For three weeks this September, Can’t Be Neutral led a petition campaign calling for the reinstatement of Dr. Barbara Madeloni to her position as senior lecturer in the School of Education at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. In that time we collected over 1800 signatures of support demanding that this breach of academic freedom be corrected. Beyond the signatures of support, however, we heard from current and former students and colleagues who spoke of Dr. Madeloni’s profound contributions to their personal and professional development as scholars, educators, and activists. To that end, the petition below extends our understanding of the nature of this wrongdoing to include that the School of Education find a place for Dr. Madeloni as a scholar and educator whose contributions are essential to the mission of the University.
Dear Dean McCormick:
We, the undersigned, write to express our grave concerns about the non-renewal of Professor Barbara Madeloni from her position as Senior Lecturer at the University of Massachusetts Amherst School of Education.
Dr. Madeloni is an educator and scholar whose commitment to social justice education is manifest in her classroom practice, her scholarship, her collegial relationships and her work with school partnerships. Students recognize Dr. Madeloni as a professor who challenges them while making space for them to use their voices, build community, and engage the complex work of teaching under corporate reform. Colleagues recognize Dr. Madeloni’s leadership, support and willingness to take on difficult issues and tasks. Community partners speak of Dr. Madeloni’s ongoing commitment to working alongside them in understanding and growing school communities. Those who work with her, students, colleagues, community partners, speak of her warmth, her capacity to both listen and speak out, and her eagerness to sustain relationships as the core of her practice.
Dr. Madeloni, along with many educators, education researchers, and parents, is a public critic of the current corporate-driven agenda for education “reform” that allows for increased control over educational decisions and educational policy – both directly and indirectly, by private, unelected, corporate actors. As a teacher educator, Dr. Madeloni is a national voice in identifying and speaking against this corporate agenda and the clear threats to the status of teacher education and the integrity of teacher educators’ intellectual work.
News of Dr. Madeloni’s non-renewal by the University of Massachusetts Amherst School of Education came just weeks after an article featuring her criticisms of corporate-driven teacher education reform was published in the New York Times (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/07/education/new-procedure-for-teaching-license-draws-protest.html). We are deeply concerned that this is a case of retaliation not only for the article but also for her ongoing critiques of policy and practices of the accountability movement in teacher education. When a faculty member is censored for voicing principled concerns about education policy, based on their scholarly expertise and pedagogical experience, we should all be alarmed. This degrades the central mission of the university, as the free and open exchange of ideas is the cornerstone of academic freedom. As well, given the incredible strength of her teaching and scholarship, and the profound contributions Dr. Madeloni makes both locally and nationally to the long standing mission of the School of Education to promote social justice education, it is baffling that the University would not do everything in its power to make a space for such an exemplary professor and scholar.
We urge you to take the following actions immediately:
1. Reinstate Dr. Barbara Madeloni in her faculty position.
2. Make a public commitment to cultivating a culture of critical dialogue and inquiry within your School of Education to examine the processes and effects of educational corporatization in public and higher education, including teacher education.
Public education is the foundation of a democratic society. This democratic impulse must be the core of why we educate and how we educate. Decisions about how to best educate children, prepare teachers, and assess various competencies in the classroom ought to be based on informed dialogue and ongoing collaboration among teachers, teacher educators, education scholars, and parents. We oppose any reform to public or teacher-education that places increased control of these decisions in the hands of unelected, unaccountable corporations driven by profit motive. We support Dr. Barbara Madeloni and the growing number of scholars, educators, teacher-educators, parents, and citizens nationwide who are building a movement to oppose such reforms and to reclaim democracy as a foundational purpose of public education.
The School of Education of the University of Massachusetts Amherst has a national reputation for leadership in promoting social justice education. Academic freedom has allowed faculty to take unpopular stands that make socially just education possible. It is our hope that you return to this legacy and respond promptly to our requests.