Thursday, August 31, 2023
Wednesday, August 30, 2023
The Hillsdale 1776 Curriculum is a complete collection of lesson plans for teaching American history, civics, and government to K-12 students.
Spend time on what it meant to make a living and survive in the daunting wilderness and how such perseverance shaped the character and mind of the colonists. This would include looking at lifestyles and kinds of work done in the colonies and the type of self-reliance necessary for such lives.
No suggestions for addressing how such "self-reliance" might involve enslaved laborers helping you be self-reliant, but we are supposed to bring up the American character of "grit and determination." There is some mention elsewhere in the lesson of slavery, mostly in the context of pointing out that indentured servants had it just as bad, and also slavery has been around through the whole history of the world. Relationships with the Native Americans? These, we are told, "ran the gamut from friendly to violent, varying widely depending on the tribe involved." Apparently any problems were the fault of the natives.
Lesson 4 is major colonial events. More about how British government neglect was "healthy for the colonists." The lesson points out that the colonies weren't regulated by a government, but of course they all had their own government which somehow counts as self-government, except when they begged the British for more help in governing the colonies and protecting them and look, I'm not going to thrash this out here because the question of colonials ties to Britain was super-complicated and complex. But not in Hillsdale's stuff.
And here's a new one-- The Great Awakening provided the colonies "with something they could hold in common," suggesting it helped pave the way for the Revolution. Except that it also happened in England, and many colonial churches split up over their feelings about this largely evangelical event.
The Unit comes with assessments, sort of, both for those who can read and write and those who can't, though the reading and writing ones make some large demands. Some are very open-ended ("Tell me the story of the First Thanksgiving"), some are a little confusing ("What was daily life like for African colonists and African slaves?"), most assume the answer ("Why was it good that England did not pay the colonists much attention?"), and some are crazy wide open ("What were some of the lessons we can learn from the stories of the American colonists?")
More K-2: Civil War
The outcome of the Civil War determined whether the nation would live according to the principles of liberty, equality under law, and self-government, or reject those truths in favor of slavery, inequality, and tyrannical rule.
consistent with the Christian tradition within which the American founding occurred. Other references to divine sources of truth in the Declaration include that men are “endowed by their Creator” and its appeals to “the Supreme Judge of the world” and to “the protection of divine Providence.”
There's a section about the Constitution and federalism that includes plenty about how limited a federal government is supposed to be, plus
The framers were very intentional about which level of government would have which powers based on a careful review of what each government’s purposes would be by nature.
God bless you. I'll try to wrap it up.
Monday, August 28, 2023
This will be my sixth fall of not going back to the classroom, and this time of year still brings a twinge to my heart.
I'm sure it's exacerbated by the fact that both the Board of Directors and the Chief Marital Officer (CMO) here at the Curmudgucation Institute will resume classes this week, and I will not.
In retirement, I have not yet adjusted to this time of year. As a teacher, it was always like the biggest case of stage fright ever. And there was always a sense of anticipation, of a whole world of possibilities just about to open up. Fresh off a summer of thinking and reading about the work, I would have a toolbox full of new ideas that I was just chomping at the bit to try out. The CMO, like most elementary teachers, has been in to retool and arrange her space, so that it is fresh and new and will smell like new classroom tomorrow. It's a cool smell. I envy that smell.
I know there are so many things that can get in the way of that new year scent of joy and anticipation and possibility.
Teachers were heroes in the national culture for about six weeks in 2020. But other than that, it has twenty years of politicians and privatizers figuring out that they could score an advantage by coming after public education, and the drumbeat has just gotten louder and worse, moving from "American public schools are failing" to "teachers are a bunch of groomers." And all of that contempt for public schools has mixed with the covid-created vacation from actually doing the school thing to create a stew that students have soaked in so that they are now carrying that contempt and contentiousness right into the classroom.
Add to that an increased awareness of shortcomings of the system. Add to that increased, unfunded expectations. And add to that whatever local issues you have, because while state and national policy debates may create problems that trickle down to your classroom, nothing is more problematic than working for an administrators who is some toxic trifle with layers of incompetence, malignance, and weaselly untrustworthiness.
I have not been out so long that I've forgotten the challenging parts. I left for a variety of reasons, some having nothing to do with the work itself, but the fatigue that comes from having to repeatedly make the least bad choice still lives large in some sharp-edged cells of memory. There are parts that I don't miss a bit.
The sun is going to rise and reveal something new. That scent of promise and possibility. Fresh office supplies, and a room just waiting to be lit up. The chance to do the work, to fashion lessons out of your own knowledge and skill and bridge across a moment that you can't control but only plan for, where you find those students where they are and pass on to them something they can use, maybe right now or maybe years from now. The times when the classroom is firing on all cylinders. The times when students are lighting up, growing stronger and smarter right in front of you. The times collaborating and just jawing with colleagues who are at it, too. All the times when the work is getting done.
Helping students become their best selves, figuring out what it means to be fully human in the world.
Lord, and the scale--the huge human picture of it matters and the sweeping ideas matter and the nuts and bolts and dirt under the fingernails matter.
I miss it, every fall especially. And I am excited for you that you get to go back to it. Because for all the crap heaped up around it and thrown at it, there is no better job in the whole world. It is great and exciting and energizing work, one of a handful of jobs that let's you work right there at the core of what it means to connect the world and humanity and yes you can get distracted and tangled up in baloney and stifling strips of foolishness, but unlike people who spend their whole days wrapped up in that crap, all you have to do is remember to turn your head and adjust your focus because it's always right there, the heart and humanity and reality of starting out as a tiny human and coming into your full true self and entering into a relationship with your world--it's all right there. It's always right there. Human beings--particularly young human beings in the business of becoming--are miraculous, and you are right there.
So God bless you and good luck. May your year be filled with the best parts of the work, and may you find the chance to enjoy them. May your memory be a blessing to your students. May you pass on some of the best parts of human knowledge and skills, the miracles involved in memory and art and making sense out of strange scribblings on screens and paper. May the hard work stretch your sinew and bone and still feel good, because it is work worth doing. If you have to fight to do the work, may you find strength in knowing it's work worth fighting for.
New day, new year. I envy you. Have a good time.
Sunday, August 27, 2023
“I mostly focus on the history and Latin curricula, figuring out how things are taught in a fourth-grade or eleventh-grade classroom,” said Adams. He looks forward to experimenting with more accessible resources for teachers: “When you’re a first-year teacher, you’re just trying to stay one day ahead of what you’re supposed to be teaching. You don’t have time to sit down and read a long text about teaching. But maybe if there’s a short video that is clearly titled and easy to access, you might conceivably watch it while you’re making dinner.”
Adams was part of the crew that screened the Florida math textbooks that DeSantis accused of being too indoctrinatey.
“The question is why one man with limited experience is being entrusted to make educational decisions for the students in a district that he is not even a part of,” said Gordienko. “I implore you to please reexamine the decision to employ Mr. Adams and look at what you have right here in front of you.”
Princeton historian Sean Wilentz told The Inquirer the Hillsdale curriculum “fundamentally distorts modern American history into a crusade of righteous conservative patriots against heretical big-government liberals.”
Both the Board of Directors and the CMO head back to school this week, leaving me to manage the sudden lack of noise here at the institute. Time to brush off that old vinyl and start ramping up some projects in an attempt to distract myself. In the meantime, here's some reading from the week.Low pay, culture wars, and ‘bulldozer parents.’ Why Michigan’s best teachers are calling it quits.
Gun deaths among U.S. children hit a new record high
What is a "Classical Education"?
Thursday, August 24, 2023
It was back in early August when Governor Josh Shapiro held a press conference in Penn Hills, shortly after he signed the budget that did not include $100 million for more school vouchers in PA. As reported by the Pennsylvania Legislative Services (behind walls, so I can't link), this exchange occurred:
You recently vetoed the school voucher program, leaving $100 mill on the table. Do you have plans for that money?
Gov. Shapiro said he considers that topic to be unfinished and the chambers need to work on the topic, much like they need to work on the minimum wage, the Fairness Act to protect LGBT, and ensuring that those who are victims of abuse are able to face their abusers in court. “There’s a lot of work that still needs to be done in the House and Senate, I’m hopeful that they will come back to session in the fall prepared to work together,” he said.
So you don’t have plans for the $100 million?
Gov. Shapiro explained that money is no longer part of the budget. “It’s now subject to further communication between the House and Senate. It’s certainly a concept I support. I think it’s important to fully fund schools and we give children who are struggling in difficult situations aa fair opportunity to learn,” he said. Gov. Shapiro said he has only been governor for 6 months, and there is still much work to do.
The $100 million you say you support, is that for the Level Up funding or the charter school voucher program?
Gov. Shapiro said, “Both.”
Shapiro's support for vouchers was noted all the way back during his candidacy, and choicers have pushed hard to get him to back a stripped-down-just-for-him version of a voucher bill that has been kicking around Harrisburg for year. The dark money group Commonwealth Action has been formed just to put pressure on Shapiro to get those vouchers passed. And Shapiro himself has said he continues to support the basic idea, criticizing the GOP not for the quality of their voucher proposal, but for their inability to muster enough votes to clear the Dem-controlled House.
When Shapiro took vouchers off the table, he made the GOP sad, but work started pretty quickly to "repair" that relationship, and it looks like the bone that Shapiro threw them was a chance to "improve" the state Charter Appeals Board. President Pro Tem of the PA Senate told the Philadelphia Inquirerthat Shapiro promised to improve the efficiency of the state’s Charter Appeals Board, which can overrule school boards’ decisions about opening new charter schools or closing existing ones. GOP leaders said they want that board, chaired by Shapiro’s secretary of education, to do more to help students attend charter schools in Philadelphia.
Arkansas kicked off the year with the LEARNS Act, a big legislative smorgasbord of every bad policy idea the right has pushed for dismantling public education. So of course it includes a gag law to restrict "indoctrination":
Steps required under subdivision (a)(1) of this section shall include the review of the rules, policies, materials, and communications of the Department of Education to identify any items that may, purposely or otherwise, promote teaching that would indoctrinate students with ideologies, such as Critical Race Theory, otherwise known as "CRT", that conflict with the principle of equal protection under the law or encourage students to discriminate against someone based on the individual's color, creed, race, ethnicity, sex, age, marital status, familial status, disability, religion, national origin, or any other characteristic protected by federal or state law.
That language is more than vague enough to justify the state's going after the AP African American studies course.
And go after they have, declaring first that there would be no graduation credit for the course--and doing so with just a few days left before the start of the school year. Then, when school districts said, "Screw it--we're doing this course anyway" the right wingers ensconced in the state capital demanded that school superintendents hand over "all materials, including but not limited to the syllabus, textbooks, teacher resources, student resources, rubrics, and training materials" so that they could sift through it all in search of proof that the course violates the state's gag law. After all, "given some of the themes included in the pilot, including 'intersections of identity' and 'resistance and resilience,'" the department is "concerned."
What's remarkable about this latest attempt to shut down a particular area of study is that after a few years of CRT, folks are not even trying to offer a plausible explanation of what the issue is here.
Back a couple years ago, when CRT panic first started to spread, there was at least an attempt to pretend that there was some sort of specific objection about how exactly the subject of race was handled.
Two years ago in Tennessee, complaints explained objections to a book by Ruby Bridges about her experience desegregating schools; it upset them because it portrays raging white opponents to desegregation (aka "reality") and because the story doesn't end with redemption (aka "reality"). There were convoluted arguments about how CRT perpetuated some kind of divisive reverse racism-- folks trying to teach about the dark side of racism in the country were causing division, they said, in an argument that resembles the abusive spouse complains that his partner is tearing apart their home by reporting his abuse.
These were all, it has to be said, terrible arguments. But at least they acknowledged by their existence that if you want to suppress Black American history and an honest and full discussion of our country's history with race, you ought to have some kind of argument for doing so.
The Arkansas case marks the latest evolution of this argument. First, it was a stand against CRT. Not that any of the objectors knew what that was, but that suited folks like Chris Rufo who promised to broaden the meaning of the term until, like "evolution" 100 years ago, it simply stood for an "entire range of cultural constructions" that pissed off people of a particular cultural bent. Then it was SEL, then anything mentioning empathy or tolerance, until we reach the ludicrous point of a Twitter wing nut accusing the right tilted American Enterprise Institute of being a "cartel smuggling Woke Marxism into schools."
But in Arkansas, there is no argument. Subtext is text. Governor Sanders simply declares
We cannot perpetuate a lie to our students and push this propaganda leftist agenda teaching our kids to hate America and hate one another.
Note that this is what she had to say before the state went through the course materials. She points to nothing specific in the course of studies, gives not even a ludicrous argument. From the days of "critical race theory is bad because of the way it frames particular parts of the race narrative of America," the argument has now been reduced to "it's talking about Black Americans, so it must be illegal."
The fig leaf is worn and tired and lazy, and it's only appropriate that it be dropped in the state where 66 years ago the governor called out the national guard to prevent nine high school students from integrating Little Rock Central High School, declaring that they were needed to "maintain order" and concluding that "the schools must be operated as they have in the past." In other words, to "keep the peace," Black students must be denied their rights, because their coming to school "caused" a bunch of conflict and divisiveness.
It was wrong 66 years ago, and it's wrong now. Lord knows there are a dozen reasons not to defend the College Board and their AP programs, but now that Sanders and her people are becoming so transparent about what's really going on, maybe a few more people will recognize them for what they are.
Wednesday, August 23, 2023
Seidenberg believes that moving away from strategies like three-cueing is important. But he warned that a simplistic reliance on some of the foundational reading science research can lead to some misinformed instructional conclusions, like the idea that children should learn units of sound (or “phonemes” ) before letters, and letters before syllables and words.
“That’s a basic misunderstanding,” said Seidenberg. “Phonemes are abstract units that are results of being exposed to an alphabet, they’re not a precursor.” He also lamented that some leaders have incorrectly cited his research to suggest there’s no downside to teaching kids phonics in the early grades for too long. “There are big opportunity costs and the clock to fourth grade is ticking,” he said. “You only want to do a lot of instruction on these components enough to get off the ground.”
There are those who don’t believe the research or don’t understand it, she said. Others agree with the research but didn’t like that the “Sold a Story” podcast focused so heavily on phonics, and less on the other parts of learning to read, such as fluency and comprehension, that are also important.
But phonics is the piece that’s been missing, she said, and the goal was to combat “this idea” that students could largely learn to read without it, without being given explicit, direct, cumulative instruction.
Tuesday, August 22, 2023
Sunday, August 20, 2023
I'm typing this on the mobile office in a hotel in downtown Cleveland, where the CMO (Chief Marital Officer) and I have come to wrap up her summer and use the theater tickets that were her Christmas present. Next week she'll be back at that delightful mix of room prep work and soul-crushing PD that kicks off a teacher's year.
Here's this week's list, including a couple of If You Only Read One Thing selections.The new “science of reading” movement, explained
Here's one must-read for the week. For Vox, Rachel Cohen provides one of the best explainers written about the science of reading flap, done with nuance and thoughtfulness. Read this.What happened when an Ohio school district rushed to integrate classrooms
New Jersey Supreme Court rules in favor of Catholic school that fired a teacher for having premarital sex
From ‘crisis’ to ‘catastrophe,’ schools scramble once again to find teachers
Wisconsin’s public schools and the war on democracy
Florence 1 Schools: Palmetto Youth Academy still using taxpayer money despite being closed
A National Warning
Inside the campaign to cancel sex ed
Universal ESA vouchers: Arizona’s $1 billion failed experiment