The shouts on the radio, the blustering about “indoctrination” at a townhall meeting, the withdrawal of occasional students from schools are mere annoyances to educrats skilled in the obfuscations of policies and procedures, quasi admissions of “errors in judgment,” and academic jargon. I’ve heard from many a parent who has gone to the principal of a public or Catholic school complaining about how social studies is taught only to be treated with contempt or indifference. A questioning of the sex-race-gender syllabi is likely to bring a rush of postmodernist babble.
The problem is systematic. It begins in colleges of education, where future teachers are taught things like “Race, Class, and Gender in Education,” the name of the course the Georgia State University professor pledged to make the letter-writing assignment in.
Such classes take up most of the time in education schools, while education majors take a minimal number of watered-down classes in their subject areas.
Yet, studies consistently show that students whose teachers are well-versed in their subject areas (that would include social studies teachers who understand the Constitution, Bill of Rights, and U.S. history) outperform those whose teachers take a lot of courses on radical pedagogy.
Will such evidence make a difference?
No, unless citizens know about it, learn the language of “assessments” and “outcomes,” and know how to expose the false data that educrats routinely employ (“studies” done by the same people setting the new standards). My testimony about the Teach-In did bring a good response from State Representative Rich Golick, the chancellor, and the governor. But not much will happen unless citizens demand long-lasting reforms.
First, people need to know that while Dixon-Neely’s delivery of her lesson on Obama might not have been typical, the content was. The problem stems from the dominant decidedly anti-intellectual method called “constructivism,” in which a student presumably “constructs” or “discovers” knowledge. Contemplation, study, and reasoned debate give way to loud activity and freewheeling discussions based on feelings. Students “do social studies” or “do democracy” rather than learn about it.
What does such a classroom look like? I described a demonstration at a 2009 social studies conference where eleventh-graders sat around and discussed feelings after hearing the song, “Home on the Range.”
During my presentation this weekend, I referred to the United States Institute of Peace’s new curriculum on “peacebuilding.” I quote from one of the many classroom activities, this one for middle school:
“Explain to students that you are going to share a list of words that can be associated with conflict. Share that each statement will begin with ‘When I say conflict, you think of . . .’ and then a word. Each time you finish a sentence with a new word, they should clap if students think of that word very often; snap if they think of the word sometimes; and stay silent if they do not think of it much at all. Encourage students to look around the room and listen with each word to be aware of their classmates’ responses.”
There is a whole lot of clapping and snapping going on in such a classroom, but precious little learning.
Teachers have a plethora of such ready-made lessons that presumably meet state standards, from lessons on Christopher Columbus’s history of genocide at the [Howard] Zinn Education Project to lessons on police brutality by Van Jones at the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights.
Teachers are offered such materials routinely. They welcome them, for they allow teachers to make subjective evaluations.
The curriculum writers at the United States Institute of Peace admit that lessons involving clapping and snapping, running around, and “dialoguing” “do not allow for traditional forms of test-like assessment.” They admit, “assessment often takes a more subjective form, for example, through a teacher’s observation of a student’s participation in activities, small group, and whole class discussions, as well as individual growth.”
So those like Dixon-Neely can determine grades, not by tests that parents and citizens can review, but by observing “participation” and “individual growth.”
Hence, ignorant ideologues like Dixon-Neely use hit pieces, like the one on Romney’s alleged bullying in the Washington Post as a legitimate topic of discussion in class, with the approval of superiors. Dixon-Neely is not an aberration. Recognizing that is the first step in reform.
It is time to go beyond outrage. It must begin with a citizenry educated in the strategies and versed in the terminology. They need to begin making the assessments.