An article previously published by EducationNew.org:
The Ward Churchills of K-12 Curriculum
By Jim Fedako
The Ward Churchills of K-12 education are subverting public control over curriculum while leading future generations down the road of relativist, deconstructivist nonsense. And these subversives are doing so with a wink or nudge from administrators, while their employers, the local school boards, argue over bus routes and lunch offerings.
Through their boards of education, residents of school districts approve the curriculum of their local public schools. This approved curriculum details the ends of the education process, defining what students are supposed to have learned upon completion of their studies.
Teachers using professional discretion - the amount of discretion depending on the local district - implement the approved curriculum in their classrooms. This is the means of the educational process. At the same time, teachers must ensure that students master each element of the curriculum. This is the ends, or the accountability component of the educational process.
Fair enough. Yet in many districts, as in my district, some teachers are simply using the community-approved curriculum as a means to justify their own personal curriculum. And by doing so, teachers are harming students and wasting tax dollars.
Two ways to apply a curriculum in the classroom (hypothetical):
One. Take sixth grade math. The math teacher looks at the approved curriculum and decides the most effective manner to tackle the elements of the subject. For example, within a geometry unit, the teacher chooses the next appropriate topic, "Identify and label angle parts and the regions defined within the plane where the angle resides". The teacher selects one of any number of ways to introduce these concepts, using professional judgment and a host of resources. The teacher pre-tests to inventory current knowledge and then post-tests to evaluate the effectiveness of his classroom presentation and chosen activities. The students learn math and are proud of their efforts, as is the math teacher.
Two. Take sixth grade math once again. The math teacher has it in for SUVs. He cannot stand those vehicles -- he simply hates them. So, he has made it his life's goal to ban such vehicles from the roads of this nation, and the world for that matter.
This teacher wants to see change, and he knows that children are still forming opinions of the world. He recognizes that he can affect change if he can form opinions for the students, instead of letting the students and their parents work out the understandings of a complex world together. The teacher wants students to leave his class believing as he does, at all cost.
Within a measurement unit, the teacher introduces the topic, "Determine surface area, mass and volume using the appropriate units and tools," by ranting on and on about the evils of SUVs. He then assigns a project: The students are to gather photos of SUVs and bring them to class. The students will then form groups to discuss the photos and construct a group consensus on the evils of SUVs, and their drivers for that matter.
The teacher is aware of the influence of parents on their children. While that influence is an obstacle at times, the teacher has an easy way around problematic parents. He adds a group component to the grade, and weights that component very high.
Students must work well within their groups and students must neither argue nor question. Students must turn their backs on the guidance of their parents and echo the views of the teacher, else face a failing grade. A huge weight for a young child.
Knowing that this project is not aligned with the board-approved curriculum - though, it is aligned with his personal curriculum of social change - the teacher adds another component to the assignment: The students will estimate the area, mass, and volume of SUVs by using a ruler to measure the physical features of the vehicles in the photos.
The teacher notes the measurement element in his lesson plan and claims that he is teaching the curriculum as defined. And, better than that, he has implemented the curriculum in a cross-subject manner.
Of course, the teacher is turning his students into math fools, but that is the price one pays for social change. In the back of his mind, the teacher hears the Trotsky line, "You can't make an omelet without breaking eggs.
Two applications of a curriculum; one approved by the residents through their elected board, the other the personal curriculum of a teacher who has no concern for district residents, or district students.
A real example. The following discussion is based on the Olentangy Local School District, though most other districts are facing similar issues.
The excerpt below, taken straight from the district website, details the rationale for the use of the controversial novel, Whale Talk, in the classroom. This novel is one of the most challenged books in public schools and libraries due to its language and subject matter. Consider the above approaches to applying a curriculum as you read.
This book is one of six novels selected to explore and examine how marginalized groups and/or individuals are represented in society. The selection of books for this unit allows students to view the world from the viewpoint of marginalized characters. We will be examining stereotypes and questioning how stereotypes are established and perpetuated. Students will be asked to propose solutions to stop stereotyping and call others to action against stereotyping.
Students will work in literature circles as they read this novel. The reading will be done individually and students will meet in their groups to discuss their novel. Literature circles offer powerful benefits to readers of all ages. The circles are structured to move readers through a range of cognitive roles as they discuss books that are self-selected. Literature circles allow students to connect with each other, with texts, and ultimately, with the world in which they live. They learn to take responsibility as members of a group who, together, must construct meaning through discussion, debate and reflection. Discussion, debate and reflection are anchored in the text which serves as a springboard to explore social issues.
Connection to the state standards/OLSD curriculum map(s):
• Acquisition of Vocabulary (1)
• Reading Application Informational (5, 6)
• Reading Application Literary (7, 9, 10, 11)
• Writing Process (all)
• Writing Application (5, 7, 9)
• Writing Conventions (10)
• Research Standard (11)
• Communication Standard (13)
Which application of the board-approved -- hence, community-approved -- curriculum is being applied here? The answer is obvious. The Ward Churchills are justifying their personal curriculum by noting tangential elements of the approved curriculum.
By providing some specious justification, a teacher can align any topic to a curriculum by simply noting the elements of the curriculum in the lesson plan. Based on objectives available on my district's website, it appears that anything goes for some teachers.
Can you imagine the discussions in the literacy circles -- obvious edu-speak nonsense -- after students read this book? Is the teacher guiding -- dare I say, enjoying -- these discussions? Isn't it creepy that an adult wants to prompt students to discuss such topics?
Whatever happened to the three R's? Can't schools simply teach the curriculum without indoctrinating?
While some teachers and administrators are taking advantage of the system, local school board members are shirking their duty by allowing this mess to continue and spread. It is the duty of school board members to oversee the successful implementation of the community-approved curriculum, yet they are allowing the personal curriculum of some to trump.
This is a real indictment on the current direction of public education in general.