What qualifies me to teach in California? Well, since I teach in higher ed, not much, really: I have a Ph.D., but I could probably teach the courses I have with just a Master's degree.
Oh, and I have to
solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the State of California against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the State of California; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties upon which I am about to enter.
I've actually had to sign the oath a couple of times--when I first began working as a teaching assistant many years ago, and long before that, when I had an after-school tutoring job in a K-12 school district. Both times I signed the oath I felt deeply uncomfortable, but I could not be employed if I didn't sign the oath. No TAship = no salary, no tuition remission, and no health insurance--which would have meant, in effect, no grad school for me. It's an asinine system around an oath that I'm guessing few faculty take seriously.
How serious is the State of California about having faculty sign loyalty oaths? California State University East Bay just fired Marianne Kearney-Brown, who taught developmental (remedial) math, for refusing to sign the oath. Quaker Agitator has a nice round-up of the situation, along with an explanation of why a Friend (Quaker--Kearney-Brown is one) would refuse to sign such an oath on religious principle. He also writes,
Would, or will, this university demand that all Catholic instructors remove the crucifixes from around their throats? That all Jewish males on campus remove their yarmulkes? That any Muslim females take off their hijabs? This is discrimination, plain and simple.
This is an example of why we have an ACLU, and why, in this “post-9/11 world,” chock full of phony plastic patriotism and jerky, car magnet-toting jingoists, we still need one.
Here’s a deal for you: California American Civil Liberies Union, take this Friend’s case, and I’ll renew my lapsed membership. Today. Seems to me this is an easy win.
And if you’re so inclined (I am, and I did), you can contact the Office of Public Affairs for this fine, tolerant institution, a so-called university that prides itself (and advertises itself) as being “academically rich”… “multicultural”… “socially responsible”… “open-minded”… “welcoming”… “inclusive” here. Just be polite. That’s how Friends are supposed to act.
Those of you who have hung around The Clutter Museum for awhile know I have a deep respect for Friends--just as there are secular, cultural Jews, I might be considered a secular, cultural Friend--this incident stings me particularly deeply. How the hell can I work for an institution that requires me to sign a loyalty oath, while at the same time claiming to care deeply about education by taking progressive or even radical stances on student-centered learning, the importance of critical thinking, the centrality of civic discourse, and the connective and collective power of new media?
Joanne Jacobs writes that it's time to end loyalty oaths in California--she had to sign one to volunteer in the public schools. Many of her commenters disagree, however. Click through to read their comments.
Loyalty oaths have been popular since at least the 1950s, and it's not unusual for people to refuse to sign them--I recently learned that folksinger Pete Seeger didn't go on television for 17 years, in large part because he refused to swear an oath against communists, and the TV stations wouldn't let him on the air unless he signed. Some call that real patriotism, some call it foolish. Pete Seeger is awesome. (Would it be wrong to name our next child PeteSeeger-Guthrie JohnnyCash Springsteen? I suspect Mr. Trillwing thinks that would be a fine name.)
Homeschoolers were dealt a setback earlier this week when California courts affirmed that parents who homeschool their children must have teaching credentials. Click that San Francisco Chronicle link for details.
Kathleen A. Bergin of First Amendment Law Prof Blog offers a quick summary of the case:
A state appellate court in California ruled in In Re Rachel L that parents without teaching credentials cannot legally homeschool their children. The case involved Mary and Phillip Long who claimed that "sincerely held religious beliefs" required that they homeschool their children whom they said would be exposed to teachings of evolution and homosexuality in public school. Judge Walter Croskey characterized their claim as "conclusional, not fact specific," and "too easily asserted by any parent who wishes to home school his or her child.” The reach of the decision is unclear given the many options for homeschooling in California. The parents have vowed to appeal, and a spokesperson for Governor Schwarzenegger said that he might consider protective legislation if the issue is not resolve favorably through the courts.
Joanne Jacobs has an opinion on this as well:
I suspect the ruling will be overturned on appeal to the California Supreme Court — or by the state Legislature. Homeschooling is now accepted in our culture in a way that it was not five or 10 years ago. If there’s a public interest in making children attend school in an uncloistered setting, it has nothing to do with whether Mom has a teaching credential. There is no public interest in forcing homeschooling families underground."
This is an interesting issue as people at both extremes of the political spectrum (as well as plenty of folks in between) have reasons for homeschooling their children. An interesting coalition could develop of progressive parents and fundamentalist Christian homeschoolers. For a conservative Christian take on the issue, I send you to The Full Quiver Homeschool House, where Jenni urges readers to take action and quotes extensively from an article from the conservative news site World Net Daily. Conservative Christian homeschoolers often have pulled their children from school because they believe their children's education should be rooted in faith instead of secularism, because they don't want their children exposed to particular scientific ideas (such as evolutionary biology), and because they are worried about a public school culture that espouses gay rights--or, in their words, "teaches homosexuality." From a progressive perspective, these parents are worried, in effect, that schools will expose their children to too many ideas. From a conservative Christian homeschooling perspective, the concern is that schools are not exposing children to the right ideas.
Over on the progressive side, we have another group of parents who homeschool because they don't trust the state, but in this case because the parents worry that public schools won't expose their children to sufficient civic discourse--that their kids won't be exposed to a sufficient diversity of ideas. As Theresa Willingham writes at Homeschooling Unitarian Universalists,
Homeschooling is first and foremost a humanistic endeavor, conceived of by early education reformers in the 1960s who were very different from today's charismatic homeschool celebrities, and with no motive other than that of decentralized, uninstitutionalized learning. It is, at its source and as humanism has been called, an ideology of modernity. .. The focus of 1970s education reform leaders was not orthodoxy and obedience, but freedom of thought and learning.
We've all heard the arguments for and against homeschooling, so I won't rehash them all here. (If you haven't, you can read summaries of research supporting homeschooling, as well as critiques of the practice, at Wikipedia.) I will say that I have read plenty of stories of kids who end up functionally and culturally illiterate as a result of homeschooling, but I've also met some bright, well-adjusted college students who were homeschooled. Honestly, in general I'm suspicious of the institution, but I come by that suspicion honestly--I attended public schools in K-12, my parents taught for a collective 75+ years in public high schools, and my aunts and one uncle are public school district administrators.
I'm not convinced that every homeschooling parent needs to have a teaching credential--after all, do these parents really need to fulfill all the requirements for a credential, such as a classroom management seminar? That said, I think it would be a good idea to establish some alternative minimum standards for homeschooling parents and homeschool collectives. What kind of subject matter expertise should these parents have? And what kind of understanding of child development and theories of learning? What kind of preparation should a parent have if he or she is solely or largely responsible for educating a citizen of the United States?
What are your thoughts on homeschooling qualifications and loyalty oaths?