Thursday, April 12, 2007

When is a curriculum not a curriculum?

Two ways to apply a curriculum in the classroom:

One. Take sixth grade math. The math teacher looks at the approved curriculum and decides the most effective order in which 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 those concepts, using professional judgment and a host of resources. The teacher pre-tests to evaluate current knowledge, and then post-test to see 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 SUV's. He really cannot stand the vehicles; he simply hates them. He therefore has made it his life's goal to see that such vehicles are banned from the roads of this nation, and the whole world for that matter.

This teacher wants to see change, and he knows that children are still forming opinions of the world. He puts two and two together and recognizes that he can affect certain 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 SUV's. He then assigns a project: The students are to gather photo's of SUV's and bring them to class. The students will then form groups to discuss the photos and construct a group consensus on the evils of SUV's, and their drivers for that matter.

He 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 those problematic parents. He adds a group component to the grade, and weights that component very high.

Students must work well within their groups, 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 SUV's 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, he is making his students math fools, but that is the price one pays for social change. In the back of his mind, the teacher hears the Trotsky line over and over, "You can't make an omelet without breaking a few 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.

The following, taken straight from the district's website, details the rationale for the use of the novel, Whale Talk, in the classroom.
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 used here? The answer is quite obvious.

Anything can be tied to the curriculum by simply noting the elements in the lesson plan along with some justification. Based on documents such as this - available on the district's website - anything goes.

Can you even 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 they simply teach their subjects without indoctrinating?

Of course, if you do not want teach, you are only left with indoctrination.


Anonymous said...

Really?? What in the world makes you think there is some indoctrination? For what purpose? Seriously? Why would any teacher choose to teach in order to corrupt kids? Why waste the time? The education costs? Surely you do know that a teacher could probably make more money working at the local McDonalds... As a parent, surely you do know that kids are dealing with a lot of pressures -- that they have to interpret within the world -- before they even step into a school building... I personally want my kids to know what dangers are out before they go off to college. Why don't you stop criticizing people/things that you know nothing about and try making a difference in your OWN home.

Jim Fedako said...

1:31 -

I personally want my kids to know what dangers are out before they go off to college.

Why are you so inept as to not have the ability to do that yourself? Maybe you shouldn't be parenting if your only hope for success is the State.

If you do possess the ability to educate your children in such matters, why do you feel the need to force other parents to have their children experience your nonsense? That is indoctrination.

Why don't you stop criticizing people/things that you know nothing about and try making a difference in your OWN home.

I taught in a public school and served almost seven years on a local board of education. We home school our children. Though, I would like my taxes lowered as I am receiving nothing from the local school system.

Finally: Surely you do know that a teacher could probably make more money working at the local McDonalds.

Are you talking earning or making? Certainly some teachers produce much, much less than those working at McDonalds. So, yes, they earn less, though they make many times more.

My district has teachers who make the equivalent of $110,000 in the private sector - based on $96,000 for 203 days of work, not including 15 sick days and 3 personal days.