For those following the Texas curriculum story

Discussion in 'General Education' started by Missy99, May 31, 2010.

  1. Coelacanth

    Coelacanth New Member

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    Jun 4, 2010

    3Sons,

    This is from Soto's article:
    This is an interpretation that mischaracterizes Winthrop at least as bad as the SBOE mischaracterizes Tocqueville. And just as he's accused the SBOE of oversimplifying Tocqueville, he's oversimplified Winthrop and reduced him to an interpretation that is characteristically Marxian: or at least it fits the Marxist narrative quite nicely.

    Soto says that it is "worth pointing out that the words “egalitarianism,” “populism,” and “laissez-faire” do not appear in Democracy in America." And maybe it's also worth pointing out, then, that the word "communism" doesn't appear in Winthrop's sermon. And yet that doesn't stop Soto from finding (or claiming to find) communist concepts running through the document, just as the SBOE found (or claimed to find) concepts in Tocqueville that can be represented by different or later words.

    Far from demonizing wealth and privilege, Winthrop's sermon regards class division as divinely sanctioned: it advocates the acquisition of wealth in good times (what he calls ordinary times) so that it may be useful to the greater good in times of hardship (extraordinary times). This is not too different from the so-called "gospel of wealth" that later Americans such as Rockefeller and Carnegie followed, according to which they accumulated vast sums of money, and then gave away vast sums of money to charitable causes. Winthrop, like Rockefeller and Carnegie, regarded wealth not as an evil (as Marx did) but rather as an instrument by which people could do righteousness.

    Soto goes on to say that he would not stoop to teaching our kids about this so-called "communist strand" in American colonial history. But it is not at all clear what he would do with Winthrop's "Model of Christian Charity" sermon, which includes the famous City on a Hill reference. If you don't teach it as evidence of a communist strand (which he says he would not do), and if you don't teach it as American Exceptionalism (which he criticizes the SBOE for doing), then how, I wonder, do you teach it?

    Do we teach our kids that it was a cool line, but not much else: that it has no real significance to the grand themes of our history? Do we use it to merely say that our antecedents were religious people?

    That hardly says it.

    In fact what is embedded within Winthrop's sermon falls far closer to what the SBOE is attempting to communicate than it does Soto's fantasy about Winthrop being a proto-communist, and it carries far too much significance and meaning to simply disregard. It offers up, right at the outset of our history, one of the foundational questions of our people: can we find the proper balance between acquisitiveness and altruism?

    The heartless implication of Soto's essay--that we shouldn't really teach it because it's too complicated--is not only irresponsible, but it's the road to meaninglessness, which is the enemy of education. I would prefer Soto teach his communist interpretation and have the kids find their own way to the truth from a substantial lie, rather than simply abandoning the kids in an abyss of meaninglessness.
     
  2. Soccer Dad

    Soccer Dad Cohort

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    Jun 5, 2010

    I would like to say that as a social studies teacher, I am happy to see that at least they're trying to mend the system. The history I read in the textbooks is a lot different from what I learned and read. Textbooks seek to please--which, very often, results in a different history.

    I also agree that it's a state's right to decide on education. Therefore, if the state of Texas decides it wants religion to play a role in its education, it has that right. Of course, this will be challenged in a court of law and will most likely result it removal of religion from education again.

    However, I will say that the use of Wikipedia to decide to changes in education just scares me! If they are trying to tell a more accurate story of history, why use a website that can be edited by anyone (including, of course, those liberals Texan's love so much).
     
  3. Rockguykev

    Rockguykev Connoisseur

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    Jun 5, 2010

    <<Civil rights and human rights are among the most important issues. >>

    That is a political opinion which takes us right back to the beginning of this whole discussion.

    We have a limited amount of time to spend on the study of history. That amount of time continues to shrink. Decisions have to be made on what is most important to teach.

    The California standards decided to take the easy way out and let every single interest group in existence get their line in the standards so now we have a jumbled mess which leaves our kids knowing next to nothing.

    Of course, a true conspiracy theorist would argue that is in fact the point.
     
  4. Soccer Dad

    Soccer Dad Cohort

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    Jun 5, 2010

    Wait, are you insinuating that knowing history is actually an important thing? Gee, I thought only math and English counted.
     
  5. JackTrader

    JackTrader Comrade

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    Jun 7, 2010

    And the advocates for the Texas textbook revisions aren't a special interest group?

    I am in California, and I have a copy of the CA K-12 Social Studies standards sitting on my bookshelf, it's pretty clear what needs to be taught, and I think they are fair. It's not a "jumbled mess", and you are given pretty good latitude to what extent you can go in practice.

    Of course we are limited in instructional time - that's always been the case. As the instructor we have some flexibility on how much emphasis we can do. Some might want to spend more time on the Holocaust, others might want to spend more time on the Nuclear Age.

    In my experience, the kids find it more interesting when you tell them stuff that "isn't in the textbook" or little known facts about historical figures.

    In any case, all of this reinforces my feeling to NOT rely too much on state textbooks too much in social studies...most of the really good history teachers I've observed do not.
     
  6. JackTrader

    JackTrader Comrade

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    Jun 7, 2010

    Very good point - you get the idea of "the tyranny of the majority."
     
  7. JoshCHT

    JoshCHT Rookie

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    Jun 7, 2010

    Saying that civil rights and human rights are among the most important issues is a political opinion? Are you serious?

    Human rights should transcend left/right, Democrat/Republican politics.

    No wonder we keep repeating institutionalized discrimination against certain groups considering some people don't take these issues seriously and want to keep these issues from being taught in schools.
     
  8. JackTrader

    JackTrader Comrade

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    Jun 7, 2010

    :yeahthat:

    Right on!
     
  9. Rockguykev

    Rockguykev Connoisseur

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    Jun 8, 2010

    Of course it is a political opinion. What human rights do you want to teach?

    Is self-governance a human right?
    Is the right to property?

    How can you answer those questions and not see it is as political? You will get different answers across this country, let alone across this world.

    Now, of course, if you are arguing there are moral absolutes then shoot, I'm all with you on that one and I'd happily run with it.

    And yes, of course the Texas school board is a political special interest group. That is my point entirely. These types of decisions are always made by political groups. Why some argue it is any worse to be done by an elected body versus an appointed one is what confuses me.
     
  10. JackTrader

    JackTrader Comrade

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    Jun 8, 2010

    So then, who should have input into the decisions then? Who gets to decide?

    In political discourse, "special interest group" is very often used in a pejorative manner.
     

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