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New York City
August 2002

An Ongoing Series of Interviews with Deans of Education
Dean David Hodges: Hunter College
BY Lena Khidritsky

If I were a teacher in those schools and I were presiding over the lives of children, I would try to teach them that those streets, those neighborhoods and those dangers by which they are surrounded are criminal and if they are going to be adults who function well in society, they should never make their peace with those conditions. Dean David Hodges quoted these lines from author James Baldwins speech to the teachers of the elementary school in Harlem that Baldwin attended as a child. Dean Hodges main goal for teacher education students at Hunter College; to be well-prepared to teach in inner city schools.

We are not preparing teachers for teaching in areas of comfort and convenience, but for teaching in areas of challenge and controversy, stressed the Dean, as he paraphrased the famous lines of Martin Luther King, Jr.

Though a dean at Hunter Colleges School of Education since September 2001, Hodges has been a member of the faculty for three decades. Times have changed since he first began his career in education and so has the focus of the teacher education program.

During the 1970s the issue of urban education first began to surface. Originally, it was urban education as opposed to rural education. Now urban education has taken on its own meaning: the education needs of the inner city. It is this that Hunter, and Dean Hodges pay special attention to. We have made a pronounced commitment to urban education and have done a lot more to refine and expand that vision. There are more stakeholders now than before and fewer persons who would devalue it, the Dean comments. In fact, of the approximately 3,000 students enrolled in the School of Education, most of them do go on to teach in the New York City public schools.

If you prepare teachers just in content then you are not addressing the real needs of the inner city child; content without commitment does not yield positive results, says Hodges. Therefore, when Hunter College constructed a conceptual framework for the process of accreditation, social justice was a key feature. It became a bedrock on which our program rests. A passion for social justice, in turn, has become an important criterion for recruiting both students and staff.

The theme of social justice permeates all of the course work and can be seen most clearly in the mandatory class for graduate students Diversity in American Education. This is but one example of what is available at Hunter. Programs at Hunter, to name a few, include TESOL, a literacy program, an early childhood program, a special education program, a social studies program, a school counseling program, a program in administration and supervision, and a math program. The college places a particular emphasis on mathematics education, holding regular workshops during the school year for principals and assistant principals of Schools Under Registration Review (SURR). These workshops have received such positive feedback from those who participated that the School of Education is starting a special Mathematics Center to expand this initiative. Hunter participates with other colleges of the City University of New York in the TOP program to increase the number of math and science teachers in New York City public schools. The program targets career changers offering them full tuition toward an MA in education.

The College participates also in a Teaching Fellows program. This fall, at Hunter, a second cohort of about 70 fellows will start. I am very supportive of the Fellows because it is a collaboration between the Board of Higher Education and the Board of Education. Im a bridge builder and I would like to see cooperation whenever possible, said Hodges. The dire need for certified teachers in urban education makes the Dean a strong proponent of the Fellows Program. This program, run jointly by the Board of Education and several colleges, offers concentrated free courses for qualified individuals. There are flaws however, the Dean carefully explained, but they were not insurmountable. Fellows may not receive all the assistance that they need to be successful teachers in this concentrated program. There is also the problem of other teacher education students who have struggled to pay for their education and have not been in a Fellows Program who do not get concentrated attention and sometimes cannot finish their degrees because of economic hardships. As of now these questions remain unanswered but research is currently underway by CUNY.

As to the Dean himself, he takes pride in the college. When we confer a Hunter degree we are giving a wonderful gift to the City of New York and to the world, he says. He mentions the two women Nobel Prize winners to graduate from HunterRosalyn Yalow who graduated from Hunter in 1941 won the Nobel prize in 1977 for the development of radioimmunoassay, a pioneer technique to measure concentrations of insulin, hormones, and other substances; and Gertrude B. Elion who graduated Hunter in 1937 and was awarded the Nobel prize in 1988 for fundamental research that led to the development of AZT and other drugs.

During his tenure as faculty member and currently dean, Hodges remembers the enthusiasm and idealism of all the students. As to the change in the attitudes of the student body he observed; The changes I see are not as much in the students themselves but in what they can expect to get when they come herethe students who come here now are getting more to work with as they prepare to teach in inner city schools. With all the improvements the Dean is still not satisfied. [In five years] Id like the School of Education to have the name of being the very best school of education in New York Citypublic or privatefor persons interested in careers serving children within the inner city. Id like us to have the name for doing that better than anyone else. And, I think that is attainable.#


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