Notes on Education Schools and K-12 Teaching

Dylan M. Palmer & Will Flanders:

Generally speaking, university professors enjoy a great deal of trust and respect from their students. They wield considerable influence in shaping how young people, during some of the most formative years of their lives, wind up viewing the world.  

When a professor instructs a future K-12 teacher to view the classroom with reference to “interlocking systems of oppression, including . . . race, class, [and] gender,” as one syllabus for an education-major required course at UW-Green Bay describes), that future teacher may end up believing that this is the proper way to understand the school system. But describing K-12 education as a place of racial, class, or gender oppression is a radical political viewpoint. It’s not clear whether future teachers learning ideas like those at UW-Green Bay understand how damaging and divisive such ideas are. 

We also found, in a required course for education majors at UW-Stevens Point, that students were made to read both “Antiracist Baby” by Ibram X. Kendi and a portion of “White Fragility” by Robin DiAngelo. “Antiracist Baby” presents itself as a children’s book, even though it traffics in highly political ideas about race and society—most notably, that colorblindness, or treating people without discriminating on the basis of race, is, in fact, racist. “White Fragility,” for its part, argues that virtually all white people are complicit in systemic racism.

This is not to say that college courses shouldn’t expose students to politically controversial topics. Indeed, such exposure is a key part of becoming educated. But, far too often, these radical viewpoints are presented to students as the onlyones through which to understand the world—instead of just another set of arguments, subject to debate and scrutiny. It is no wonder that future teachers come out of this environment primed to indoctrinate young students into similar viewpoints.