I referred yesterday to an article from NAS about NCATE, which is the largest accrediting body for schools of education in America. If you care about what is happening to American education, you need to know the contents of that article. And if you care about what is happening to American education and have a leadership role, you need to take seriously the issue of accreditation.
I talk to headmaster after headmaster who agrees that accreditation is disruptive and a vast waste of time. But, they usually insist, our parents need it for legitimacy. I understand this concern. I even agree with it. If you are going to reach the modern parent who was not well educated as a child and therefore probably can’t even imagine what a good school would be like, you need to prove to them somehow that this crazy thing you are doing has been recognized by somebody as an actual school.
It’s a decadent situation and one more fraught with peril than we want to admit, but I have no hope that more than a few schools (admittedly the best and most clear-focused, like Highlands Latin under Cheryl Lowe’s extraordinary leadership; nevertheless, only a few) will have the self-confidence and the leadership and communication skills to rise above it.
But I have to ask: Do you know who is recognizing you? Do you know who is providing those certificates you want your teachers to possess? Consider this from the NAS article:
The following declaration at the University of Alabama’s College of Education was typical, and didn’t quite put us in mind of the Judeo-Christian tradition:
[The program is] committed to preparing individuals to promote social justice, to be change agents, and to recognize individual and institutionalized racism, sexism, homophobia and classism….it includes educating individuals to break silences about these issues, propose solutions, provide leadership, and develop anti-racist, anti sexist …. alliances.
It was pretty hard to read a representative specimen like this and not come away with the impression that the Alabama teacher education program, in common with most others, sought to administer a heavy dose of political activism, to be swallowed simultaneously with pedagogy. What’s more, it was done with NCATE’s official sanction and all of the clout that it carried as a federally-authorized accreditor.
Maybe you agree that schools should promote social justice and maybe you agree that America is a white supremacist country driven by racism, sexism, homophobia, and classism (though it strikes me that not many other countries are as concerned about that list as we “white supremacists” are). But you need to be aware of something.
If you have established an institution to fob off your values on children and/or to control other people’s minds, you have to remember that the day will come when you will pass but the institution won’t. At that point, the freedom you destroyed will not revive. The institution you established will just as actively promote an agenda you are mortally opposed to.
It’s only a matter of time.
But most of you, my dear readers, probably aren’t radically progressive and politically correct in this degenerated way. Most of you are probably involved in Christian classical education in one way or another. So you are probably wondering what my point is. You don’t look to NCATE for accreditation.
But, what about your teachers? Who is certifying them? And who accredits the institution that certifies your teachers? Perhaps you are beginning to see the problem. The layers of bureaucracy in American education are crippling. It is not possible to achieve the reform we need to save our country with so many layers to remove and every single layer or person pointing to another for the national catastrophe that is our school system.
But what about your teachers? Where were they trained? And who accredits the institution that certified them? That you are a private school does mean the follies of conventional education theory do not permeate your classroom. Everybody in America, every single American, has had the quality of their lives undercut by NCATE. So has every school.
What am I proposing? Prudence and wisdom. Prudence to know how to adapt to the present circumstances. Wisdom to transcend them.
If you need to be accredited, then do it. But do it with your eyes open and with a clear and articulated understanding of what you are as an institution. Have you gone through the exercise of comparing, in detail, Christian classical with conventional education?
Do you know where the temptations to compromise your vision are most subtle? Do you know where the pressure to forget is most effective?
Never forget what you are. Select your accrediting body carefully. Keep it in its place. And spend more time figuring out what Christian classical education is than you spend figuring out how you can meet the demands of the accreditor.