kitchen table math, the sequel: The civilizing mission

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

The civilizing mission

I found something funny in my travels yesterday.

From Paul Horton (Ed has now read Horton & says he's completely right), I discovered that the AAAS wrote standards for social studies that are based on social science. I had no idea. Seeing as how the AAAS also endorsed CMP, I question whether its social science standards would be embraced by social scientists, but who knows.

In any event, glancing through the site, I found this standard for teaching social change:
Peaceful efforts at social change are most successful when the affected people are included in the planning, when information is available from all relevant experts, and when the values and power struggles are clearly understood and incorporated into the decision-making process. 7D/H5** (SFAA)
That, in a nutshell, is the problem with Common Core as with nearly all reform efforts.

The policy elites who created and funded Common Core did not speak to parents, did not avail themselves of information "from all relevant experts," and did not trouble themselves to clearly understand and incorporate the existing values and power struggles into the "decision-making process."

So now they've got a parent uprising on their hands.

Parent and teacher.

(Which apparently is unnerving even to the richest man in the world.)

This reminds me of one of my favorite war stories. I'm sure I've told it before, but it bears repeating.

Back when the then-administration was trying to implement the "middle school model," Ed was leading the charge to head it off. I say 'leading the charge,' but in fact he was an army of one. (I was manning the Parents Forum.) All the other parents were upset, and rightly so, because the school was drastically shortening lunch break so students could attend "advisory" first thing in the morning.

In the end, the middle school model was delayed for one year -- Chris's last in the school -- and implemented the year after.

Anyway, during the board meeting at which that particular parent uprising took place, Ed sparred with our now-curriculum directoron the question of teaching all subjects as one, which was the selling point of the middle school model as far as the administrators were concerned. Once we had the middle school model, subjects would no longer be taught in isolation.

At some point, Ed said: "I've been a disciplinary specialist for 25 years.

And RK said: "Have you ever thought maybe that's your problem?"

When Ed got home, he told me the administration was on a civilizing mission.

*That particular story, in our school newsletter, is now inoperative. RK will remain as curriculum director. I'm very fond of RK, btw. I disagree with her on most things educational, but she's smart, determined, and often funny. Plus she's a survivor. I like survivors.

1 comment:

Kai Musing said...

Good stuff. Reminded me of this:

Michael Young‘an-entitlement-to-powerful-knowledge’-a-response-to-john-white/

Subjects are an example of ‘powerful knowledge’ in two senses. First they consist of concepts with meanings that derive from their inter-relations that are located within specialist disciplinary communities and not from particular contexts. Secondly, these inter-relations between concepts are defined by the boundaries that separate subjects from each other and from the world of experience that students bring to school. Subject-based concepts necessarily constrain thinking in particular ways. However it is the nature of the constraints that is important. To draw on a well known example, it was Galileo’s scientific concepts and the boundaries that separated them from prevailing everyday concepts that enabled him to exclude religious concepts and so take a step nearer to the truth about our place in the universe, at least as far as he could at the time. For a similar reason, in today’s curriculum, biology as a school subject sets boundaries between the concept of evolution which it includes and creationist ideas about the origins of mankind which it excludes. This does not mean that subjects, their concepts or the boundaries between them are fixed in time or that the degree of agreement on concepts and their meaning within different subject communities does not vary widely.

Further on:

Her point about aims-based approaches “tending to take on an ….instrumental character” is graphically illustrated in the case of South Africa (3). Given the history of apartheid and Bantu Education it was hardly surprising that the first elected government in 1995 wanted to make a break with the past, as is also suggested by White’s aims-based model. However, they drew on the related idea of outcomes to establish what became known as an Outcomes-Based Curriculum. It was launched with much fanfare and expressed many of the worthy ideals which find echoes in White’s papers- especially the claim that it would free the teachers to be ‘creative’ and ‘imaginative’ . The result became universally recognized as a disaster; teachers were confused and had no idea what they were supposed to be doing. Schools have barely recovered since and South Africa still sits at or near the bottom of Attainment Tables for African countries. After much research, debate and criticism, a new more subject-based curriculum was introduced. Outcomes are not the same as aims. However the process of breaking down broad outcomes into learning outcomes that teachers and students can work with in the classroom is remarkably similar to White’s proposal to move from aims, to sub aims and sub-sub-aims.

Getting rid of subjects hurts the kids who need the support the most… who are the ones that are already behind, or have little support outside the school.

Same pattern as always. Depressing...