Precinct 333

Monday, January 31, 2005

College Of Education Outrage!

Scott McConnell, a student in the masters of Education program at LeMoyne College in Syracuse, New York, got an A- on his paper. He also was kicked out of school because of it.

LeMoyne College expelled Scott McConnell, a student from its Masters of Education program, for writing a paper in which he advocated the use of corporal punishment in schools, he said.

The paper, written for a class on classroom management, originally earned McConnell an A-. However, when he attempted to enroll in classes for the spring semester, he found he couldn't.

"LeMoyne doesn't believe students should be able to express their own views," McConnell said. "If you differ from our philosophical ideal you will be expelled from our college."

McConnell, who hopes to become an elementary school teacher, was informed last Tuesday that he couldn't continue at the school.

Now hold on. The paper was well-written, so that wasn't the issue. It clearly met the (presumably) rigorous standards of a graduate program. The only issue seems to have been that McConnell dared to take a position on the issue of corporal punishment that the school disagrees with. He also, according to one source, challenged current notions of multicultural education. And so McConnell, who had been conditionally admitted and attended course last summer and fall, was rejected for regular admission after doing a 60 hour internship in a local school after writing the paper.

“Even though I have strong convictions and I believe in corporal punishment, I do follow the law of the school and I have never had any problems. If Lemoyne was so afraid of this paper, why did they allow me to do more than 60 hours of in one classroom even after I wrote the paper,” McConnell said.

That would appear to be an excellent question. Assuming the evaluations were good (and he was notified that the problemwas his philosophy), does that not settle the issue of his ability to conform to expected norms in the classroom? And the evaluations were good.

McConnell did well during a practicum he served this fall at Syracuse's Franklin Magnet School of the Arts and as a daily substitute teacher in the Syracuse school district, said Neil Driscoll, a spokesman for the district.

So the issue isn't one of how he conducts himself in the classroom, it is one of whether or not he thinks the right thoughts and believes the right beliefs. COnsider the content of his rejection letter.

"I have grave concerns regarding the mismatch between your personal beliefs regarding teaching and learning and the Le Moyne College program goals," leading to the decision not to admit him, Leogrande wrote.

What we have here, then, is an attempt to create ideological clones. The college is serving as a gate-keeper, and won't let those with divergent views pass.

The issues that this case raises are very complicated, said Joseph Shedd, chair of the teaching and leadership programs in Syracuse University's School of Education.

It is about more than just a student's right to express their own opinions, he said.

"There is no clean dividing line between a person's opinions and his or her ability to make responsible professional judgments," Shedd said in an e-mail.

No there isn't -- but there is the question of academic freedom and the right to hold to a minority position within one's field of study. Especially when one considers, as is true here, that the law in a number of states continues to allow the use of corporal punishment. Is it the place of colleges and universities to expel or keep out students for advocating LEGAL activity?

By the way, the matter has spilled over into McConnell's employment. After getting good reviews as a substitute teacher, McConnell has been called on the carpet and faces an interview with the personnel department to determine if he will be permitted to continue as a substitute -- based not upon complaints about his conduct in the classroom, but upon the content of his paper.

The Education Wonks also blog on this story. So do the fine folks at Captain's Quarters, Peter the Elder, and Number 2 Pencil


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