Speaker: Constitution should allow freedom in classroom

The College of Education’s Green Honors Chair, a scholar on educational policy, told students, faculty and community members on Wednesday that the U.S. Constitution should be amended to give students and faculty academic freedom in the classroom.

“Education is not driven by educators, but it is driven by politicians,” author Joel Spring said. “What politicians do often ends up determining what school teachers do.”

Spring’s proposed amendment to the Constitution, focusing on education, features three primary goals, he said. The first goal is equality in education, especially in funding. The second component in the proposed amendment would center on the right for education in different languages and cultures. The third concentrated on academic freedom for teachers and students, Spring said. This would allow teachers to choose their own methods and materials to teach, while still following a curriculum guide.

“Right now, we are facing an issue of scripted lessons, of packaged lessons bought from publishers, in which the teacher does not make the decisions,” Spring said.

On Tuesday, as part of the lecture series, Spring discussed the globalization of education, noting that when one nation excels in a certain area of study, other countries adopt that nation’s textbooks and models to keep up with competition.

“The United States participates in this academic olympics,” Spring said.

The notion that school is only for training workers, Spring said, is a threat to education.

Spring said the textbook corporations had a role in this attitude and the standardization of education in the U.S. and globally. The sales of books and the profitability of standardized testing outweighed the corporations’ interest in education, he said.

This was evident back in the 19th century when the common school movement started, Spring said. Publishers were concerned they could not sell their products to a disorganized school system, so standardization was necessary, he said.

“One of the things that the textbook publishers did… is that they provided campaign money to create the common school,” Spring said. “The concern of publishers was to organize the system in such a way that they could ensure the sale of their products.”

Spring said this paradigm of human capital is spreading all over the world, especially in Africa and other developing areas. The spread can be attributed in large part to publishers and international organizations like the World Trade Organization, he said.

Spring’s proposed model involves focusing more on the rights and happiness of students and teachers and less on a global standardized curriculum, he said. His method to achieve a new model is altering the mind set of parents so they demand the new model for their children, he said.

Spring earned his doctorate in educational policy studies from the University of Wisconsin. He is the author of more than 20 scholarly books and currently teaches at Queens College and the Graduate Center of the City University of New York.

Fran Huckaby, assistant professor in the College of Education, said that Spring’s visit was beneficial.

“There have been many engaging conversations that have pushed some of the things that we have been talking about in new directions,” Huckaby said.