Illinois Readies Disastrous Teaching Standards

The Illinois government is about to decide whether to transform the state’s teachers into a radical political vanguard bent on indoctrinating the state’s children in socialism and undermining academic achievement.

Of course, that’s not how they’re stating it. The Illinois Legislature’s Joint Committee on Administrative Rules will consider on February 16 the Illinois State Board of Education’s proposed Culturally Responsive Teaching and Leading Standards to determine certification of all teachers and other education personnel in the state.

“This Part establishes certain standards that shall apply to the issuance of all Illinois professional educator licenses endorsed in teaching, school support personnel, and administrative fields,” the proposal states. The standards, if approved, would go into effect on October 1. The stated aim is the nebulous but apparently innocuous goal of creating “the culturally responsive teacher and leader.”

Though written with generous helpings of gobbledygook, the standards are quite clear about the intention to license only teachers fully committed to political and cultural indoctrination and willing to ignore academic achievement to the extent that it gets in the way of this, which is to say: completely. The state’s “culturally responsive teachers and leaders” will “value the notion that multiple lived experiences exist, that there is not one ‘correct’ way of doing or understanding something, and that what is seen as ‘correct’ is most often based on our lived experiences.”

In short, two plus two equals four only if that is how the child has “experienced” it at home, among neighborhood denizens, and on TV and social media.

Children will be graded accordingly, as teachers and administrators “[c]onsider a broader modality of student assessments” including decidedly nonacademic criteria such as “community assessments, social justice work, action research projects, and recognition beyond academia.”

That mandate, plus the requirement to teach “with emphasis on prioritizing historically marginalized students” means children will be graded not on how well their ideas comport with reality but will be apportioned grades in whatever way best ensures each “identity” group -- "(race/ethnicity, national origin, language, sex and gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, physical/developmental/ emotional ability, socioeconomic class, religion, etc.)” -- gets the same grades overall.

The houses, bridges, and automobiles built by people thus educated will be very interesting to see, though not useful for any other purposes.

The new rules would also codify and expand the perversion of school personnel into spies bent on rooting out crimethink in students’ households. Teachers and administrators will “[k]now about their students and their lives outside of school, using this knowledge to build instruction that leverages prior knowledge and skills,” the plan mandates.

The standards are all about race, sex, money, and political power -- reading, math, science, and other essentials of intellectual capacity be damned. Teachers will be required to engage in leftist political activism in their free time and promote “student activism and advocacy… with real world implications.”

This set of standards would use the state’s licensure process and obedient college education programs to weed out any teachers devoted to academic excellence before they can enter the profession, and it would evidently apply to any private schools that use licensed teachers.

In addition to their catastrophic academic effects, these rules will be costly for taxpayers in Illinois and other states that implement them. Greatly reducing the pool of teachers available in the state (because other states don’t have these rules), will raise the cost of teachers by decreasing the supply without reducing the demand for their services. Perhaps that is one of the intended effects of the standards.

What other states can learn from this exercise is that the education establishment is fully committed to state governments mandating a politicized curriculum that has no room for each child to reach his or her full potential.

With the educational establishment having reached peak corruption, the only plausible remedy is to return power to localities and ultimately to parents. Parents and taxpayers have a common interest in ensuring their often-huge property tax bills pay for schools that teach children what they must know and be able to achieve success in life instead of demoralizing them and leaving them without the knowledge and skills they deserve. They are thwarted in this goal because the concentration of power over education at the state level removes the ability of parents and taxpayers to hold local schools accountable and places power in the hands of the types of mad bureaucrats who wrote the proposed Illinois standards.

In addition, programs that allow state education funding to follow the child to the school of the parents’ choice can put further pressure on public schools to improve student achievement. Gold-standard academic studies have consistently shown that school choice raises educational accomplishment not only for the choice students but also for those who remain behind in the government schools. It is truly a win-win policy.

States that follow these citizen-empowering policies will create a great competitive advantage for dedicated teachers and the children they teach. Those who follow Illinois’ example will only foster more dependency, demoralization, and despair.

S. T. Karnick (skarnick@heartland.orgis director of publications at The Heartland Institute.

Image: ISBE