The Battle against Ideological Litmus Tests for Education Students: A Work in Progress
December 29, 2006
by Samantha Harris
Freedom of conscience won a significant victory
this year when the National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE), a leading accreditor of education schools, agreed under pressure from FIRE
and other groups to drop its recommendation that education students demonstrate a belief in “social justice” in order to graduate. Many individual schools of education still maintain “social justice” requirements or other ideological litmus tests, but they can no longer fall back on the excuse that they need such tests for accreditation, making them more difficult to defend.
Now, FIRE is taking the fight to individual education schools. This fall, we challenged Teachers College
—Columbia University’s graduate school of education—to abandon its requirements that students possess a “commitment to social justice” and recognize that “social inequalities are often produced and perpetuated through systematic discrimination and justified by societal ideology of merit, social mobility, and individual responsibility.” So far, Columbia—not exactly known for its love of freedom
—has not changed its policies, but FIRE will continue to pressure the university. In the coming year, we will also be challenging additional universities to live up to their professed commitments to freedom by doing away with these intrusive and inappropriate litmus tests.