License to woke

Minnesota’s new teacher licensing standards will require educators to ‘demonstrate’ ideological content.

As aspiring educators prepare to instruct our next generation of leaders, they will be required to demonstrate an illiberal worldview in order to be licensed through the state — regardless of where they want to teach.

The changes to the Standards of Effective Practice, set by Gov. Tim Walz’s Professional Educator Licensing and Standards Board (PELSB) and intended to reflect the fundamental knowledge and skills teachers need to teach, use language that is clearly ideological, not academic — from Critical Race Theory and identity politics to gender ideology.

Teacher candidates completing initial licensure programs in Minnesota or existing teachers seeking an initial Tier 3 license through the licensure via portfolio process will have to incorporate the ideologically driven content in their coursework or show how they have met the requirements through prior coursework, professional development, and work and teaching experience, to name a few.

The licensure rule changes include requiring affected educators to:

  • “affirm” student identities including sex and gender, gender identity, and sexual orientation and “incorporate” them into a learning environment;
  • “understand” how “ethnocentrism, eurocentrism, deficit-based teaching, and white supremacy undermine pedagogical equity”;
  • “understan[d] multiple theories of race and ethnicity” including intersectionality;
  • “assess” their “biases” and “mitigate their own behavior to disrupt oppressive systems”;
  • “empower” learners “to be agents of social change to promote equity.”

PELSB justifies the politicization of teacher training requirements by stating that “a teacher must have a foundational understanding of how race and racism are embedded in our institutions and everyday life” in order to “understand and implement culturally-responsive pedagogy.”

Teachers should and do celebrate our state’s increasingly diverse student body, but these new changes incorporate stereotypic assumptions about groups of students and teachers that will divide students within Minnesota classrooms and do nothing to improve academic outcomes. They treat teachers and students as mere representatives of their race and gender groups versus the unique, complex individuals they are. I had the privilege of serving a roomful of diverse students, looking to me for knowledge, instruction, and guidance. I can’t imagine being expected to treat them as flattened group identities and cultures rather than special individual learners.

What will these rule changes do to student learning, to the teacher shortage, and to the education profession? Such a radical overhaul of the teaching standards undermines how teachers and students view themselves and the world around them and does not encourage productive schooling.

The shortcomings of Minnesota’s public school system are real and have been allowed to persist for far too long — from freefalling test scores and a stubborn achievement gap to unsafe classrooms and teacher recruitment and retainment challenges. But such problems will not be alleviated under rule changes that deliberately impose contested and divisive concepts on educators, and eventually passed through to students. PELSB’s administrative promulgation of activism is not what the majority of Minnesotans want within the education system, as evidenced by the overwhelming public opposition to the rule changes from teachers, education specialists, parents, legal centers, and many others.

We must stand together to promote our common humanity and challenge imposition of this illiberal worldview. If you are an educator, parent, or teacher preparation provider wondering how these changes will impact your profession, children’s classrooms, and careers, please reach out to American Experiment to learn more. Our coalition of teachers, school board members and administrators, legal professionals, and parents are already equipping Minnesota families with resources and tools and fighting on their behalf. It’s never too late to stand up for teachers’ rights to provide and students’ rights to receive a quality education free from political ideologues.