Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Let's dispose of accreditation 

The National Association of Scholars has sent a letter to the U.S. Dept. of Education encouraging an investigation into two accrediting bodies. The Chronicle of Higher Education carries the story (five day temp link, permalink for subscribers.)

In a letter dated today, the association asks Sally L. Stroup, the department's
assistant secretary for postsecondary education, to investigate the National
Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education and the Council on Social Work
Education. Both accreditors, says the letter, urge universities to rate students
based on their commitment to "social justice."

In the case of teacher education, the letter says, the accreditor suggests that universities assess students' professional "dispositions." The council defines dispositions as "beliefs and attitudes related to values such as caring, fairness, honesty, responsibility, and social justice." While the accreditor doesn't explicitly
require universities to assess students' commitment to social justice, by listing it as a possibility the accreditor encourages universities to do so, Stephen H. Balch, president of the scholars' association, wrote in the letter.

That is problematic, he says, because social justice is an "ideological" term that encourages teacher-education programs to adopt "what appears to be a political viewpoint test for students."

We've talked about cases at Brooklyn College and Washington State with this. NAS is also pursuing the Council on Social Work Education for requiring programs that seek its accreditation "ensure that students work to 'advance social and economic justice'."

Accreditation is a rent-seeking device. By limiting the number of "accredited" universities these bodies reduce competition and push up the prices received by those universities that have accreditation. Because faculty often cannot get money directly as the gains from this rent-seeking, they take it in other forms. One of these is the use of the accreditation process to pursue ideological goals in teaching. To end rent-seeking, we should end the requirement that teachers and social workers must come with degrees from accredited agencies. It is simply another way for Leviathan government to perpetuate itself.

cf. Richard Vedder, Colleges: Is Government Part of the Solution, or Part of the Problem?