Am I a geek or a nerd?

Don McLeroy, put down your agenda and back away from the curriculum….
February 16, 2010, 11:21 am
Filed under: Geek | Tags: , ,

I love me some Sunday NYT. Its my favorite thing about the weekend and I pay to get it dropped at my doorstop at 4AM every Sunday. The hardest part is not reading it right away. If I had my druthers, I’d grab the paper, a diet coke (what ever, you have coffee, I have DC) and climb back under my big fat down filled duvet to read the whole stinkin’ thing. Sadly, I don’t have my druthers, I have a coach who plans long workouts for Sunday mornings. By long I mean longer than most people’s weekly workouts combined. During Ironman training, Sunday workouts could hit 7 hours. Fortunately, I don’t do Ironman anymore, just Half Ironman, so Sunday’s max out around 3 hours. Nice. So, I wait 3 hours to read my paper. Well, usually more, what with the shower and gorging on food that happens after the workout. It’s delayed satisfaction at its finest.

This Sunday was not much different, except that I woke up in Western NY and drove to the big D and then read my paper. And that’s when I learned about Don McLeroy and his six allies on the Texas Board of Education. I’m typically not one to buy that there is an agenda or a conspiracy or evil plot to mess with education. Yeah, I was wrong. Evil plot might be a little strong, but to read that this faction of the board clearly has a point of view it wants expressed in schools and that that point of view includes rejecting/altering/denying ideas that are well accepted by scientists (evolution) and historians (the Enlightenment as a foe to religion in Europe, for one) may have swayed me on the conspiracy idea. Throw into the mix the impact that Texas has on the textbook market (aside: stop using your text book as the source and organization for teaching content) and I’m pretty much deflated.

So I wrote a letter to the editor. I sent it this morning, but as I’m sure it won’t get published, here it is:

Russell Shorto’s article “Founding Fathers?” elicited out a range of emotions and thoughts for me. As a social studies educator who trains social studies teachers I was thrilled to see our subject matter treated to such a long and thorough discussion when typically test scores, mathematics, and AYP consume headlines. I shook my head knowingly when reading about textbooks as the backbone of education (how I wish I could convince teachers to use them as resources rather than ‘the sources’). I actually gasped when reading that Don McLeroy not only “stood up to” 800 scientists, but then insisted on defying historians evidence regarding the Enlightenment and Mosaic law.

Ultimately I’m left saddened by the debate focusing exclusively on the content of our history courses. Certainly students need people, places and events to think about, but where in the TEKS does it ask students to construct historical arguments, evaluate claims and accounts, analyze primary and secondary sources? What good is any list of names and events (Christian or otherwise) if we’ve neglected to teach our students to think critically about them?

I encourage the teachers of Texas (and everywhere else too!) to use the cover question as a guide: How Christian Were The Founders?  Imagine a unit of study based on attempting to answer this question! Students would have to learn about the American Revolution and the Enlightenment, they would have to find evidence of Christianity in influential documents, letters, and accounts from founders and citizens, they would have to evaluate historians’ accounts, consider the time period accounts came from, and even compare new and old textbook versions.  In the process these students will certainly meet the expectations of the Texas Board of Education. Fortunately, they will also be engaging the true work of citizens–questioning, researching, and supporting ideas with evidence. As board member and Christian activist Cynthia Dunbar stated “the philosophy of the classroom in one generation will be the philosophy of the government in the next.” Certainly we don’t agree on the philosophy, but the statement rings true.


1 Comment so far
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You’ll be happy to hear I had my students write in their journals today whether it was ok or not, for the Allies to saturate bomb German cities in WWII. (Because you raise the point of having kids construct arguments and/or wrestle with thoughts in addition to knowing stuff).

Comment by Phil

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