Posted by sanityinjection on March 4, 2010
In the ongoing debates about how to best educate our children, teachers (and their unions) often make the point that no one is better qualified to design curriculum than educators themselves. The argument is designed to resist interference both by government and by activist school committees and parents’ groups. And on paper, it’s a good argument.
The problem is that every now and then you get a group of educators whose minds have been so permanently addled by the corrosive soup of political correctness and identity politics that they swim in every day, that they come up with something so idiotic that it calls the argument of professional expertise into question.
Now if you’re thinking that I might just have a specific example in mind, you’d be right. The latest stupidity comes to us from (surprise) San Francisco, a city which as readers know is already legendary for its tolerance of the outrageous but never ceases to try to push the envelope to further heights of goofiness.
To state it simply: The city’s school board has decided to offer in its high schools a freshman course in ethnic studies which will earn college credit in the state university system. Further, the course is pass/fail, not graded – and unlike any other high school program that earns college credit, is aimed at poor students rather than advanced ones.
There are so many things wrong with this that one almost doesn’t know where to begin. It is beyond obvious that the purpose of this course is not to teach the students anything of value, but rather to boost their ethnic self-esteem and encourage them to set a goal of attending college. (No one would ever admit it, but you can bet that white students will be “discouraged” from taking this class, if not outright prevented.) Said one student: “How can I know who I can be if I don’t know who I am? Ethnic studies provides me with the foundation to learn who I am.” Wrong. Ethnic studies encourage you to base your identity on your ethnicity and see yourself in terms of group identity rather than as an individual. Nothing could be further from American ideals.
Leaving aside the question of whether high schools should even be offering ethnic studies when they can barely teach English and math, the notion of offering college credit for a pass/fail course simply demeans the value of the credits awarded. (Incidentally, nobody actually fails – they just transfer you out of the class. So it’s really “pass/pass”.) Why should anyone aspire to attend college if it is revealed to be a joke? And how can students be expected to succeed in college if this is the sort of preparation they’re receiving?
This nonsense came to the school board from the faculty at San Francisco State University. Like all school boards, they assume that college professors – professors of *education*, no less – must know what they’re doing when it comes to designing curriculum. But at what point does somebody have to put their foot down and insist on some collective common sense being applied to the situation? Of course, in San Francisco, common sense was banished by municipal ordinance a long time ago.
Posted in Domestic News, Politics | Tagged: college credit, education, educators, ethnic studies, identity politics, Political correctness, professors, San Francisco, San Francisco State University, teachers | Leave a Comment »
Posted by sanityinjection on October 6, 2009
I commend to your attention today’s column by conservative commentator Thomas Sowell. Sowell, while brilliant and a fine writer, can be a bit of a crank sometimes, and this piece is no exception. He writes about his dismay in receiving a letter form a fifth-grader whose assignment was to ask a “famous person” how they would solve an important problem such as the economy:
Sowell’s main point is that the child’s teacher should be encouraging him to think for himself rather than looking to celebrities for received wisdom – and also choosing age-appropriate subject matter. After my recent post on the cult of intelligence, Sowell draws attention to the even more pervasive cult of celebrity:
Getting students used to looking to so-called “famous” people for answers is the antithesis of education as a preparation for making up one’s own mind as citizens of a democracy, rather than as followers of “leaders.”
Nearly two hundred years ago, the great economist David Ricardo said: “I wish that I may never think the smiles of the great and powerful a sufficient inducement to turn aside from the straight path of honesty and the convictions of my own mind.”
Although I do take some hope in the fact that a fifth grader from Michigan actually knows who Sowell is.
Posted in Politics | Tagged: Celebrities, celebrity culture, education, Thomas Sowell | 10 Comments »
Posted by sanityinjection on July 29, 2008
A tale of two court cases in Britain. The British High Court ruled today in favor of a 14-year old Sikh girl who was supended when she refused to remove her bracelet in compliance with a school policy forbidding jewelry. The court ruled that the bracelet, a thin steel bangle called a Kara, is part of the observance of Sikh religion and that the application of the ban in this case unreasonably restricted the girl’s freedom of religion.
This stands in contrast to a ruling a year ago upholding a school’s jewelry ban as applied to a teen girl who wore a “chastity promise” ring to class. There the court found that wearing such a ring was not an integral part of the Christian faith.
I think the court made the correct decision in both cases. But it raises the question in my mind: Why do schools in the UK feel the need to ban jewelry to begin with? I don’t have any children in the schools, so for all I know this may be common here in the US as well. But I’m not sure I see the reason for it. I have never been a particular fan of school uniforms, either. School dress codes should focus on protecting students’ safety, maintaining a respectful atmosphere and eliminating excessive distractions in the classroom. Now if a student felt the need to, say, wear a giant swastika around her neck, or a T-shirt with inflammatory or vulgar language on it, I think one could reasonably ban those items to maintain order. But I hardly think simple jewelry items would create major distractions in the classroom.
For girls (and increasingly for some boys) jewelry is a form of personal expression. I think that young people should be encouraged to develop and express their own style as individuals, provided they remain within reasonable norms of decency. Not to mention how much money the schools would save by not having to defend against these kinds of lawsuits.
Posted in Foreign Affairs, Religion | Tagged: dress codes, education, freedom of expression, jewelry, Religion, religious freedom, schools, Sikh | Leave a Comment »
Posted by sanityinjection on July 29, 2008
I can’t say I’m surprised that somebody is calling for students in Chicago to skip the first day of school as part of an ill-conceived protest. It’s a little disappointing, though, that the call is coming from a state legislator (Sen. James Meeks):
Briefly, the protest centers on the fact that per-pupil spending in wealthy suburban school districts is much higher than in the Chicago public schools. (This is true in pretty much every major metro area in America.) The protesters see this as discrimination against poor communities, but particularly against ethnic minorities.
So on the first day of school, these numb-nuts want to bus thousands of Chicago kids to affluent, lily-white Winnetka where they will attempt to enroll in the New Trier School District, on the basis of a dubious interpretation of a provision in state law allowing transfers if a student’s “safety” is at risk.
New Trier is something of a legend in education circles. It consistently ranks among the top public school districts in the country. People come from foreign countries to tour the schools there and see how they do things. I don’t blame any inner-city family for wanting to send their kid there, which is why I support school vouchers and school choice.
However, asking schoolchildren to skip school as part of a political protest is a very bad idea. Granted, kids never learn anything important on the first day of school anyway. But you set your habits for the academic year, you learn where you’re going and who your teachers are and what time the buses pick you up. Kids who miss the first day of school have a much higher truancy rate, which is a real issue in urban schools.
Children do not, for the most part, understand issues of school funding, nor do they get a vote. It is irresponsible to ask or expect them to engage in political protest on behalf of adults who don’t seem to be able to act effectively themselves. You shouldn’t put your kid on a picket line and you shouldn’t make them hold a sign for Obama or McCain. Let them do what kids are supposed to do: Go to school, and enjoy themselves when they’re not in school. If your political cause requires the manipulation and exploitation of children in order to succeed, that’s a good reason why it doesn’t deserve to.
Posted in Domestic News, Politics | Tagged: Chicago, children, education, James Meeks, New Trier, protest, school funding, truancy, Winnetka | 3 Comments »