A poor disposition
September 21, 2005
It is welcome to hear that the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) does not sanction ideological indoctrination. (See Arthur E. Wise's letter about my recent Fordham paper, Personality Test: The dispositional dispute in teacher preparation today, and what to do about it.) Since NCATE's own disposition standard apparently was invoked as a way of justifying this indoctrination attempt, NCATE should publicly and explicitly disavow such uses of their standard in this case and wherever else they may occur. This would go a long way toward demonstrating NCATE's professional objectivity.
I am less sympathetic with NCATE's assertion that it "defines dispositions for teaching in another way." As members of a common linguistic community, we do not get to make up our own meanings for words. As I documented in my Fwd., the behavioral sciences have defined "dispositions" in a clear and rigorous way, in contrast to NCATE's jumbled attempt. The scientific definition is available for NCATE to adopt. The reason that I alluded to Orwell's 1984 was to point out the serious mischief that can be created by altering the meanings of established words. Any of us can make an error, but when people operate in good faith (my assumption here and in my article), they admit to their error and correct it. NCATE should revise the way it defines its disposition standard and follow a principled approach to its implementation.
William Damon is a professor at Stanford University