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Troubled, Tired, but Fighting Back: Neoliberalism in Teacher Education

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Troubled, Tired, but Fighting Back

Neoliberalism in Teacher Education

STEVE GRINESKI

After 42 years in public school teaching and work in teacher education as professor, department chairperson, and interim dean, I have witnessed dramatic changes in the landscape of preparing teachers because of neoliberal education reform. My institution is typical of many regional universities—beginning as a normal school before transitioning to a state teachers college and then state university, all the while committed to preparing teachers. I am sure my story is all too familiar.

Teacher education, in the progressive tradition, has sought to prepare teachers for their role in sustaining our democracy. Values like critical questioning, fairness, justice, and participation illustrate this struggle. While this struggle is challenging due to the economic, social, and political webs of influence shaping and surrounding teacher preparation, the more recent neoliberal-inspired attacks, characterized by deregulation, competition, reductionism, and efficiency, are especially daunting. This reform attack, financially supported by big hitting philanthrocapitalists like the Gates Foundation and anti-teacher organizations like the National Council on Teacher Quality, wants to transform the work of teachers and teacher educators and redefine the purpose of this work.

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The Memorandum

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The Memorandum

NEILL F. ARMSTRONG

Introduction

In the fall of 2014 I began drafting a memorandum. The impetus behind this effort was grounded upon a series of longitudinal observations, reflections, readings, and conversations with colleagues, students, and in-service educators on the topic of neoliberalism and its intrusion into the field of public education. My work takes place in the context of teacher preparation. When I undertook the writing of the memorandum I had been working at my university, a regional, medium-sized state institution, for eleven years. I had been in the “field,” that is, in partner public schools, on a consistent basis over the years in the course of administering an internship bloc and thus felt reasonably grounded in the state of affairs in Texas public education. Houston, as many who follow public school’s ups and downs know, was the site of the “Texas miracle” that catapulted the standards-based, high-stakes accountability brand of education onto the national stage. Houston is two and a half hours down the road from my workplace and roughly one-third of my university’s students hail from the Houston area.

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Neoliberalism and the Preparation of Bilingual Education Teachers

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Neoliberalism and the Preparation of Bilingual Education Teachers

MICHAEL D. GUERRERO

The context for this article is the preparation of bilingual education teachers aimed at meeting the growing population of emergent bilingual learners across the United States. The growth of this population is present in virtually every state of the union and bilingual education and/or English as a second language teacher preparation efforts as well. The projected growth of these learners ensures for the continuation of associated teacher preparation activities in colleges and schools of education across the country. Moreover, the dire academic condition of this segment of our school-aged population, particularly the low level of college readiness and completion, has long posed a challenge for teacher preparation entities and society as a whole. The issue is not only about how to keep up with the demand for bilingual education teachers, but more importantly one of how to better prepare them to meet the academic needs of emergent bilingual learners in a society where schooling is primarily designed for cultural, linguistic, and ideological assimilation. In this profession we routinely swim upstream, and the work that teacher educators do to prepare bilingual education teachers is critical if we have any hope of creating a more democratic society. However, when political and business entities collude to “starve the beast,” swimming upstream becomes more difficult yet more essential.

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The Neoliberal Social Imaginary and Teacher Education

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The Neoliberal Social Imaginary and Teacher Education

REBECCA A. GOLDSTEIN

Broadly speaking, I envision a “neoliberal social imaginary” to be a set of social, political, cultural, and—above all—economic relations that have evolved over the past four decades to shape how groups and individuals come to understand their roles, place, rights, and responsibilities in relation to the global market. To be clear, there is no singular neoliberal social imaginary. Rather, many such imaginaries exist, and they are neither stable nor enacted and experienced uniformly by those who encounter their material and corporeal effects. Neoliberal social imaginaries are dependent upon the people who envision, live under, and challenge them because their relational power operates hegemonically. That is, even as they are contested neoliberal social imaginaries interpenetrate culture and society to root themselves in common sense narratives about the “way the world works.” While social imaginaries can serve to uncover and interrogate that which oppresses and marginalizes with the goal of effecting positive social action, in the case of the neoliberal they serve to normalize, silence, and dehumanize because all moral and ethical obligations are secondary to market ideologies.

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The Trump Administration and Teacher Education: Thoughts from the First Days

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The Trump Administration and Teacher Education

Thoughts from the First Days

LOIS WEINER

I think the question we have been asked to address has been eclipsed by another: How has Donald Trump’s victory changed the political, economic, social, and ideological landscape in the United States? And what are the implications of these changes for teacher education? In my contribution I will offer preliminary thoughts about this big picture, acknowledging that no one has a crystal ball for predictions, least of all for a president who has never held elective office. These developments are clearly too new and too complex for me to fully analyze here.

Still, I think Trump’s nominees for cabinet positions and the majority status of the Republican Party reveal the agenda: intensification of privatization and “free market” policies that impose “choice” and “competition,” primarily through vouchers. At the same time, Trump’s election signals ideological shifts that are important to teacher education.

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Accountability as a Technology of Governmentality: Policy and Disruption on Teaching Practice

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Accountability as a Technology of Governmentality

Policy and Disruption on Teaching Practice

Denise LaVoie LaFrance

ABSTRACT: Neoliberal ideology frames the discourse of the current political rhetoric of education as an economic investment in the preparation of students to compete in a global economy. These discourses that emanate from policy makers shape the construct of schooling and control the trajectory of education in the United States. Recent educational reforms implemented accountability systems that are assumed to be the drivers of positive educational outcomes and higher student achievement; however, the impact of these systems of accountability shapes teaching practice and forces teachers to be accountable to a system. This study examined the outcomes of current educational policy on daily teaching practices. In addition, it examined teachers’ self-regulation as a means to adapt and remain in a regulated environment. The perspectives of beginning and experienced teachers from an urban and a rural area were analyzed through semi-structured interviews, classroom observations, and document analysis.

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Examining the Neoliberal Social Imaginary in Teacher Education

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Examining the Neoliberal Social Imaginary in Teacher Education

PATRICK M. JENLINK

Editor’s Note: With the Dialogues of Teacher Education section in Teacher Education & Practice, we invite our readers to join us in a venture to create a venue for giving voice to difficult problems of the day. Specifically, our purpose is to bring individuals together and engage in a meaningful, critical examination of selected topics that concern teacher educators and practitioners. We hope the reader enjoys the dialogue on Examining the Neoliberal Social Imaginary in Teacher Education in this issue, and that our contributing authors stimulate important and needed conversations among teacher educators, practitioners, policy makers, and other cultural workers concerned with improving teacher education and practice.

The theme of this dialogue, “Examining the Neoliberal Social Imaginary in Teacher Education,” draws into specific relief current perspectives of how teacher education and the work of preparing teachers for their role in a democratic society is being influenced by a neoliberal agenda. Along this line, the theme is concerned with substantive treatment of identifying and exploring the priorities that recognized individuals such as you believe to be of critical importance. These will be priorities that are perceived as important to defining the work of teacher education in preparing teachers to enter schools and at the same time working to counter the impact of neoliberalism. In particular, these priorities identified would reflect, in part, the political, economic, pedagogical, and moral demands that neoliberalism has placed on teacher education in a democratic society. Herein the emphasis might be further delineated to that of preparing teachers to enter schools and teach students who will both inherit the effects of neoliberalism and at the same time be expected to take on the responsibilities of citizens in a democratic society. This dialogue takes direction from the article by Peter McLaren (this issue) that examines, critically, the neoliberalism and the need for a new revolution in teacher education.

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Book Review: College (Un)Bound: The Future of Higher Education and What It Means for Students

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Book Review

College (Un)Bound: The Future of Higher Education and What It Means for Students
by Jeffrey Selingo

New York, NY: New Harvest, 2013 261 pages, $7.78 (Paperback), ISBN: 978-1477800744

JEFFREY CHUA

ABSTRACT: This book review analyzes Jeffrey Selingo’s book titled College (Un)Bound: The Future of Higher Education and What It Means for Students . In his book, Selingo, who is a best-selling author and editor at large for the Chronicle of Higher Education , takes us on a tour to look at the challenges that American higher education faces, specifically on how colleges and students are mismatched, and the ineffectiveness of the business of college, delivered at the expense of students and parents alike. He digs deep into these topics, oftentimes through evocative descriptions of college students’ decision-making process of navigating higher education systems, allowing us to feel both the frustration and confusion of these students while giving us the dark realities of universities as a business institution that allowed them to fall into these financial pitfalls in the first place. Even though that may be the case, College (Un)Bound nevertheless is a practical sourcebook and guidebook for parents and students, who could easily identify and picture themselves in the shoes of those mentioned in Selingo’s vignettes; and for university administrators and policy makers alike, that is, in terms of tackling the financial challenges of getting a college degree and how higher education might (and will) change in the future.

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Dismantling Public Schools: Reflections against Neoliberal Education Policy

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Dismantling Public Schools

Reflections against Neoliberal Education Policy

NATHALIA JARAMILLO

At the time of this writing, the U.S. senate has confirmed Betsy DeVos as secretary of education. Her confirmation was one of the most controversial to date in the Trump administration, requiring a tiebreaking vote by Vice President Mike Pence. Of all the 2017 Trump cabinet nominees, DeVos has been among the most contested, and within some activist and political circles, despised. To many, DeVos is the epitome of neoliberalism in education. Her platform espouses school choice as equality of opportunity, vis-à-vis the dismantling of public schooling and the redirection of public monies toward an aggressive voucher, charter, and virtual school system. Put simply, public schools are being privatized.

The general public outcry and denouncement of DeVos as secretary of education signals a deep discomfort with the steady encroachment of neoliberal policy in education. Neoliberalism, in its most rudimentary form, promotes an agenda of economic and social transformation under the sign of the free market. Such a position strikes deep at a society’s need to consider the aims and objectives of education. The free market determinism espoused by so-called education leaders such as DeVos suggests that teaching and learning should be cast in terms of profitability alone. Profitability is partly monetary, in that corporate entities will be given the opportunity to bid for educational contracts at will, but there is also a human dimension that needs to be considered. At stake is the very subjectivity of our youth and the ability of our society to challenge the corporate encroachment in our social institutions and to have a voice at the table about what kind of education should be in place to attend to our society’s needs.

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Globalization, Neoliberalism, and Teacher Education

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Globalization, Neoliberalism, and Teacher Education

SUSAN L. ROBERTSON

It has always struck me there is a profound set of paradoxes at play in the contemporary education world, found, for instance in the doublespeak in the policy landscape regarding teachers and their role in shaping the minds and futures of the next generation. The doublespeak, of course is that it is pointed out by academics (MacBeath, 2012), governments, as well as the OECD (2005), consultancy firms like McKinsey & Co. (cf. Mourshed, Chijioke, & Barber, 2010), and philanthropic organizations promoting teacher policy (Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, 2011), that it is teachers and their professional learning and development, as well as conditions of work, who are presented as making the difference to being a top performing education system and nation, and able to generate step changes in learner attainment.

Yet listen hard enough and there is another message that trills out when it comes to teacher policies, whether it be teacher education, teacher’s employment conditions, teacher promotion, or teacher professional development. The ideational underpinnings of all of these different aspects of teachers’ education and work conditions all tend in the same direction, such as eschewing the value of any kind of pedagogical knowledge and claim to expertise, viewing teachers as opportunistic whose professional judgments need to be questioned, valuing (military) experience in disciplining others is a desirable criterion as a basis for being an effective teacher, and constructing teachers as inclined toward laziness, which in turn is best managed through the proper calibration of incentives, such as short-term contracts.

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Teaching beyond Training: Breaking Paths toward Justice

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Teaching beyond Training

Breaking Paths toward Justice

JULIE GORLEWSKI

The Train

In spring 2014, State University of New York (SUNY) Chancellor Nancy Zimpher visited the campus where I was an assistant professor. During the question and answer period, a colleague raised concerns about student–teacher placement, a task that had become increasingly difficult as high-stakes, standardized accountability measures were used to evaluate students, teachers, administrators, and schools. The chancellor dismissed the concern, noting that doctors in SUNY teaching hospitals regularly take on interns. Laughing, she asked, “What’s the problem with teachers, anyway?”

After I pointed out some flaws in her analogy, she became angry. She ended our exchange by pointing her finger at me and saying, “You can stay where you are, but these things are happening; the train has left the station.” While this is a common refrain among neoliberal reformers, it represents a false choice: get on the neoliberal train, or stand still. It dismisses the possibility of change from within, and reinforces the notion that resistance is futile. This dichotomy forecloses all but two paths: be neoliberal, or be left behind.

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Neoliberalism, Critical Pedagogy, and Forging the Next Revolution in Teacher Education

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Neoliberalism, Critical Pedagogy, and Forging the Next Revolution in Teacher Education

PETER MCLAREN

Neoliberalism is a major dimension of contemporary capitalist social life and impacts every facet of contemporary world, not least of which is the education system which has, undeniably, and over recent years, become fully insinuated into the world ecology of human capital (Brown, 2015). The field of education has an inherent instability that has allowed it to be usurped fairly easily by the logic of neoliberal economics administered by means of a market metric macrophysics of power and set of governing tactics. Neoliberalism submits everything in its path to a process of monetization and simultaneously transforms everything and everyone within our social universe to a commodity form (Brown, 2015). Neoliberal capitalism has fertilized the ground upon which the law of instrumentality has taken root.

Many teachers have conscripted the term “neoliberal capitalism” into their vocabulary of critique but in doing so there has been, in my estimation, too much emphasis on the term “neoliberal” and insufficient emphasis on the term “capitalism.” This lack of amplification is not because teachers tend to forget that it is capitalism itself which is at the root of the problem, it is more the case that teachers in the United States have little, if any, exposure to a Marxist critique of critical economy and thus have very little to say about capitalism, how it works, and why it has fallen into crisis. While they may have read some selections from the works of Paulo Freire, and perhaps even some articles or chapters on critical pedagogy, it is very likely that the discussions of capitalism by teachers in the traditionally administered classroom would be denuded, deracinated, or domesticated such that a critical approach to capitalism as a structure of dehumanization would be glossed over or be completely absent from discussion. The challenge therefore becomes: How can we reach beneath the skin of capitalism and give it a conceptual autopsy, uncover its bone and gristle, and bring into focus its inner workings in order to understand—and resist—how it makes us feel and think? And how it is connected to other contemporary social antagonisms such as institutionalized racism, patriarchy, sexism, and so on. But there is another reason why the concept of capitalism is not dealt with in teacher education programs. No doubt this is because many progressive as well as radical left teachers have a difficult time envisioning what a viable alternative to capitalism might look like. The left is just as much at fault as the right in this regard. Compounding this difficulty is the fact that outside of earnest and well-meaning moral exhortations to treat all human beings fairly and justly, and clarion calls to redistribute the wealth along the lines of, say, policies articulated by a Bernie Sanders or Robert Reich, there is not much that teachers feel they can do to save public education and American society from collapsing into another Gilded Age. At the same time there persists a painful recognition that teachers must persist in exposing political interventions into school reform by the state as productive processes which are designed not in the interests of those whose labor power will be enhanced but in the interests of those who will make use of the labor power of the many in order to augment that labor power for the production of private profits for the few.

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Eulogy for Democratic Teacher Education

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Eulogy for Democratic Teacher Education

P. TAYLOR WEBB

The posed question is an astute alarm for those of us working in teacher preparation programs. Unfortunately, I fear that the question has arrived too late. Given the 2016 presidential results in the United States, I am not optimistic about the future of democratic teacher education. The election signals a broader conversion of the United States into a “post-liberal” (Douthat, 2016; Hall, Massey, & Rustin, 2015) or, what I have discussed elsewhere, into a “proto-fascist” political environment. Below, I examine the posed question to illustrate four implications for teacher educators working in these times.

One reading of the prompt suggests that democracy and teacher education lie outside neoliberal rationalities. This interpretation maintains that democracy, neoliberalism, and teacher education are relatively distinct figures, whereas neoliberalism negatively intercedes upon the other two. Fair enough. However, given the election, I situate teacher education in a neoliberalism that has already destroyed much of what is referred to as “democracy.” Neoliberalism has economized life through market metrics in order to govern people more effectively. It accomplished this by withdrawing state support and expecting people to be responsible for their own care through entrepreneurial practices, enunciated as an ethos of “responsibilization.” Neoliberalism interpolates people as human capital, and education is the principal means to differentiate “employment potential” in order to more effectively govern. But now, individuals and organizations are responsible for (or “free to choose” to use the common neoliberal vernacular) their governance.

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Neoliberalism, Teacher Education, and Restricted Teacher Professionalism

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Neoliberalism, Teacher Education, and Restricted Teacher Professionalism

LAWRENCE ANGUS

During the past thirty years, there have been major changes in government and public thinking about education. The changes, by and large, have had a perverse effect on teaching and have, in fact, contributed to a substantial de-professionalization of teachers to the point that serious debate is needed on what kind of education is desirable for the 21st century and what kind of teachers are needed for the task. The major themes in current discussion of education policy, however, are not directly about education at all, but about how education can best develop human resources to serve the needs of the globalized economy. As Saltman (2014, 251) explains, “Neoliberal ideology sees education not as a public good ideally serving a democratic society but as a private good primarily useful for preparing workers and consumers for the economy.” The economic outcomes of education are privileged over the social purposes and processes of learning. Engaging in this debate should be a major component of the teacher education curriculum. Beginning teachers need to understand that movements in education policy have had a profound influence on teaching practice and, perhaps even more importantly, have generated widely accepted discourses of performativity and educational effectiveness that have resulted in contested constructions of teacher identity and the purpose of education. Gaining insight into the multiple effects of neoliberalism, in this case into notions of teacher identity and educational politics, is an important priority in the process of preparing teachers for their role in promoting a democratic society.

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Making the Inherently Inefficient (More) Efficient: Neoliberalism as “Aim” in Teacher Education

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Making the Inherently Inefficient (More) Efficient

Neoliberalism as “Aim” in Teacher Education

ZACHARY A. CASEY

There is an old teacher story that was passed down to me early in my career in education. It goes something like this:

A CEO of a juice company is speaking to a room full of teachers. She’s going on and on about how their juice is the highest quality, how they make sure each and every berry is at the peak of ripeness, all their various quality and spot checks, and about their constant focus on improving their productivity: at getting better at what they are already “great” at. Toward the end of the talk, a teacher raises her hand and asks “What about the berries that are bruised, or broken? What do you do with those berries?” The CEO replies, “Oh, we would never put any bruised or broken berries into our juice! We throw them away.” The teacher looks around at her colleagues and then explained to the CEO, “Every parent sends the best kids they have to school, and even if they are bruised and broken, we cannot and will not throw them away. So we really can’t run our school the same way you run your juice company.”

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