Who backs testing? Liberal reformers

Now that school testing is unpopular, its enemies see it as “conservative,” writes Rick Hess. But, liberal reformers are the most enthusiastic advocates of testing, which they see as the way to close the “achievement gap.”

“Conservative enthusiasm for testing has been tempered by an appreciation for school choice,” Hess writes. Liberals are all in.

In 2009, the Obama administration’s Race to the Top pushed states to sign on to the yet-to-be-developed Common Core tests and to promise they’d start judging teachers based on test scores. Since that time, the administration’s dubious practice of granting states “waivers” from No Child Left Behind if they agree to pay fealty to administration priorities when it comes to things such as teacher testing has continued to herd states down this path. The teacher-evaluation systems, in particular, require a spate of new tests for the three-quarters of teachers not captured by those NCLB reading and math tests.

Well-intentioned liberal reform groups such as the Education Trust, Center for American Progress, and Democrats for Education Reform have led the gap-closing charge, Hess concludes.

Study: Education doesn’t liberalize views

Highly educated whites and minorities are no more likely to support workplace affirmative action programs than are their less educated peers, according to a new study in Social Psychology Quarterly.  Education does increase support for race-targeted job training, said Geoffrey T. Wodtke, a doctoral student in sociology at the University of Michigan, who wrote the study.

“I think that some of the values that are promoted through education, such as individualism and meritocracy, are just much more consistent with opportunity-enhancing policies like job training than they are with redistributive or outcome-equalizing policies like affirmative action.”

While educated blacks and Hispanics are believed to be the most likely to benefit from affirmative action, they don’t support it.  They may feel stigmatized, speculated Wodtke.

Liberals, send your kids to school

Homeschooling and unschooling is the wrong choice for liberals and progressives, writes Dana Goldstein in Slate. She’s responding to Astra Taylor’s unschooling memoirin N+1, which urges parents to “empty the schools,” freeing children from “irrational authority six and a half hours a day, five days a week, in a series of cinder-block holding cells.”  Homeschooling is fundamentally illiberal, writes Goldstein.

It is rooted in distrust of the public sphere, in class privilege, and in the dated presumption that children hail from two-parent families, in which at least one parent can afford (and wants) to take significant time away from paid work in order to manage a process—education—that most parents entrust to the community at-large.

Liberal homeschoolers don’t want to let go of their children, Goldstein writes. She cites a Newsweek story on urban, educated, secular homeschoolers who’ve chosen do-it-yourself schooling. They believe “children are individuals, each deserving a uniquely curated upbringing,” writes Linda Perlstein. “That peer influence can be noxious. Many practice “attachment parenting,” which “involves round-the-clock physical contact with children and immediate responses to all their cues.”  One woman breast-fed her youngest till she was four.

OK, that sounds creepy. These kids are going to find the world very frustrating, if they ever get to live in it.

But Goldstein isn’t just trying to liberate overparented kids from Big Mommy. She argues that educated progressives should send their kids to racially and economically integrated public schools to pull up the achievement of their less-privileged classmates — and to learn to appreciate diversity.

If progressives want to improve schools, we shouldn’t empty them out. We ought to flood them with our kids, and then debate vociferously what they ought to be doing.

I doubt that progressive parents want to use their own children to improve public schools, if they can afford alternatives. However, homeschooling always will be a minority choice. Few parents have the time, energy, motivation and ability to teach their children at home.

All Your Children Are Belong to Us, responds William Jacobsen.

Why so few conservative professors?

Why so few conservative professors? The John William Pope Center for Higher Education Policy asked conservative and libertarian professors to respond to a paper by Neil Gross, a University of British Columbia sociology professor, and Ethan Fosse, a doctoral student at Harvard, which argues that conservatives don’t seek jobs in academia because they see it as a liberal profession.

Duke’s Michael Munger, a economics and political science professor, scoffs:

In other words, conservatives aren’t interested in things like history, literature, and the classics. Presumably, the idea is that conservatives just want to play golf and wear plaid pants and sweater sets in alarming colors.

This idea is absurd on its face: history, literature, classical education, and constitutional government are at the very center of the conservative ideal.

. . . quite a few faculty have told me with straight faces, that expecting a history or English department to hire a conservative is like asking a biology department to hire a creationist. Being a conservative, in many places, is just not intellectually respectable.

Academia is a “hostile environment” for libertarians and conservatives, adds Jonathan Bean, a history professor at Southern Illinois University.

Professor is a left-leaning label

Why are professors so likely to be liberal? It’s the stereotype, say sociologists Neil Gross and Ethan Fosse. Just as men see nursing as a women’s profession, conservatives see academia as a liberal’s profession and make other choices.

Journalism, art, fashion, social work and therapy are dominated by liberals; while law enforcement, farming, dentistry, medicine and the military attract more conservatives.

. . . The academic profession “has acquired such a strong reputation for liberalism and secularism that over the last 35 years few politically or religiously conservative students, but many liberal and secular ones, have formed the aspiration to become professors,” they write in the paper, “Why Are Professors Liberal?” That is especially true of their own field, sociology, which has become associated with “the study of race, class and gender inequality — a set of concerns especially important to liberals.”

When tenured professors hire new faculty, they favor those with similar viewpoints and values.