The Sticky Gold Star For Critical Thinking Goes To

I’ve been considering something Scottie May said to us in our Christian Education class at Wheaton.  She’s repeated this to me when I’ve posed education-related questions since graduation.  Professor May–and I’m surely paraphrasing while keeping with the best spirit of her teaching–says that curriculum is a guide, a map.  It’s not meant to remove the hard work that comes with reviewing, adapting, adjusting, and presenting content to a learner.  You can read more about Dr. May’s approach by reading her book Children Matter if you like; it’s a great resource.

I think some of the critical issues which come up for me as I think about what Marcus and Sonia have said, along with what I’ve read about the TSBE are the following:

1) How powerful, even if vital, the role of elected officials is when it comes to discussing, determining, and disseminating educational standards for students.  I don’t know that a state board of education’s role is understood by most citizens, whatever the state, and it’s often not until something incredible happens or looms that people take notice.  I suppose this is similar to how most people engage or disengage from the political process in general.

2) A community’s role in education continues to be one of the best ways to confront and support education for children.  I heard too many times growing up that “It takes a whole village to raise a child.”  It’s true wisdom.  Raising a child, involves educating a child, and the responsibility for learning, cognitive development, and social maturation cannot be loaned or sold or passed off to teachers alone, particularly when those teachers are expected to teach what they disagree with, what they don’t believe in, or what’s foreign to their experience–not that all curriculum fits into these.  But the community can do things.  Develop a reading list with teachers, historians, and writers you respect.  Talk to teachers and administrators about how they enrich the curriculum, if they do.  Show up to school and read for a day.  Donate books and art and articles to a school which fill out new or old images of history and culture for students.  The community supports, challenges and aides in the learning process.  And everybody, including children and grownups learn from that involvement.

3) Ideology always influences what people are taught.  It’s foolish to think otherwise, no matter what a group’s commitments, principles, and philosophies.  In my mind, everybody has a religion, a way of acknowledging God–even when that acknowledgment is to deny God’s being–and everybody also lives in response to that acknowledgement.  Your spiritual or religious views leak into the decisions you live by.  My frame of reference, the presuppositions, and notions which are unique to me enable me to say what I say, think the way I do or don’t, and to choose to emphasize certain aspects of history, sociology, psychology, and theology.  Whatever the pattern of voting or thinking, readers and learners should be aware of who’s writing, that writer’s social and political and, if possible, spiritual location, and what the objectives are of that writing.

4) Curriculum comes in three shapes–explicit, implicit, and null.  Explicit curriculum is what you see and read and hear.  Assignments are given on some topics and not others.  Implicit curriculum shapes and influences the explicit, is present and no less important but is unseen.  Null curriculum is what is taught, communicated, and learned by absence; these are the questions, areas of learning and knowledge that aren’t highlighted or explained but which are pronounced because of that lack of inclusion.  I think this springboard in Texas helps us all think about these three types of teachings, what’s included, what’s not, and what’s learned in the process of and despite presence or absence.  This is especially meaningful to me as I consider how assignments are framed to highlight or diminish the light on certain figures in United States of American history as it relates to people with skin like mine.

5) Being critical involves listening, analyzing, reflecting, and most times confronting.  While the nuances and the actual voted-upon changes in Texas are not as scandalous as they were first thought to be earlier this year, the process leading to them open a window into how curriculum is framed and fixed.  There are expert educators and non-educators, and their decisions are sure to influence how publishers spend money printing books across the nation.  Interested people need to hear and think about the impact a state or a city or a neighborhood can have when it comes to what’s sold and consumed in their schools and libraries.  Just because a book is printed doesn’t mean it cannot be read, reviewed, critiqued, and left unpurchased when found lacking in truth and veracity when compared to history and life of black, brown, and white people.

In addition to what’s been offered in the comments–and I have a sneaky suspicion about the tags and automatic replies–the following links may be helpful as you consider Texas State Board of Education, their process, and relevance for where you live and learn.

http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/metropolitan/7038787.html

http://www.theroot.com/views/miseducation-texas-school-kids?page=0,0

http://www.oregonlive.com/opinion/index.ssf/2010/06/rewriting_social_studies_bash.html

What say you?

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