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Do Ask, Do Tell

Do Ask, Do Tell

In the fall of 2006, the National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) solicited feedback on proposed revisions to its "Professional Standards, 2002 Edition." The organization responsible for accrediting colleges and programs for teacher education wanted to erase the phrase "social justice" and facilitate the de facto elimination of sexual orientation through the addition of various phrases and qualifiers.

While NCATE's deletion of social justice was clear and outright, the way it has marginalized sexual orientation is more complicated, or perhaps just really sneaky. Sexual orientation is included in the Standards' glossary definition of diversity, but the 2006 revisions added this text to the definition: "The types of diversity necessary for addressing the elements on candidate interactions with diverse faculty, candidates, and pre-K–12 students are stated in the rubrics for those elements."

A review reveals that sexual orientation is not included in any of those rubrics. In another explanation posted on its website in 2006, NCATE notes that it "expects the institution to provide candidates with opportunities to work with diverse higher education and school faculty, candidates, and students in pre-K–12 schools so that the candidates are ready to help all children learn. In this context, diversity is defined according to U.S. Census categories (gender; racial/ethnic background) socioeconomic status and exceptionalities." Again, as it is throughout the 2006 edition, sexual orientation is absent.

These are not merely bureaucratic shifts or language games. NCATE's standards have direct consequences for students, teachers, and schools. The standards reflect and contribute to a larger culture that actively attempts to erase our histories of social movements for change and LGBTQ lives. In particular, without the "tool" of inclusive and social justice-focused standards, teacher educators will have a more difficult time advocating for social justice and broader definitions of diversity in their programs.

As teacher educators concerned about social justice and LGBTQ youth, families, and teachers, we felt professionally obligated to challenge these proposed changes and to request the addition of gender identity. We drafted a letter to Arthur Wise, president of NCATE, pointing out that the "absence of sexual orientation and gender identity in the body of the standards, where other aspects of diversity are listed, sends the message that the needs and identities of LGBTQ students, families, and teachers are not important."

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