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Daniels' attack on text part of conservative push

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Three years ago, then-Gov. Mitch Daniels directed his education advisers to "disqualify the propaganda" from courses used for licensing teachers in Indiana. But his concern wasn't focused only on a controversial history book by Howard Zinn that Daniels mentioned to the officials, and which has thrust him into an uncomfortable discussion about academic freedom in his new job as Purdue University's president.

Daniels' directive, contained in emails obtained by The Associated Press through a public records request, was part of a broader conservative push to move all of the training of school teachers out of the nation's teaching colleges.

At the core of the effort are two beliefs: that traditional teacher training produces bad teachers and that schools have been churning out political liberals and undercutting conservative beliefs, in part by using books like Zinn's "A People's History of the United States," which emphasizes violence against Native Americans and on class inequality.

"If one goes looking for a part of the university where ... you're most likely to find teachers who throw caution to the wind and propagandize their students in favor of some ideological point of view, the school of education is at the top of the list," said Peter Wood, president of the National Association of Scholars, a group representing conservative university professors.

Most classroom teachers in the United States are products of education schools, graduating with a major in education and minor in subject areas. The programs teach education methodology and prepare students to meet the requirements for a state license.

Daniels and other conservative Republicans maintain that teachers would be better if they majored in the subject they would teach. He wanted to create alternative avenues for people in other fields to get teaching licenses.

The arguments, bolstered by a June report from the conservative-affiliated National Council on Teacher Quality condemning the nation's education colleges, are fueling pushes in a number of states for sweeping changes in teacher qualifications.

But education professors say the efforts miss the point of teacher training. Rob Helfenbein, an Indiana University professor who includes Zinn's book in a social studies methodology course for prospective teachers, said he doesn't think Daniels and others understand how colleges of education expose teachers to different views and give them the skills to succeed in the classroom.

"I think there are a lot more conservatives than people would ever imagine" in the education schools, Helfenbein said. "This is an old, tired argument the right has often said, that universities are this bastion of leftist thought. In my experience, I don't see it."

In Indiana, Daniels' concerns merged with a longstanding debate about the quality of education. Only about a fourth of the state's adults have college degrees, and efforts to boost performance among K-12 students have sparked sweeping changes including a new teacher evaluation system and a system that ties teacher merit pay to test scores.

Daniels' effort to require teachers to major in a subject area failed after members of the state's teacher licensing board raised concerns about the scope of the changes and the minimal time they had to review them.

Following that measure's failure, Daniels suggested the licensing board be called in for a "thank-you and a spine-stiffening session," according to a July 29, 2009, email he sent to his education advisers.

The state then tried to limit the number of social sciences courses, including those using Zinn's text, that would count for credit toward teacher licensing. It also opened the door to more students who earned degrees in areas like math and science to obtain licenses. That effort failed as well, but the rules have been resubmitted by Democratic schools Superintendent Glenda Ritz for public comment and are expected to come before the state school board again this fall.

A similar effort succeeded in Wisconsin, where Republican Gov. Scott Walker last summer said he expected more teachers to flock to science and math because of new rules allowing students who graduated with a major in a subject area to obtain teaching licenses.

Daniels did not return an Associated Press request seeking comment Thursday. A spokeswoman said Wednesday he would not discuss his efforts to change teacher training. The publication of the emails revived criticism of Daniels' appointment as Purdue's president, but the university's board of trustees has reaffirmed its support of him.

Daniels has said previously that he wanted to ensure that teachers are well-versed in subject areas, and not bogged down in education techniques.

"We cut from 36 to 16 hours what I'll call the methods courses. It's on the quaint theory if you can teach math, you ought to know some math," Daniels said during a December 2011 panel held in Washington by the Republican Governors Association. "... Education schools, as we know them, are not — let me just be gentle and say it's not contributing to the solution."

Critics within Indiana's university system said Daniels and his aides made a concerted effort to drive students away from the colleges of education.

Gerardo Gonzalez, dean of Indiana University School of Education, said the effort "was clearly an unprecedented attempt by government to interfere with the university curriculum."

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  • Read 'A Peoples History'
    One of the texts in question... "The People's History of the United States" by Howard Zinn. Try reading it first. It is an 'alternate account' of American History. When other texts purposefully leave out the dark side of history, Zinn attempts to fill in those gaps. It's amazing what gets left out when the 'winning side' writes the history book. Zinn attempts to provide more of the story in a well studied, well written historical perspective that you really can't find especially in the classroom.
  • Problems
    Only 25% of adults have college degrees. Seems like something he should've worked on and it also explains why he went after unions so that he can bring more low paying jobs to the state for the uneducated 75% who continue to vote republican. While I will commend him for trying to open the doors for more to become teachers he one problem wih this theory or push is just because one is knowledgeable in a topic doesn't mean they have the ability to teach it in a way others can or will Understand It which is another problem.
  • http://academeblog.org/2013/07/19/the-historians-cited-by-mitch-daniels-denounce-him/
    See this: http://academeblog.org/2013/07/19/the-historians-cited-by-mitch-daniels-denounce-him/
  • What is right?
    Would I rather have a liberal or a conservation teaching my children? Democrat or Republican? I don't really care about their political opinions and I sure as heck don't think they should be sharing them with my children. What I hope my children's teachers do is teach effectively and instill in them a desire to learn more; regardless of the course or subject matter. I understand how hard it is to capture the attention of today's youth (I teach Sunday School to teenagers), but there are teachers that do it and we desparately need more. Thanks to all you teachers who seek to connect with their students instead of just to teach from a lesson plan.
  • Always turn political
    There is such polarity that everything must be either liberal or conservative. It is very unfair to state that all teachers and our education system stinks. There are many great, passionate teachers. Likewise, there are some bad ones that for whatever reason, hung around long enough and now they have tenure. And don't forget the students; they must want to learn. I have two kids, went through the same schools with many of the same teachers. One wanted to learn and be a great student and one didn't. Well, one is highly successful and one isn't while the aptitude tests when they were young were similar. I like Mitch a lot. I have a hard time defending what he was doing here. We should all have strong principles to stand on. We shouldn't chastise or belittle those to don't share those views. And we certainly shouldn't rejoice that someone "has finally died".
  • it makes sense
    I never thought about this much till recently however it does make sense to take people who are proficient in a subject to teach. They would have a better comfort level and probably a better attitude and passion about what they are teaching. My best response is that my son who is in college had an instructor whom he said after the semester-"maybe I would have done better in this class if the instructor acted like she wanted to teach the subject." Passion folks is what drives most of us to do what we do. Maybe it should be that you major in a subject and minor in teaching. !!!
  • Right On
    I commend Daniel's for his thinking. Teachers in the classroom should be experts in the subject their teaching first, and proficient in how to teach second. The opposite looms disaster and our current public education system is proof. Why are football coaches in high school teaching statistics when they don't have the expertise to teach it? The best professors in my college experience were former workers in their respecive fields. Keep up the good work Mitch.
  • teacher education
    College of "education" (teacher training) have always been a disgrace, and have no place in serious universities. The school teachers I've known and to whom I've been exposed, have to a person been universally ignorant and therefore stupid. The damage they've done to generations of children is beyond calculation. One of the half dozen most intelligent people I've known had the advantage of never having seen the inside of a high school.
  • Not news
    This article is not news but rather is inflammatory propaganda. IBJ Editors should be ashamed of causing this. It is just another example of the typical character assassination so often employed by the Left to deflect from the real issue and to try and discredit a person who has proven himself as one of the best Governors of any state in recent history. Or, maybe it is just a slow news period for the "free" press.
  • Mitch is a fool
    There is a reason why Indiana is near the top of the list of states granting college degrees and near the bottom of the list of states with college educated adults. Its the backward thinking of most people in this state that drive the educated away.
  • Wrong!
    You don't TEACH or preach your personal ideology.
  • What?
    From article "discussion about academic freedom" There is a BIG difference between academic freedom and having a teacher push their ideology to students. Do you job of teaching or the State will find a way to fire you.
  • Show (somebody) the money
    Among other disconnects in the governor's philosophy on education, driving math and science majors to teaching is great rhetoric, until you find you're in a profession disrespected by know-it-alls who want to tell you how and what to teach, and pay you like a entry level busboy.

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