorical mine field between them.

  15. Leif says

    My son is completing his masters in educational administration. He reports the classes on budget management and the legal aspects of admin are invaluable. Otherwise, he refers to his school as ‘Cut and Paste University’.

  16. vince porter says

    While a grad student in history at a Canadian university, I was doing some minor research on behalf of the school’s President. I asked him one day if he thought it worthwhile for me to do a “few education courses”. He dismissed it out of hand, and, I will never forget his response: “Stay away from it. Bull sessions for credit. They’re over there”, referring to the education faculty, “sharing the ignorance”.

  17. codadmin says

    “Many people of color describe a vague feeling that they have been attacked, that they have been disrespected, or that something is not right.”

    This ‘vague feeling’ they have is called anti-white racism.

    White people must start to call them out on it.

    • The Evil Has Landed says


      “This ‘vague feeling’ they have is called anti-white racism.”

      Exactly what I was thinking. We can also call it racial narcissism. If someone at work has a bad day and they’re less than friendly with me, I don’t automatically assume they have a problem with me because it’s not all about me. But woe to the white person who has a bad day with non-white co-workers around.

  18. Pingback: Schools Of Education | Transterrestrial Musings

  19. Max says

    I’m always amused at pieces incessantly claiming that college is left-leaning. Much of this stems from the fact that colleges are/were the only places in which individuals were requested/required to read literature deemed “subversive” by a society that has always been right-wing. Colleges are/were the only places in which individuals were requested to question their preconceived notions pertaining to an issue and attempt to place themselves in another position. All of this can, and often does, liberalize individuals because it expands their knowledge and understanding. To claim that colleges are left-leaning due to that fact is just as bad as the millennial SJWs claiming that colleges are right-leaning because they do not adhere to the doctrinaire orthodoxy they have defined.

    These pushes for the suppression of free-exchange-of-ideas, the dialectic, and debate are no different than the right-wing suppression on campuses as a result of fearmongering that campuses were tantamount to Soviet reeducation camps.

    Articles on this website, I’ve said it, and others have said it, this is nothing more than authoritarianism thinly veiled as civil rights. A question to ponder, would this movement wield as much power as it does if it were not for the advent of the internet? If the internet were non-existent, would these movements become nothing more than a campus demonstration comprising of those who either shared the narrow view of the instigator or the odd passerby?

    • codadmin says

      You’re conflating the extreme left ( SJWs ) with moderates on the right. The flip side of SJWs is neo-nazism, not conservatism.

      • Max says

        Yet the right/conservatives have had a long history of fanny the same flames of hysteria the SJWs are now fanning.

        I have attended what I assume to be a liberal college. I have studied under left-wing professors, at least one of them a Marxist, self-described, and not one of them has ever endorsed the type of behavior exhibited by those described in this article, quite the contrary. This dogmatism I have only seen, prior to now, on the internet. The election of Donald Trump not only brought out the neo-nazis, nationalists, etc. but also the authoritarian SJWs, race-baiters, and anti-white ranters. The worst of it all is that our institutions are being levelled in the crossfire.

        • codadmin says

          The far left has been entrenched in the education system for decades now. The fact that there are thousands of unreformed and open Marxists in the system and not one open fascist is a stark indication of who dominates.

          Whetever protests the right made, decades ago, about communist infiltration were clearly unsuccessful.

          The left, on the other hand, have not just purged the far right completely, but vast swathes of the moderate ( conservative ) right.

          The current purging of the moderate ( liberal ) left was always going to happen.

          It has nothing intrinsicly to do with the intent, the internet just sped up the purging process.

          • Max says

            The reason there exists open Marxists is because Marxism is a critique, a compelling one at that. I have not ONCE encountered a Stalinist, Maoist, etc.or anything similar, nor heard of one being encountered. I have encountered conservatives, old Republicans, etc, I have not encountered a fascist, neo-Nazi, etc., nor heard of one being encountered. I have no doubt there exists students on campuses now that would argue that.

            The only reason the right claims they’ve been suppressed on campuses is because they, like SJWs today, are under the impression that a belief qualifies as supporting evidence, and when challenge they, like SJWs today, interpret it as hostility or dismissal. What separates the two is the SJWs are far more effective at levying the powers of social media to force the compliance of professors and their institutions.

            Liberals were only destined to the purge when they allowed facts and evidence to become afterthoughts, if that, amongst their constituency.

            I’m not claiming the internet IS the cause, I believe the internet to be the linchpin of this movement. If these raving derelicts couldn’t reach the number of individuals they can, as quickly as they, they would be no more effective at spreading their message than someone on the corner wearing a pizza box.

      • D.B. Cooper says


        The flip side of SJWs is neo-nazism, not conservatism.

        But is neo-Nazism, really the flip side of SJWs (or what I would describe as either the far Left or progressivism)? Assuming neo-Nazism is a desire for the social and political rebirth of Nazism, it’s not clear to me that neo-Nazism is an extreme form of conservatism. That is, if SJWs/progressives are on the extreme Left (and I grant that they are), it’s not so obvious to me that neo-Nazis are on the extreme Right. A different way to consider this question is to ask: When did a socialist workers party become identified with the Right?

        Sure, it’s a nationalist socialist workers party, but is nationalism unique to Right-wing governments? What about civic nationalism, isn’t that a traditionally left-wing nationalist movement, e.g., Sinn Fein?

        Granted, this may be more of an academic question than anything else, but as I understand it, the Nazi party was both anti-communism and anti-capitalism. Taken from this view, it would seem that Nazi party was neither strictly Left-wing nor strictly Right-wing in the traditional sense, but were defined, in part, by elements of both. Furthermore, I believe both Marx and Engels were somewhat ambivalent towards nationalism

        Of course, as always, I’m willing to be persuaded, but as I understand the term, it would seem inaccurate to categorize Nazism as an extreme Right-wing socio-political ideology. If nothing else, it’s an interesting question that deserves further scrutiny.

        • Max says

          I believe Naziism and neo-Naziism are considered right based predominantly upon their desire to establish an ethno-state. I also would not classify the Nazis as anti-capitalist simply due to the fact that they heavily regulated and controlled the market, Adam Smith advocated for regulation of capitalism. Socialism may advocate for public ownership of certain industry, etc., however it does not advocate for control of the market, which would place the Nazis at odds with Socialism.

          • D.B. Cooper says


            Well, to be fair, I didn’t classify the Nazis as anti-capitalists due to their heavily regulated and controlled market; I classified Nazis as anti-capitalists because Nazis themselves (including both Hitler & Goebbels) explicitly stated they were anti-capitalist from start to finish. Their (nazis) dislike of capitalism was apparently strong enough to put out anti-capitalism propoganda posters. Again, their feelings about capitalism was fairly explicit.

          • Max says

            @ D.B. Cooper

            True, you didn’t. I was merely stating the typical point people make when arguing that the Nazis were anti-capitalist.

            I would take what people say with a grain of salt. There are countless individuals who state they are something they’re not. Hitler, and I would assume Goebbels, point when stating they were anti-capitalist stemmed from the belief that Jews were the embodiment of capitalism. The Nazi Party was anti-Semitic, Jews were believed to be the embodiment of capitalism, the Nazi Party therefore was anti-capitalist.

            Hitler takes positions on other issues based upon his own misguided understanding and definition of those positions. He certainly appears to have been amending and fabricating as he went.

          • Stephanie says

            If you define the right-left political axis by perspective on the role of government, as it is in the US, the expansive role Hitler saw for government would place him firmly on the left. Nationalised health care and centralised education came into being in Germany under the Nazis, and are still the sacred cows of the left. They are the bane of the right. This article describes part of the reason why.

            Hitler certainly called himself a socialist and stated capitalism was his enemy. The anti-communism had more to do with the power struggle against the rival German communists than any serious philosophical difference. Someone clever on this site compared fascism and communism to Pepsi and Coke: they swear they are different, but are they really?

            Hitler centralised control of the economy, if not formally than through installation of Nazi leaders in industry. It was a planned economy. Whatever capitalism there was wasn’t our concept of free market capitalism, perhaps more like China’s system.

            Fascism allows for private property, so long as the government decides what’s done with it. That’s just socialism with extra steps.

            The vital difference between fascism and Nazism is the desire for an ethnostate, which is why it is often considered on the right. But if identity politics was the defining characteristic of the right, wouldn’t SJWs be hard-right?

            A more realistic perspective, I think, is that an ethnostate and nationalism is desirable on the far left when they are in the majority, and intersectionality and globalism is the preferred strategy when they are made up of a collection of minorities. The rabid anti-white people, do you believe there’s any chance they wouldn’t want an ethnostate if it were demographically feasible? Instead they have to use mass migration to stack the deck, and maybe hope for a majority to come down the pipeline.

            The Nazi scapegoating of a wealthy minority continues under the Globalist Socialists, still the Jews but now also white people, probably also eventually Asians. The UK Labour party has been in an unending series of scandals around Jew-hating, and now the same is true of the US Democratic party. The rhetoric is the same as the Nazis: Jews control the financial markets, the economy, and thus society with their money from dark corners. Absurdly, given Jewish history, Jews are marked with the original sin of the “oppressor” in a parallel way the Nazis viewed them genetically inferior.

            And let’s not forget that Globalist Socialists love Islamofascism in general and Palestinian nationalism in particular. Palestinian thinking has not evolved since the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem met Hitler in the 1930s, hoping for help with his Jew problem.

            Of course we could also talk about Nazi eugenics, the abortion and infanticide of undesirables and the handicapped. The right to life of even the most malformed human bodies is sacred to the right, but the left encourages abortion in the case of genetic defects, including Down Syndrome.

            All the defining characteristics of Nazism are consistent with left-wing ideology and even modern leftist thinking. Of course because they control education and the media, they control the narrative in such a way that their disturbing similarities to Nazis cannot be widely noted. Calling everyone who disagrees with them Nazis is projection at its most basic. Really the only difference I see between the modern leftists and the Nazis are that modern leftists are globalists.

          • Max says


            I do not define the left-right political axis as they do in the US because the US simplifies everything. There are also countless right-wing governments that expanded government control, so government control is not a reliable method of assessment.

            Yes, Hitler did refer to himself as a Socialist and an anti-capitalist however, as I said, he also adopted his own definition for both and adopted the labels based upon those definitions.

            SJWs, while contradictory in their statements and actions, have not expressed the desire for an ethno-state.

            I’m not going to address the specious conjecture you’ve continued with as I’ve heard it all before from the likes of Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity, etc. and I’ve grown thoroughly tired.

          • D.B. Cooper says


            That’s behavior unbecoming of a gentleman. And we were doing so well. There’s no need to sink to the Beck & Hannity comparisons. Besides, Stephanie was clearly making a reasoned argument. Maybe you don’t find it persuasive, but reasonable people should still be able to disagree in good faith.

          • Max says


            I’m sorry, but it is. If I I’m going to call out liberals for claiming that Trump is a Nazi because he’s spoken about cultures in America being washed out by others due to the fact that the country doesn’t mandate a certain level of integration but accommodates, then I have to call out ridiculous comparisons when they’re levied against liberals.

          • D.B. Cooper says

            Of course, Maximillion. I understand what you’re saying, and I’m not suggesting you shouldn’t argue for what you think is true. The only point I’m trying to make is, while in the process of doing so, we should recognize that there’s an important difference between unpersuasive claim that are advanced with reason, and vacuous claims that are advanced in bad faith.

            Not that this applies to Stephanie (or her claim), but if our goal is to find what’s “true” then we need to tolerate some degree of reasonable stupidity. For example, I’m sure I make fallacious claims all the time. I don’t do it on purpose of course, but I have no doubt it happens.

            I mean, you and I, obviously find ourselves on opposite ends of the issue. While I think you’re wrong, I don’t think you’re a bad faith actor, nor do I think Stephanie is. There’s already enough irrational behavior out there, so I would like to hope the more reasonable among us (#Maximillion) would be able to disagree without arresting the dignity and self-worth of one another. That’s all I’m saying.

            At any rate, I hope our paths cross again, so we can disagree some more!

          • Max says

            @D.B. Cooper

            It’s not that necessarily agree or disagree, I just detest firing an arrow and then drawing the bullseye around it.

            I’ve moved on to the article pertaining to Trump, LGBT rights, and Iran.

          • Stephanie says

            Max: your response is disappointingly vacuous. You made no attempt to dispute my points. You offered no alternative definition of the right-left spectrum. You named no right wing government that expanded government, and indeed advanced a fallacy because what we were talking about is precisely the issue that left-wing governments have been mislabeled right-wing.

            You commented on my summary of DB’s previous statements on how Hitler self-IDed, without acknowledging the economic facts I brought up that support that that self-ID was accurate.

            You strawman my argument, claiming I claimed leftists want an ethnostate, when I repeatedly made clear that the socialist tactics employed by an ethnic majority and by a coalition of minorities is going to be different.

            You finish with a dismissive personal attack.

            This is the typical angry, shallow response of someone who knows they’re beat. You don’t have the capacity to dispute my arguments, so you make shallow, cutting, petty statements on whatever sentence fragments you think you can pull sufficiently out of context to dispute.

            DB was too generous with you: your comment is precisely the sort of unreasoned stupidity advanced in bad faith that pollutes the internet. I feel I’ve been made more stupid for mistaking this for an actual honest discussion. I should have known from the shallowness of your original arguments.

          • Defenstrator says

            Sorry I couldn’t reply to the actual comment but it lacked the reply option for some reason.

            Your statement that Marxism is a critique and a compelling one at that is factually incorrect. Marxism, for all practical purposes, is a secular religion. It provides a narrative framework and implied moral system for people who feel themselves above the superstition of regular religions, but are still compelled to believe in something to explain the world. This is why dealing with Marxists on a rational basis has always been so unsuccessful, because they are not thinking rationally and are instead channeling the same righteousness and dogmatic belief that powers any successful religion.

          • Coffee Klatch says

            Max — don’t bother. They’ve reinvented history, whole cloth, and won’t be convinced.

        • Matthew Pemble says

          Facism and then Nazism as “far right” was, initially, a Soviet propaganda technique. That they were nationalist rather than internationalist – ie not willing to be directed by Moscow – was seen as much more of a threat than any economic or social differences. Of course Nazism, more than Italian facism, was modified by extreme bigotry (and that Hitler was never the committed socialist that Mussolini was.)

    • @Max

      No, the claim that higher education is Left-leaning comes from the fact that there is plenty of data to support such a conclusion.

      Now, you can certainly argue the benefits or dangers of this reality, but denying it only hurts your credibility, such as it is. Offering your personal estimation of the why, in lieu of empirical evidence, is an effective way to formulate an inept analogy.

      A question for you to ponder might be why you chose not to engage with any of the author’s arguments.

      • Max says


        I’m not going to address your statements because they read like nonsense from the likes of Beck, Hannity, and even Jones. You’re talking points are Trump nonsense, presumably because your posts are often defenses of everything Trump. You may find a the comments section on Huff ‘n Puff or Vice more suitable.

        And beat, hardly. I just refuse to expend the energy on refuting drivel.


        Yes, colleges would be considered left-leaning because colleges won’t accept Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity, Alex Jones, or any other wingnut as a reputable source. This may come as a surprise to you but they won’t accept Jezebel, BuzzFeed, Black Lives Matter.

        Any Marxism is not a religion. For fucks sake, your talking points sound like something Jordan Peterson has spoon fed you. Just to clarify, I don’t entirely dislike Peterson, he just needs to keep to what he knows, clinical psychology.

        • Max says

          The bit about Marxism being a secular religion is directed at Defenstrator.

        • Big Jim Slade says

          You’re talking points are Trump nonsense
          your talking points sound like something Jordan Peterson has spoon fed you

          Meanwhile, your own talking points sound like they could have been issued by any of the pathetic education schools Dr. Asher so convincingly eviscerated in in his article, thereby helping to prove his thesis.

  20. The Evil Has Landed says

    “ticism, such that the student who mentions “reverse racism” in a discussion of affirmative action might as well have mentioned a unicorn in a discussion of endangered species. If she then drops the qualifier “reverse” and simply calls it “racism,” she’s again confounded, since “racism” is something of which only white people can be guilty. As with Newspeak in Orwell’s 1984, the aim is to construct a vocabulary in which “the expression of unorthodox opinions … [is] well nigh impossible.””

    I’ve beem saying this for years: it’s really very easy. In order for a word to have a definition, everyone has to agree on it. If we reject the Left’s self-serving BS re-definition of “racism,” then they don’t get to make it mean what they say it does.

    The old definition of a racist is someone who hates or discriminated against others based on their race. The new definition of a racist is “any white person.”

    The new definition of the word racist is racist according to the old definition of the word. Instead of countering with terms like “reverse-racism,” which merely concede their new definition, just reject the word. Discredit it every chance you get.

    • codadmin says

      Exactly. But also, we have to construct our own definitions. Here’s one:

      A racist is any person who believes only white people can be racist.

      • The Evil Has Landed says


        Keep that idea handy next time you’re talking to an SJW irl.

        “Well, according to the old definition of a racist, your new definition is itself racist. Which makes you a racist for even using it.”

        Keep them on the defensive and never miss an opportunity to discredit the term. There is no more contemptible word in the English language now IMO.

  21. Stationer says

    A wonderfully muscular piece of work. Despite having read and viscerally agreed with numerous articles around this topic, I felt certain deeper itches being freshly scratched while reading. Many thanks, Prof.

  22. Horace says

    Glad to see someone’s talking about ed schools here. I’m an Ed.D. myself. I’m of two minds here. On the one hand, I found there to be more intellectual diversity than suggested in this essay. One reason is that ed schools house faculty from a broad range of disciplines–sociology, pyschology, economics, poli sci, history, etc. (In fact, I’ve often though ed schools should really be just university centers.)

    On the other hand, there is an ideological sameness that seems to have grown both more complete and more strident since I got my degree 20 years ago. The U of Washington GSE, for example, has self-consciously been reorganizing itself around social justice in recent years. It’s latest brochure is titled “Centering Justice” and includes sections with titles like “From Multicultural Education to Educational Justice,” “Reproducing Inequalities,” and “Watching the Intersections.” I don’t know the place well enough to know to what degree all faculty toe that line, but it’s a frankly stated aspiration of its current dean. I also track faculty postings there (and at other GSEs), and even when they aren’t looking for specialists in race, gender, etc. they’re laced with social justice affirmation and require same from applicants.

    One other conjecture I’ve formed over the years I’ve interacted w/ GSEs is that it might be helpful to distinguish GSEs from teacher & admin training programs. Teacher & admin training programs are just two programs a GSE might operate, and I’ve noticed more uniformity/conformity there than in GSEs overall. The uniformity/conformity in those programs, in fact, is quite striking.

  23. Tony Tea says

    Anyone who has worked in education – me, for instance – knows that the core business of teaching has been swamped in credentialist box ticking and bullshit jargon.

    • Nakatomi Plaza says

      Bingo. I think the obsession with identity politics that has taken over academia is beginning to run down a bit. You know how corporate America goes from one stupid fad to the next, one trend fading into the next until they begin to repeat over again? The same thing happens everywhere.

      It isn’t the end of the world, even if Quillette wants us to panic and start shitting ourselves every time an oversensitive undergraduate at a college we’ve never heard of gets upset.

    • codadmin says

      @Tony Tea

      The Soviet Union was famous for its box ticking bureaucracy.

      The box ticking is the ideological version of ‘paint by numbers’. The boxes you are forced to tick are all pointing in a particular ideological direction.

    • From what I hear from many scientists working with DNA analysis of HomoSapiens, Denisovans, and Neanderthals over the past 800,000 years, they are gradually producing a large encyclopedia of DNA knowledge gathered in the past ten or so years which will offer different understanding about migrations over the globe, new definitions of race, culture, speech, art, food, and religion all coming from DNA analysis rather than from the kinds of ideological speculation which have been our modus operandi for over two thousand years. I’ll look up references to this encyclopedia project. I think if it’s done well it will drastically alter our language, politics. Maybe our environmental relationships.

  24. Sally says

    I always find it interesting when administrators are overlooked in education reform. They often drive what teachers can do by being the evaluators. You can see them coming by the books under their arms for the book study on the latest trend in education.

    I’ve had administrators who are highly praised by the system who don’t actually know much about educating kids. Yet, they evaluate teachers based on crazy standards sent down from above. They follow these evaluation checklists put together by education experts and they check the boxes without actually critically thinking about what they are observing.

  25. Nakatomi Plaza says

    Schools market themselves as a “home” to students. They market themselves as welcoming, loving, supporting communities where students can feel safe. Why do they do this? Money. Why the fuck else? There is intense and growing competition for students, and schools need to appeal to students however possible. Students don’t want to hear that they’ll be challenged, confronted, and forced to grow up at school, especially not at the astronomical prices they’re now paying. Protecting students is good business. Students are customers now.

    This is a function of capitalism, not educational politics. Don’t confuse the cause and effect here, however much it serves any particular (and particularly obvious and predictable) agenda. You want the free market? Well, you got it. The customer is king.

    • AlfieB says

      The author makes your point in section 4 (“Woke Corporatization”) in fact. But he (or she?) doesn’t put it in simple, one direction cause-and-effect-terms. That’s why Chomsky is on point.

  26. Jezza says

    I find people who like me more agreeable to be with than those who don’t. I understand completely why white people today feel disrespected by hostile masses, and although I am not white myself, I believe they are being subjected to an egregious wrong. ( I am, by the way, a sort of greyish pink with a scattering of brown spots. Don’t hold that against me.)

  27. Jezza says

    And I never aspired to attend university. I am so glad I didn’t. Having worked with many graduates, I despair at how many are educated idiots.

  28. Cletus says

    Teachers colleges serve the bottom 20% of college applicants. Idiocy reigns. Who is surprised?

    • Graeme says

      Graduate schools of education are palaces of mediocrity, minting meaningless PhDs by abandoning all reasonable standards of scholarship and excellence.

  29. XTeacher says

    More than three decades later, a comprehensive, four-year study of ed schools headed by a former president of Teachers College, Arthur Levine, found that the majority of educational-administration programs “range from inadequate to appalling, even at some of the country’s leading universities.”

    Here is an anecdote to support that. I know someone whose initial four-year contract as a school principal was not renewed. One reason for non-renewal was that in her final two years she had a lot of absences while working on her doctorate.

    Those absences were far from the only reason for her contract not being renewed. In her first year as principal- where she used to be an assistant principal- over 40% of the teachers signed a grievance against her.

    At a meeting of the school board, the school board commended one of the school’s science teachers for the science curriculum the teacher wrote for the district. The principal draped her arm around the commended teacher, telling the school board how much the school valued the teacher. In addition to writing curriculum, the science teacher also ran the Science Olympiad for the school, so she was definitely someone whose contribution would have been valued. What the principal neglected to mention to the school board was that she and the science teacher were at loggerheads. The science teacher went to another school the following year. With her accomplishments, the science teacher had no problem finding another position.

    The failed principal is now a professor of Education, specializing in educational administration. Those who can’t administer schools, train school administrators.

  30. Skip grow says

    You make some good points generally, but are you seriously trying to suggest than US colleges are not left-leaning? The data are overwhelming.
    Great and terrifying questions. Perhaps this is simply an unfortunate by-product of our capitalist system. The ed schools appear to have exercised their entrepreneurship in creating a problem, like Scope’s “morning breath”, and offered a solution. The cartel-like nature of higher education has simply allowed for its rapid and unrestrained expansion. If true, a sad irony that our way of life ultimately will be destroyed by the very capitalist system that created it. But underlying all of this is an undeniable expression of jealousy, envy and evidently hatred of those enjoying higher social and professional status.

  31. Tersitus says

    Someone please chart the change in total school adminstrators vs administrators average salaries vs. student test scores.

  32. Milarepa says

    Last December, my tiny university in Portland, OR, “graduated” ~150 “doctors” of education. Recently, it announced the closing of the undergraduate programs in English, History, and Chemistry. Why have those, when you can churn “doctors” by the hundreds?

  33. Pingback: Education schools and the bloat of university administration « Quotulatiousness

  34. PiersPlowman says

    What I find ironic is that on the left, college administrators are widely regarded as the *least*( woke people on campus, the people most likely to stand in the way of SJWs (who tend to be students and faculty). This recent “poem” from McSweeney’s is fairly representative of how the campus left views administrators.

  35. ccscientist says

    It has become so nuts that even a play that is anti-nazi (like “springtime for Hitler”) is bad for showing nazi costumes. Pavlov was right I guess.

  36. Elizabeth E says

    As an almost-graduate of one of these teacher-training schools who cannot wait to be done, I can attest to exactly the kind of environment this article is talking about. In fact, the quality of education is so poor at this school (which, by the way, charges over $30,000 for a Master of Arts in Teaching) that myself and my friend, who also happens to be the token student of color in my cohortl], have seriously considered not walking at graduation. Of course, they asked him to speak at graduation, and he declined.

    One of the greatest ironies about these programs that are designed to squeeze any unconscious racial bias out of their white students is that they end up abandoning these very same students of color. For example, my very first class – theoretically on the foundations of educational theory – ended up being completely skewed towards “social reconstructivist” educational theory, and the one textbook, “We Can’t Teach What We Don’t Know” is a long, flowery novel about a white educator’s journey out of white savior racism in teaching. It’s learning to be woke in 250 pages, all of which we read, with no opposite viewpoint to balance it. My friend, who is Peruvian and Native American, went to the teacher and asked her, “How is this book supposed to help me?” Sheepishly, she couldn’t give an answer, and agreed to remove it from the class curriculum.

    I bumped into her in the halls a few months after the class ended, and during casual conversation, she expressed her distress that the new cohort she was teaching just didn’t seem to be grasping the dire implications of racism in education. They thought there were other factors involved. They dared to insinuate cultural aspects were at play. She said she’d have to be more explicit in telling them what was going on – they just couldn’t infer it on their own, the racist, privileged dummies.

    I should also mention this was the only class we had to write a research paper in – and, of course, we were supposed to write a paper regarding social injustices in schools and how they could be fixed. Nothing about administrative, curricular, cultural, or funding issues. Social injustices. My peers bitched the entire class about having to write a paper, and all I could think was, “Finally – isn’t this why we’re here in the first place?”

    The second I graduate and have my diploma in hand, I am writing a long, critical expose on the school and sending it to Quillette, my local newspaper, the NYT, my blog, the school administrators, and anybody else that will listen. These schools have turned into a joke, and the sad truth is, if you want to be a teacher, you’ve got to go to one of them.

    Fortunately, I love teaching high school English, I’m good at it, and I’ve used my student teaching experience to promote ideas from classic authors like Nietzche, who suggest facing your problems head on, thinking critically, and not depending on the adult/administrative state to fix our problems. There is hope yet.

  37. Negation of the negation says

    So-called “anti-racism” is the new racism. To be anti-racist, then, one must be anti-“anti-racist”, and live with the fact that you will be called a racist by racists.

  38. Coffee Klatch says

    Watching the literal ancestors of colonizers, slave owners and those who fought against civil rights and integration, morph into whatever insidious, hedged — (not-so) stealth — incarnation of butthurt that this article is the end product of would be almost entertaining, if it weren’t getting so fucking tiresome.

    It took a really long time for marginalized people to have a voice, to stand up to discrimination and oppression — not just people of color, for whom you seem to reserve the greatest contempt, but also plenty of white gay, trans, fat, poor, differently abled, atheist/agnostic people that didn’t conform to the prevailing “good” and “right” culture.

    Those who are hellbent on undoing the study of privilege and power are people who never had to feel and don’t feel the oppression of the prevailing and dominant culture — that is still here, that is still doing the same kind of damage it was doing — and is desperately trying to wrest the microphone, staff and crown back into its greedy clutches. Worse, they are the people who trafficked in that dominance, whose worldviews and ancestors banked and collected off of that hierarchy.

    The myopia is astounding. Imagine that people with the exact same demographic profile as the original oppressors of this timeline…

    500-120 years ago, Europeans colonize some 90 percent of the Earth.

    250 years ago, white landowning men best god and king and are considered humans.

    150 years ago, black people cannot be sold like property.

    100 years ago, women can vote.

    50 years ago, schools can be integrated and black people can eat at the same goddamn restaurant as you.

    Last 3-5 years, a parade of incels, white supremacists, MRAs, and regular right-wing sympathizers send bombs shoot up yoga studios, churches/synagogues and other venues because the straight white man is, you know, suffering.

    Two years ago: Tech bro literally sweats his balls inside out because he has to work with women in coding. God, not coding.

    A year ago: young white men march with torches, bitching because their mediocrity no longer automatically means privilege all the time and then a guy so pissed off about it, rams his car into a crowd, meanwhile, men occupy 90 percent of corporate boards, 75 percent of the HOR and Senate and 2/3 of the supreme court.

    A year ago: after victims of sexual assault (1 in 6 males and 1 in three females before 18, one in four females and one in 6 males lifetime) are given a voice, Wall St. bros decide to go on record saying they don’t want to hire any more women because they cannot possibly be expected to act like civilized fucking humans if women are in their presence and not banished to the demon menstruation hut.

    Literally two weeks ago: New Aryan Empire, who claims 5,000 members, arrested for numerous crimes, but the worst crime is that they exist.

    …tell you that there’s no discrimination. “It’s not pervasive. It’s over. What do you have to complain about? We have “equal protection,” so what are you bitching about? We can’t be cultural supremacists? It’s you! You’re just not doing what the white empire says you’re supposed to do. If you would just behave. If you would just diet. If you would just cut your hair off. If you would just be quiet so that the white man can get back to organizing you in the places he wants you, erasing your culture and existence, profiting off your labor and ass fucking you at will. Could you please just be quiet and stop talking about power? Could you please? Could you not teach it — could you just please not say it? Could you see how we are suffering because you are not falling in line? Can you see how we command every school, every platform, every boardroom, every position in government — and we should be there, and our God should be there and will you just stop teaching and speaking and telling things from YOUR perspective? We want to eat it all. We will give you a little. Just stop talking about power.”

    Fuck you — you snowflake, reactionary, soft, aggrieved pieces of literal dog shit. Get out and do something to help someone, instead of write this racist, navel-gazing vomit. Stop trying to sell this pablum. Stop trying to get stupid people to buy it.

    Let me explain something to you: From the timeline above, do you see how we attempt to make progress, but there is always pushback? Do you know what the king and the church said, when people wanted to not be feudal sharecroppers? They said – what is this madness taking over their minds that they should be free. Do you know what the colonizers said when they had their boot on the neck of the Africans? They said: what is this madness that they yearn for, we have provided them with a better life. Why should they want to be anything but subjects? Do you know what the Southerners said when they wanted to integrate the schools? This is MADNESS — this is just not right — people aren’t meant to be mixed together — they should be separate.

    You do realize that with this screed, you’re not some altruistic crusader for freedom, right? You’re only the newest manifestation of the colonizer, the pope, the king, the klan. The work you are doing is for THAT side — not the side of egalitarianism and human dignity, progress and making a better life. If “Western civilization” has promise — it is the promise of making everyone fully realized — it’s not your hierarchy. It’s not your dead god. It’s not your histograms of IQ. It’s not your sex roles. It’s not your genital census.

    You ARE the Tory. You ARE the boot. You ARE the angry face in the historical photograph. You are digging in your heels to protect your dominance and privilege and the supremacy of your culture and worldview. Accusing those teaching those to LOOK at and NAME your game is shameless — it’s in bad-faith, and it’s easy to spot if your brain isn’t filled with kool-aid worms.

    • codadmin says

      The racist rant misses a key bullet point:

      100 years ago, remaining 40% of men get the vote

      Maybe we should add a couple more bullet points just to drive home how stupid and racist you are:

      7th century to 15th century, people of colour colonise 90% of the know world with challenge

      7th century to present day, people of colour colonise 100% of the earth.

    • AlfieB says

      I’m sure I speak for everyone when I say, we’re honored.

  39. JayAre says

    I would say the menace to any civilization is an education encouraged irrational cacophony of opposing, hostility provoking nonsense, replacing accurate thought as the actual origin of both education and knowledge.

  40. Whatever power is behind this, they won the Reading Wars. If you doubt that, just inquire of a school of education “How do you teach your students to train children to decode English with systematic phonics first.”

    If you don’t get arrested for committing a micro-aggression just by asking, you will be given the litany of Whole Language postmodern defense of not teaching it.

    Schools of education do not consider systematic phonics a valuable skill for teachers to acquire. I have been told it is considered fascist to “inflict” phonics training on teachers, and in turn on children.

  41. S.S. says

    In 1968 and 1969 I taught secondary math as a Peace Corps volunteer in Honduras. After returning to the United States I discovered that the educational bureaucracy wouldn’t let me teach in a public American high school without a teaching certificate. Experience and demonstrated ability counted for nothing. After a few years I reluctantly went to graduate school and got a Master’s degree in math teaching. I learned a lot from the math courses but nothing at all from the education courses.

    In the early 1980s, some years after I’d moved to Austin, I considered getting a Ph.D. in math education at the University of Texas so that I could have more standing to fight against the positions of educational bureaucrats that I felt were harmful. I went to the person in charge of math education at the university to see about getting into the doctoral program. After I told him my opinions about the latest trends, he told me outright that if I wanted to be admitted into the doctoral program I would have to keep my mouth shut and just go along with the program. Yes, he actually said that. You won’t be surprised to hear that I didn’t apply to the program.

    From what I’ve read, things have gotten much more dogmatic in the ensuing decades. I’ve long thought that what has descended on us is a secular religion, complete with doctrines that no one may question without being attacked for heresy. Your excellent phrase “liturgy… passed off as literacy” expresses the same idea.

    As much as I appreciate this article, I’m afraid I don’t hold out much hope. Ideology has taken over the academic world to such an extent that I don’t see any way to get it back to objectivity. As an undergraduate I attended Columbia University, which has become one of the worst offenders. During my years there from 1963–67 I took heavy course loads that led me to graduate with many more credits than necessary. Thinking back to all those courses, I couldn’t tell then nor can I tell now what political beliefs my teachers held; I can’t remember a single teacher who ever proselytized for a cause. In contrast, I’ve read that incoming Columbia students now have to undergo mandatory indoctrination sessions. On the back cover of the latest issue of Columbia Magazine is a statement in large letters: “Columbia students, faculty, and alumni are building a more equitable and inclusive world.” Silly me, an alumnus who thought that at the university we were supposed to be striving for knowledge and understanding.

  42. richard says

    “Whatever power is behind this, they won the Reading Wars. If you doubt that, just inquire of a school of education “How do you teach your students to train children to decode English with systematic phonics first.”

    It’s even worse than what you describe. The scientific evidence has been clear for some time that children who are taught phonics and the structure of the English language become better readers and spellers. But, in ed schools, if one persists in teaching undergraduate and graduate students how children learn to decode words and how to teach them to do so, the faculty will question you and ask why you do so. If you explain to them that English is an alphabetic language and the cumulative evidence (empirical research studies) shows that children learn to read better through phonics methods, they ask “whose evidence?” and say, “well, that is your science…my science says differently.” If you ask them to cite “their science,” what you will get is their beliefs, personal opinions, and ideologies. Eventually, they convince the Deans and Chairs to take away the reading (and other) courses that you teach, one at a time, until you are left with no courses to teach in your areas of expertise. Those who teach phonics and the science of reading in most ed schools are heretics and must pay because they are in violation of the religious doctrines of the reigning ideology. Today, in most (not all) schools of ed, those who are not in agreement with the Whole Language and constructivist ideologies will not be hired. Or, like many of us, we leave and move on to positions outside of ed schools in which we can teach educators how to teach reading, spelling, and writing.

  43. Harrison Bergeron says

    “I don’t doubt that microaggressions exist …”
    I do. The word itself is an oxymoron. It means a tiny attack. If it is tiny it is not really an attack. It is in fact an annoyance.

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