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Old 06-23-2011, 10:37 PM
 
10,630 posts, read 22,744,640 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Charles Wallace View Post
Okay, but here's my question to you, Marylee --

The teacher may be under pressure from the administration to do a double-header: inflate grades (for instance, labeling as "very proficient" a student who doesn't know the main combatants in the Civil War) and dumb down the curriculum (e.g., by studying 'significant documents' out of chronology and context). After all, giving As is fun. Giving easy work is fun. Giving As for easy work is waaaay fun because then, parents are happy, students are happy, and that makes administrators very, very happy.

Given that this sounds very possible, what was your response?

Did you call the school and demand to know why they are essentially lying to you and your child?

Did you call the school and demand that your child be taught a content-rich, coherent curriculum?

Did you call the school and demand to know whether or not students have the right to fail?

If not -- if you just said, "Oh, well -- at least she's getting an A" -- then with all due respect, you are being part of the problem. If your child graduates with an incoherent understanding of these core subjects, feel free to blame whom you wish, of course, but ask yourself, "What did I do to change this?"
We have no idea whether or not the documents were studied out of context. Or, for that matter, if the Civil War was part of the curriculum (or what exactly the girl was asking, or in what context). We're just jumping to worst-case scenario, here. As a historian myself, I think studying the historical documents is an example of GOOD teaching -- how can you understand the Constitution without knowing about the Magna Carta? And how can you possibly begin to understand the historical context and meaning of the Constitution if you haven't studied the Declaration of Independence? Now granted, there has to be some sort of narrative. Studying them all independently without understanding the larger context and connections would be pointless. But we have no reason to jump to that conclusion. Why should parents automatically jump to the position of combatants? I'd suggest that parents take the time to check out the curriculum first, talk to the teacher, and THEN, if warranted, take further actions. I know there's a lot of poor history teachers out there, as well as history programs. But I also think that some people are too quick to assume that anything that deviates from a fact-based curriculum is somehow "dumbing down" history. There's no reason it has to be an either/or issue. Kids are perfectly capable of tackling complex historical questions, and being asked to actually THINK and analyze, not just regurgitate a bunch of dates and facts (as in the old-style curriculums), both helps make history relevant as well as provides valuable skills useful in life beyond the classroom. The facts provide an essential framework, but we really need to expect our teachers and our students to go beyond the basics if we want the study of history to have any value. Not to mention that being able to actually "do" history (meaning work with it in a way that engages the mind, and is not just fact-cramming) helps make those basic dates and names a lot easier to remember than if they were something simply learned for the sake of a school test and then forgotten.

I do think there's plenty of blame for parents and for society in general, though. History is undervalued, as it's often not seen as "practical."
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Old 06-23-2011, 11:51 PM
 
Location: Outside of Chicago
4,598 posts, read 3,747,366 times
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People foolishly **** on history....

--Disgruntled man with BA in History (me)

Anyways, I think education should be nationalized. Then there would be a set standard.
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Old 06-24-2011, 10:48 AM
 
Location: San Diego California
6,797 posts, read 6,118,692 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Charles Wallace View Post
If you've been reading this board for long, you probably know that I am quite willing, when I believe it to be true, to comment on teachers' and administrators' shortcomings (as I see them, of course).

That said, this is not their fault.

The way history curricula are designed is the problem of the school board, actually, and they're under the pressure of special-interest groups of various kinds.

To me, the teaching of history seems quite logical: Begin at the beginning and stop when you come to the end. Divide history into meaningful, manageable chunks, focusing on Western Europe and Britain and America (in that order) because those are the three cultures most relevant to most people in this country. (Needless to say, if we were in another country, this order would not remain the same.)

However, merely outlining this (to me) commonsense program is politically charged from the git-go. Focus on Western Europe, for example, or the cultures of Greece and Rome, and you risk being called an elitist or someone who's bought into the white, male-dominated power structure. Focus on the influence of Britain, and you risk being called all of the above as well. Focus on the other cultures of the world -- the cultures who had less influence on America -- and you risk being called a politically correct liberal who teaches ideology under the guise of history.

What American history are we to teach, anyway, when we come to America? Do we teach the myth (Columbus discovered America) or the reality (He never set foot on the N. American continent and it had been "discovered" 10 to 20,000 years before by explorers who crossed over the Bering land bridge from Asia)?

What we have is a disastrous hodgepodge designed by committee, one in which the incoherence is nearly matched by the irrelevance.

That said, teachers' hands are genuinely tied, as are the hands of administrators. It's their job to make some kind of coherent logic out of this, and the fact that some cannot do so is genuinely not always their fault.
We should teach what we know, all of it, without allowing special interests to interfere.
To absolve the teachers of responsibility would make sense if they stood up and took a stand on what is obviously happening.
They don't. But just try to cut education funding or suggest longer school years, and they will be out on every corner picketing and getting themselves on the news. Never have I seen one stand up and say the system is corrupt and needs to be changed.
The truth is government run schools are controlled by special interests in the corporate and financial fields who manipulate education to make a more pliable consumer that can easily be manipulated and is too stupid to realize they cannot afford to pay for a $500,000 house on a $50,000 salary.
Teachers are guilty by their collaboration in a system they know is corrupt and is harming the students and the country.
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Old 06-24-2011, 01:22 PM
 
9,454 posts, read 15,010,253 times
Reputation: 15401
Quote:
Originally Posted by uptown_urbanist View Post
We have no idea whether or not the documents were studied out of context. Or, for that matter, if the Civil War was part of the curriculum (or what exactly the girl was asking, or in what context). We're just jumping to worst-case scenario, here. As a historian myself, I think studying the historical documents is an example of GOOD teaching -- how can you understand the Constitution without knowing about the Magna Carta? And how can you possibly begin to understand the historical context and meaning of the Constitution if you haven't studied the Declaration of Independence? Now granted, there has to be some sort of narrative. Studying them all independently without understanding the larger context and connections would be pointless. But we have no reason to jump to that conclusion. Why should parents automatically jump to the position of combatants? I'd suggest that parents take the time to check out the curriculum first, talk to the teacher, and THEN, if warranted, take further actions. I know there's a lot of poor history teachers out there, as well as history programs. But I also think that some people are too quick to assume that anything that deviates from a fact-based curriculum is somehow "dumbing down" history. There's no reason it has to be an either/or issue. Kids are perfectly capable of tackling complex historical questions, and being asked to actually THINK and analyze, not just regurgitate a bunch of dates and facts (as in the old-style curriculums), both helps make history relevant as well as provides valuable skills useful in life beyond the classroom. The facts provide an essential framework, but we really need to expect our teachers and our students to go beyond the basics if we want the study of history to have any value. Not to mention that being able to actually "do" history (meaning work with it in a way that engages the mind, and is not just fact-cramming) helps make those basic dates and names a lot easier to remember than if they were something simply learned for the sake of a school test and then forgotten.

I do think there's plenty of blame for parents and for society in general, though. History is undervalued, as it's often not seen as "practical."

Yes, MR Historian, I agree with your views on what constitutes "history" and how it should be taught. Just please remember, I'm talking about a child in 8th grade. The way they teach history, you don't see the forest for the trees. Before getting analytical, couldn't they just give a basic timeline? Look, my dd got the Holacuast confused with the Exodus of Moses time, well, after all, it was about Jews fleeing oppression. I simply sat her down one night and did a little timeline, sort of a "history of the world" just to have some basic understanding of what happened when. why it happened and the consequences of the events is more for higher levels of education, at least high school. How can you understand the hows and whys before you have any grip on the what and when?

Also, I am appalled at the lack of understanding of geography being taught in schools. I have a big map of the United States, and a globe, I keep in the TV room. whenever the opportunity arises, i point out the "where" on the map or globe. For example, if they're talking about civil unrest in Egypt, I point out where Egypt is. Just know where it is, I don't go on and on about how its geographical location affects its economy, etc, just know where the place is, at least know what continent its on. Many supposedly "educated" adults can't even find their own state on a map!

I took a US History course in college (a required course), we split up into groups to do a little game. It involved using a USA map that wasn't labeled. Most of the people in my group couldn't begin to find various states, all over the map, one was looking for Nevada along the East Coast And, no one could find Canada. These were college students, most who were education majors. Just what would they be teaching their students if they didn't know it themselves?

I've used AAA tripticks as learning tools for my kids. We plan a hypothetical trip, get tripticks and maps from AAA, and figure out what states we would pass through on a trip from point to point, the mileage, how many days it would take, what direction we would be going in, etc. At least they know Nevada isn't along the East Coast!

My point is, teach the basics first, then get analytical. The way history is taught today, is like teaching algegra before teaching what numbers are and what they are called!
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Old 06-24-2011, 01:52 PM
 
Location: North Beach, MD on the Chesapeake
32,102 posts, read 39,155,933 times
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You're teaching Geography? Don't get caught. It has pretty much been discarded as a "need" over the last 20 years.

To reply to something earlier from the "blame the teacher" contingent about how we should "refuse" to teach the mandated curriculum. Do the comparable where you work and see what happens. The same thing will happen to teachers.

Teachers have very little, if any, input to curriculum development. Textbook companies lookt what states have in their overall curricula that are passed down to the school systems for implementation and assemble the books using those. California has the most influence on that due to its size, followed by Texas.
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Old 06-24-2011, 04:12 PM
 
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Teach geography?

How does one teach geography? I simply want my kids to know what side of the Earth they're on. Its simply pathetic, college graduates can't find Texas on a map, not even close, looking around Africa, .......

Look, what if you're flying through Europe, and your flight is delayed, cancelled. So, you have the option of taking an alternate route. should you go through amsterdam, London, New York? Or would going to Brazil first make more sense? And if your destination is Austria, would be nice to be there instead of australia!
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Old 06-24-2011, 05:30 PM
 
10,630 posts, read 22,744,640 times
Reputation: 6687
There's no reason kids can't analyze WHILE they learn the facts. Learning to analyze HELPS them to learn the facts -- they are intertwined. Obviously the quality of work for an average 8th grader is going to be much different than what you'd find in an advanced high school class, but you've got to start young and keep working at it. Kids practice doing math problems, don't they? History is the same thing -- you've got to actively engage it, not just learn about it. History is about making connections and interpreting facts -- history, the subject, is NOT just the facts themselves. You can't separate them out. And don't blame the textbooks, either -- textbooks should be the supplement, not the main course.

Obviously there are a lot of kids out there who are failing to grasp the basics, but I see a lot of kids who are doing just fine. Not every teacher or school (or parent) is doing such a poor job. Where are the parents here? My son is four, and he can identify most of the states and many countries. Geography is another one of those subjects that should be fully integrated into the classroom over the years. You can't study history without looking at maps or discussing geography, setting is often an important part of many stories, and in elementary school, don't most schools still spend a great deal of time talking about different countries and cultures? Singing the "50 Nifty" song? This is as good a reminder as anything that so much of the quality of our education depends on individual schools (or in some cases district). Not to mention parents. While I'd like to think that all kids will graduate school with the ability to identify all the states and the countries, as well as know a little about most of them, parents should be reinforcing that at home.

All that said, I know there are some poor history teachers out there. Like all subjects, history really needs a teacher who is both knowledgeable in the subject matter AND has the ability to teach. A good teacher can make a HUGE difference. Unfortunately, I sometimes think that poor teachers (or perhaps even those who are okay teachers, but don't have the subject expertise necessary) can more easily slide by under the heading of "social studies" teachers.
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Old 06-24-2011, 05:40 PM
 
Location: North Beach, MD on the Chesapeake
32,102 posts, read 39,155,933 times
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Where did you guys go to school where there was no analysis in History?

A couple questions my 9th graders have to answer (these are regular ed with many below grade level in reading):

Defend or oppose the atomic bombing of Japan to end WW II. Use examples.

Compare US involvement in Viet Nam to Soviet involvement in Afghanistan in the 1970's. Cite similarities and differences.
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Old 06-24-2011, 08:05 PM
 
9,454 posts, read 15,010,253 times
Reputation: 15401
Quote:
Originally Posted by North Beach Person View Post
Where did you guys go to school where there was no analysis in History?

A couple questions my 9th graders have to answer (these are regular ed with many below grade level in reading):

Defend or oppose the atomic bombing of Japan to end WW II. Use examples.

Compare US involvement in Viet Nam to Soviet involvement in Afghanistan in the 1970's. Cite similarities and differences.

Ok, can they find Japan on a map? Do they even know there was a North and South Viet Nam?

I'm talking more about 3rd-4th grade level, that's the time to be teaching basics, analysis comes along later. You can't analyze something if you can't define it.

I was so frustrated with my 8th grade, honors student, who didn't have a clue about when the Civil War was fought. No, I don't mean she should memorize dates, etc, but just have a general timeline in her head. that's what I did, made up a simple timeline of the history of the US for her. Just a basic understanding of what happened when, some understanding of the time frames.

when she thought the Holocaust occurred in Biblical times

Its because history is so busy analyzing events, etc, they fail to define them first. Just simple, basic facts, like WWII occurred after WWI.


BTW, I happen to think history is a valuable course to teach, not at all a "waste"
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Old 06-24-2011, 08:09 PM
 
9,454 posts, read 15,010,253 times
Reputation: 15401
Quote:
Originally Posted by uptown_urbanist View Post
There's no reason kids can't analyze WHILE they learn the facts. Learning to analyze HELPS them to learn the facts -- they are intertwined. Obviously the quality of work for an average 8th grader is going to be much different than what you'd find in an advanced high school class, but you've got to start young and keep working at it. Kids practice doing math problems, don't they? History is the same thing -- you've got to actively engage it, not just learn about it. History is about making connections and interpreting facts -- history, the subject, is NOT just the facts themselves. You can't separate them out. And don't blame the textbooks, either -- textbooks should be the supplement, not the main course.

Obviously there are a lot of kids out there who are failing to grasp the basics, but I see a lot of kids who are doing just fine. Not every teacher or school (or parent) is doing such a poor job. Where are the parents here? My son is four, and he can identify most of the states and many countries. Geography is another one of those subjects that should be fully integrated into the classroom over the years. You can't study history without looking at maps or discussing geography, setting is often an important part of many stories, and in elementary school, don't most schools still spend a great deal of time talking about different countries and cultures? Singing the "50 Nifty" song? This is as good a reminder as anything that so much of the quality of our education depends on individual schools (or in some cases district). Not to mention parents. While I'd like to think that all kids will graduate school with the ability to identify all the states and the countries, as well as know a little about most of them, parents should be reinforcing that at home.

All that said, I know there are some poor history teachers out there. Like all subjects, history really needs a teacher who is both knowledgeable in the subject matter AND has the ability to teach. A good teacher can make a HUGE difference. Unfortunately, I sometimes think that poor teachers (or perhaps even those who are okay teachers, but don't have the subject expertise necessary) can more easily slide by under the heading of "social studies" teachers.

I wince when I hear about "poor teachers". Hey, its tough to teach those brats, especially when you're not allowed to teach. Instead, you babysit. when half your class has IEP's, and you strain to be "politically correct". At least if you teach math or science you don't have to worry so much about being PC (except teach science and not get into evolution vs creationism). Its all but impossible to teach history, social science, etc, without getting into opinions, politics, etc. The "poor teacher" is probably straining every minute not to trip over some opinion someone would disagree with!
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