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U of M fails to ensure competent new teachers

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28Oct

By: Graham Lane

Published: October 28th, 2016 – Winnipeg Sun

It is unfortunate when ivory-tower bureaucrats force our children to pay a high cost for a
politically-correct policy. But, this is happening at the University of Manitoba.

A new policy passed by the University’s Senate requires that graduating teachers represent a
rainbow of diversity. Great, except will they also have the intellectual and practical skills needed
to be the excellent teachers Manitoba students need? Parents know their children need to
compete for jobs with students from other provinces and countries.

Beginning in 2017, the University’s faculty of education will admit 55% of students based on
having the highest admission scores, the other 45% will be admitted on the basis of a variety of
self-identified diversity categories.

Indigenous candidates will get 15% of the spots; LGBTTQ people will have 7.5%; people with
physical, mental, psychological, sensory or learning disabilities will have 7.5%; those thinking
they have been treated badly “based on their perceived racial background, colour and/or
ethnicity” will have 7.5%; and people who have not had an opportunity for university study
because of social, economic or cultural reasons will have 7.5% of the spots.

Fortunately, two retired U of M academics, Hymie Rubenstein and Rodney Clifton, have written
a scathing analysis of this policy (published in the Canadian intellectual journal, C2C).
Rubenstein and Clifton note that at present the faculty of education already has very low
admission standards. Applicants are accepted with grades as low as a “C” in courses they seek to
teach, together with a meagre Grade Point Average of only 2.5 (the lowest standard for admission
to any post-baccalaureate degree program at the university). Students with GPAs of 2.5 could be
selected over students with GPAs of 4.5, if the former belong to one or more of the designated
categories.

Candidates may identify with as many categories as they want, no one will check to see if their
self-identification is true. If, for example, a candidate claims to be intellectually impaired or
socially disadvantaged, no one will ask for documentation.

For this reason, ‘smart’ student teachers with low GPAs will claim some disadvantages to elevate
their application into the 45% reserved for the special diversities categories. Consider, a recent
national study shows that between 20 and 25% of Canadian university students suffer from a
mental disorder. Truthfully, these students can legitimately claim to belong to this designated
category and be admitted, even if their illness is so severe that they will not be effective teachers.

With this new policy, Manitoba’s predominant university cannot be trusted to select and educate
the best student teachers. Consequently, the Department of Education in the provincial
government surely must step in and require that graduating teachers pass rigorous certification
exams, such as PRAXIS (which includes both knowledge and teaching performance
components), before certifying them to teach in Manitoba. Rigorous certification exams are, of
course, required in all serious professions: Chartered Public Accountants, Lawyers, Medical
Doctors, etc..

It is time that teachers are tested in the same way as other professionals to ensure that they are, in
fact, competent. Manitoba students should not need to pay for a foolish, politically-correct,
policy by the faculty of education at the University of Manitoba.

Graham Lane leads Manitoba Forward (manitobaforward.ca).

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