Online (Re)Education

, Bethany Stotts, Leave a comment

The newsmagazine Diverse: Issues in Higher Education ranked Walden University among the top ten of its “top 100 Graduate Degree Producers” in a number of categories this year, many rankings of which were for Master’s degrees in Education among minority populations such as the African-American, Hispanic and Asian communities. Diverse also placed Walden in 4th place for its number of “total minority” Masters degree graduates in Education.

But what, exactly, is Walden teaching the nation’s future minority teachers?

Walden faculty members featured at the University’s 2009 Social Change Conference offered a clue.

In response to a question on how social entrepreneurs can measure their impact, Dr. Kathia Laszlo, a Walden Faculty member, encouraged conference attendees not to look at just the quantitative indicators, like “numbers of people,” but also qualitative measures like “what is the awareness that comes from interacting with my organization?” “Well that’s, that’s the thing, because it requires also a commitment to have those conversations and to build those relationships and to really getting [to] understanding what are people thinking and what are people feeling so that can also be part of the engagement,” she said at the conference, concluding that “it’s all about citizenship participation.”

Prof. Laszlo co-founded Syntony Quest, which seeks to develop “Evolutionary Learning Communities” (ELCs) and promote sustainability. She also helps teach the “Green MBA” program at the Dominican University of California (DUC). The DUC website states that “The Green MBA curriculum is made up of three major components: business fundamentals, sustainability, and leaders.”

One course, “Ecological Economics” claims to step outside of the “mainstream, neoclassical economics paradigm” which stresses “allocative efficiency.” “In contrast, the emerging field of Ecological Economics offers an alternative approach, one that places the objectives of ecological sustainability and social justice before that of allocative efficiency,” continues the course description. Ironically, one of the major benefits of capitalism’s “allocative efficiency” is a rise in living standards among both the rich and poor; the latter theory would seem to promote the idea that living standards should be equal for everyone rather than have rising but unequal wealth.

Dr. Laszlo is also an adjunct professor at the Saybrook Graduate School and Research Center in San Francisco, which offers both M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in Human Science. Dr. Laszlo participated in the Ph.D. program with a “Social and Institutional Change” emphasis from Saybrook and completed a dissertation there on ELCs.

Another panelist at the Walden conference, Dr. John Nirenberg, “currently mentors doctoral students at Walden University,”according to the University’s website. Dr. Nirenberg’s LinkedIn profile indicates that he is a former Professor at Marlboro College Graduate Center and a former Dean at the University of Phoenix, both online degree institutions like Walden.

Dr. Nirenberg joins much of the professoriate in opposing former President George W. Bush, but has taken the animus farther than most. In December 2007 he launched a one-man march from Boston to Washington, D.C. to press for the impeachment of then- Vice President Dick Cheney and then- President George W. Bush. “For the last six years this Administration has had a completely free hand to break the law, to violate our understanding of the Constitution, to disregard our historical precedents regarding how Congress and the Administration should relate to each other because it had a Republican rubber-stamp Congress supporting their atrocities,”  he says on his “March In My Name” video, continuing,

“They began a war in Iraq that was unprovoked and uncalled for, they have begun to torture people at will, they have denied American citizens the right to habeus corpus, they are now spying on us in our homes, they are taking the law into their own hands and declare themselves above the Constitution. For all of these reasons I find that now is the time to do something more than just complain and you might say why did it take me so long….”

Dr. Nirenberg’s last entry on, posted November 5, 2008, reads “FANTASTIC, you gObama!! Good riddance Bush/Cheney” [sic].

If the records of these two professors are any indication, ideological objectivity has little place in the University social change curriculum.

Students at Walden, however, argue that it is a uniquely inclusive environment.  Deidre Schwiesow writes in the Summer/Fall 2009 Alumni magazine article that “Jen Padron, a student in the Ph.D. in Health Services program who recently served as chair, GLBT Subcommittee to the United States Psychiatric Rehabilitation Association, feels that Walden’s inclusiveness benefits students as well.” In her article on “The Transgender Professional,” Schwiesow also quotes Padron as saying “Walden staff and faculty have all been excellent with their level of awareness for multiculturalism and for having a zero tolerance policy for anything discriminatory.”

“The online environment keeps the focus on what people have to contribute, rather than gender expression or any other aspect of a person’s physical presentation, Padron explains, but she feels that Walden’s mission draws people who are open-minded: ‘I think it wouldn’t matter even if it were a fully face-to-face environment.’”

Dr. Andrew Forshee, a “faculty member in the School of Counseling and Social Service,” “believes that managers and co-workers should ask all employees, regardless of whether or not they are ‘out’ as transgender, which pronoun they choose—male, female, or third-gender pronoun such as ‘ze,’ ‘sie,’ or ‘hir’—and use that pronoun in all conversations related to the employee, whether or not the employee is present,” Schwiesow writes.

Bethany Stotts is a staff writer at Accuracy in Academia.