Several readers have emailed to ask exactly what sort of bias and/or rigor David Steiner is getting at in his analysis of education school curricula. The easiest way to find out is to read the study.
Short of that, here’s a quick example. This is the suggested reading list for incoming students to Stanford University’s STEP program, a one year teacher preparation program leading to certification and a master’s degree. The problem with the list is not what’s on it, it is what’s missing. It includes important historians like David Tyack and Larry Cuban (yes there is a Stanford connection but they’re important regardless), gifted writers like Mike Rose, and thoughtful critics of contemporary education like Deborah Meier. Yet the list overwhelmingly slants toward one point of view. Missing are classic examinations of education in society, for instance, The Republic, influential texts like Rousseau (you want to blame the French for something then start with Emile…), or — in terms of balance — contemporary writers and analysts, for instance, E.D. Hirsch, Diane Ravitch, John McWhorter, or even the late John Ogbu among others.
Hold the outrage, Eduwonk’s not saying that Hirsch, Ravitch, and the rest offer some sort of absolute truth or are not open to criticism, but they do present important viewpoints about unsettled issues that are part of a well-rounded understanding of various viewpoints about education. Even a book like Chubb and Moe’s “Politics, Markets and America’s Schools”, which is certainly open to criticism, presents a different perspective on problems in contemporary American education that students must be able to engage with. (Why? Well, for starters because liberals are doing a terrible job of refuting Chubb and Moe’s argument right now either intellectually or through effective public policy. At least learning the argument instead of assuming the ostrich posture might be a good way to start turning that around…)
If all those books are just too many “conservatives” for Stanford to swallow (though Hirsch is actually a lefty, something lost on his critics) then even a single critique like Kieran Egan’s “Getting It Wrong from the Beginning” could at least serve to provide some balance and tip-off thoughtful students that there is more than one way of thinking about these issues. Yet neither the reading list nor the course syllabi available on the website indicate that these divergent viewpoints are presented…
Want more? Read Steiner’s chapter yourself.
Afterthought: Where is Dewey? He doesn’t make the cut either. Some sort of weird pseudo-rap East Coast – West Coast thing, or just an oversight? Dewey fell out of favor some in the 1960s but Eduwonk sort of thought he was back…no? Update: Reader DW emails to point out a Dewey cameo in one class!
Odds On Afterthought: What’s the over-under on the number of under-represented authors that will ever be added to this list?