When I teach my composition students to write persuasively, I put great emphasis on being ethical and accurate. ‘Don’t misrepresent your opponent’s position, then attack the misrepresentation.’ This, of course, is known as the straw man fallacy, an abuse of logic and an insult to any intelligent reader.
A recent editorial in the City Journal by researchers Jay P. Greene and Catherine Shock would make a great example of the erroneous and potentially harmful conclusions such a flawed approach can generate. The authors conducted a quick and dirty study of the ratio between the number of ed school courses with “multiculturalism,” “diversity,” or “Inclusion” in their title versus those referencing “math.” The results from this analysis, more worthy of cub reporters than distinguished educational researchers, led them to declare that “The schools place far more emphasis on the political and social ends of education than on the fundamentals.”
I’m a critical friend of U.S. teacher education, not hesitant to point out and work toward the much needed changes there. But with all the real problems that need to be addressed in teacher education, why create one that isn’t there?
Schools of Education, by definition, exist to teach pedagogy. Teacher candidates learn mathematics in the math department; they learn how to teach math in the ed courses. A more appropriate criticism here might be the ongoing debate over how many and what types of math courses future teachers need to take within that section of the university before entering their teacher education program (generally the last two years of the college program).
Multiculturalism, diversity, and inclusion are extremely serious issues that cut across grade levels and subject areas. Educators such as Jamie Escalante and Bob Moses (just to name two) have shown us that teaching math successfully to different groups of students requires not only a deep knowledge of mathematics, but also a profound understanding of the students themselves. U.S. schools of education are still preparing a predominantly white female teaching force to work with an increasingly colored and complex student body. Newly minted classroom teachers have to walk into classrooms filled with students from many ethnic backgrounds, as well as high-achievers, underachievers, at-risk, second language-learners, learning disabled students, abused and neglected students, homeless students, and the list goes on.
Why are there so many courses in ed schools with multiculturalism, diversity, or inclusion in their titles? Not, as the authors suggest, because of some politically correct fetish on the part of educators, but more likely as a response to our “enthusiasm” to reach and teach every child.