It’s time to teach civics

It’s now or never for civic education, argues Robert Pondiscio, who’s taught civics at a Democracy Prep high school in New York City.

In an informal study of the mission statements of the 100 largest U.S. school systems, he found 60 percent didn’t mention civics or citizenship. Not one used the word “America,” “American,” “patriotic” or “patriotism.” Twenty-eight districts used “global” in phrases such as “global society,” “global economy” or “global citizens.”

Image result for letter from a birmingham jail

College Board’s redesigned framework for Advanced Placement U.S. Government and Politics requires students to read “19 Supreme Court cases and nine foundational documents, from Federalist No. 10 to Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Letter From Birmingham Jail,” Pondiscio writes. That requires a high level of literacy.

Serious civic education also requires teachers who can teach well and fairly, he writes. “Fears of teacher bias are not misplaced and surely make district officials gun-shy about any political course content, but that squeamishness is a luxury we can no longer afford.”

Teachers are promoting anti-Trump hysteria, charges Larry Sand on Union Watch.  United Educators of San Francisco issued a “Lesson Plan on the 2016 Election” as a guide for teachers. It includes:

DO NOT: Tell them that we have LOST and that we have to accept this.  We do not have to accept ANYTHING except that we must and will fight for justice against an unjust system and against unjust people.

If Clinton was your choice, “you did lose and you do have to accept it,” Sand points out.

So, who’s going to teach civics and government?

Teaching anti-Trump hysteria


Photo: Eric Risberg/AP

The election of Donald Trump should be used to teach civics and history — not scare students or “suggest that only a Democratic victory would have aligned with the nation’s values,” write Rick Hess and Checker Finn in U.S. News. Teachers should keep their bias out of the classroom.

They’re not Trump fans, but they think it’s foolish to see the election only “through the prism of racism and xenophobia.”

If Hillary Clinton had won, some students would have felt “unsafe” on campus, write Hess and Finn. Their list includes:

  • Evangelicals and Catholics whose religious schools and colleges are threatened by federal authorities for non-compliance with directives related to gender and sexual identity.
  • College students muzzled by progressive speech codes or sanctioned by “bias response teams” for posting Trump signs or celebrating America as a “melting pot,” and well aware that a Clinton administration would embrace such restrictions.
  • College students fearful of being falsely convicted by kangaroo campus courts and publicly pilloried or expelled under the Obama administration’s Star Chamber approach to sexual harassment, which has compelled universities to abandon the basic tenets of due process.

If Clinton had won, would educators have canceled classes to comfort Trump supporters? Would anti-Clinton students carrying “not my president” signs be consoled — or mocked as sore losers?

Hess and Finn conclude: “For those who supported Donald Trump because they think the nation’s elites hold them in contempt and have declared war on their values, we fear that the nation’s educators have done little this past week to disprove the point.”

Discuss.

Oh, in a column on how universities are “othering” Trump supporters, Glenn Reynolds links to a great rant by “Jonathan Pie” on how to persuade people to change their minds. Calling them racists isn’t the most effective strategy.

Teachers’ union blames Trump for school bullying

Donald Trump’s rhetoric is encouraging school bullies who harass Muslims and Latinos, charges the National Education Association, which is launching a six-figure anti-Trump ad campaign.

Hillary Clinton appeared with National Education Association President Lily Eskelsen Garcia at the NEA’s July 5 meeting. Photo: Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

Hillary Clinton and NEA President Lily Eskelsen Garcia at the union’s July 5 meeting. Photo: Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

NEA President Lily Eskelsen Garcia cited an April Southern Poverty Law Center report on the alleged “Trump effect.”

In the unscientific survey, teachers who visit the SPLC’s Teaching Tolerance web site reported that students from immigrant or Muslim families are fearful about what might happen if Trump were elected, reports Ed Week. The report included “anecdotal reports of bullying teachers have tied to Trump.”

Hillary Clinton, who has talked about the “Trump effect,” has released a  new TV ad that “plays audio of Trump criticizing women’s looks as young girls look at themselves in mirrors,” reports Yahoo.

Black pre-K teachers are tough on black kids

Black preschoolers are far more likely to be suspended, according to federal data, mirroring the harsher discipline they’re likely to experience in K-12 schools.

A new Yale study concluded that white and black preschool teachers expect trouble from black boys, reports Melinda D. Anderson in The Atlantic. However, white teachers tended to go easy on black children, while black teachers were tougher on black students.

Asked to observe video clips of children to spot “challenging behaviors,” teachers more closely observed black boys, an eye-tracking system found.

Then teachers read bout behaviors such as “difficulties napping and following instructions to blurting out answers and taunting other children,” writes Anderson.

Each vignette contained a pre-selected, stereotypical black or white boy or girl name: DeShawn, Jake, Latoya, and Emily. The participants were then asked to rate the severity of the behavioral challenges—the only difference in each vignette was the perceived race and sex of the child—and the likelihood that they would recommend suspension or expulsion.

White teachers appeared to have lower expectations of black children, finding them as a group more prone to misbehavior, “so a vignette about a black child with challenging behaviors [was] not appraised as … unusual, severe, or out of the ordinary.”

Conversely, black teachers seemed to hold black preschoolers to a higher behavioral standard; pay notably more attention to the behaviors of black boys; and recommend harsher, more exclusionary discipline.

Black parents believe they need to be tough to prepare their children for “a harsh world,” says researcher Walter Gilliam, a Yale professor. “It seems possible that the black preschool teachers may be operating under similar beliefs … that black children require harsh assessment and discipline.”

Tracking black boys more doesn’t prove “implicit bias,” argues Kay Hymowitz of City Journal.  Nobody says teachers have “implicit bias” against boys, even though they track them much more than girls, she adds.

BTW, I first heard “implicit bias” from Hillary Clinton in the first debate. Since then, I’ve heard it multiple times a day. I miss plain old “bias.”

The AP European History debate

College Board’s new framework for Advanced Placement European History slights religious faith and freedom, says the National Association of Scholars (NAS) in The Disappearing Continent.

Larry Krieger, a retired history teacher who criticized the new AP U.S. History framework, and helped revise it, disagrees. The AP European History framework “is a fair and historically accurate document that is widely respected by AP teachers and historians,” he writes.

Does the new AP European History framework have too much Marx and too little Churchill?

Does the new AP European History framework have too much Karl Marx and too little Winston Churchill?

APEH shows a left-wing bias, writes David Randall, director of communications at NAS, in a response to Krieger.

James Tracy, an emeritus professor of history at University of Minnesota, questions the framework’s assumption that “history serves as a prolegomenon (introduction) for the understanding of contemporary problems that need to be addressed by society.”

History “does not amount to a prescription for present politics, no more than it amounts to a recapitulation of past politics,” writes Tracy. “It is rather a gateway to worlds which have in common only the fact that they differ from ours. In other words, these are worlds from which students can learn.”

AP rewrites European history

College Board’s new AP European History course lauds “the triumph of secular progressivism” and marginalizes Europe’s “centuries-long rise to political freedom and prosperity,” concludes the National Association of Scholars in The Disappearing Continent.

Good-bye to Columbus. Winston Churchill “is reduced to a single prompt.”

Instead, “APEH treats Europe’s history as a neo-Marxist, generic narrative powered by abstract social and economic forces, complains NAS.

APEH underplays British history and “extenuates the evils of Communism, the brutal destructiveness of Soviet rule, and the aggressiveness of Soviet foreign policy,” the report finds. The curriculum also minimizes the importance of religious faith.

NAS wasn’t a big fan of the revised AP U.S. History curriculum either.

Teacher training seeks ‘cultural competence’


Amy Davis teaches second-graders about parachutes at a Los Angeles elementary school. Photo: Joel Leavenworth/Slate

White teachers need to become “culturally competent” to teach non-white students, writes Vanessa Romo in Slate. “Minority children now account for more than half of all students in public schools and the teacher workforce remains more than 80 percent white. And so teacher-training programs are increasingly trying to figure out how to bridge this divide.”

When she began teaching a class of second-graders in South Los Angeles in 2002, Amy Davis . . . figured she’d have little trouble relating to her mostly low-income black and Latino students. After all, she was raised nearby, in a household headed by a single mother who for years survived on welfare and food stamps. Like her students, Davis knew what it was like to grow up poor.

But Davis, who is white, struggled to connect with several of the children — particularly a 7-year-old black student named Patrick.

Patrick had frequent meltdowns that disrupted her class.

Davis decided that she was seeing Patrick through a white, middle-class “lens” and needed to understand his home life. She began phoning his mother regularly. “I had to cultivate that relationship, but when he found out we talked almost once a week, he started changing his behavior,” she says.

. . . (Davis) learned to scour catalogs for books featuring black American and Latino protagonists that looked like her students. She adopted classroom management techniques that didn’t disproportionately single out black boys . . . And she figured out how to talk to her students about the beauty and linguistic variations of the language they spoke at home—usually African American Vernacular—and the importance of being able to switch into standard English when necessary.

Davis now coaches teachers in how to help students — nearly all are Latino or black — master standard English. She “helps teachers recognize their own biases and reflect on how those biases influence their expectations of students and approach to discipline,” writes Romo. “She also provides guidance in choosing books and other materials that the children will be able to relate to.”

Is this “cultural competence” or just plain old competence? And wouldn’t Patrick be a royal pain for a teacher of any color or creed?

A comment by “sameoldsameold” asks:  “You really want to sit down teachers, a population already disrespected, exploited, despised, blamed, underpaid, saddled with every social ill the rest of the country won’t deal with, and essentially tell them they’re ‘racially biased’ towards students  and need to confess their ‘privilege?’  Really?”

UO tells students what’s OK to say, write

4 Posters with biased comments crossed out and corrected.
University of Oregon’s Bias Response Team has designed posters showing what not to say.

At the University of Oregon, “thought police” step in when one person’s “constitutionally protected speech has offended” another person, writes Robby Soave on Reason‘s Hit & Run. The Bias Response Team, made up of seven administrators, is fond of staging “educational conversations” and is “not shy about referring its cases to university agencies with more robust enforcement powers.”

The BRT’s annual report lists 85 incidents, including a faculty member’s insulting comment on a blog, a poster that “triggered” bad feelings about “body size” and a complaint about a “culturally appropriative” party.

“Students, faculty, and staff who feel threatened, harassed, intimidated, triggered, microaggressed, offended, ignored, under-valued, or objectified because of their race, gender, gender identity, sexuality, disability status, mental health, religion, political affiliation, or size are encouraged to contact the BRT, writes Soave.

When a student reported that a sign in a dorm encouraging cleaning up after oneself was sexist, the BRT Advocate “empowered” the student to contact Housing staff. “A BRT Case Manager followed up to ensure that the sign was removed, and the program staff had an educational conversation about the issue.”

An anonymous person thought the student newspaper wasn’t providing enough coverage of  transgender students and “students of color.” So “university administrators had ‘an educational conversation’ with student-journalists about what kinds of stories they should be printing,” reports Soave, who finds it “positively Orwellian.”

These “conversations” the BRT sponsors reflect a massive power imbalance between students and administrators, since the administrators appear to have the authority to punish the students.

. . . Would a student in such a situation feel like he could invoke his First Amendment rights without facing reprisals?

“It’s troubling to see the university policing and micro-managing students’ every day interactions,” Azhar Majeed, an attorney at the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, told Soave. “One can imagine the chilling effects this would have.”

A “swollen campus bureaucracy, empowered by intrusive federal regulation,” has usurped the faculty’s “prerogative to shape the educational mission and to protect the free flow of ideas,” writes Camille Paglia.

“The entire college experience should be based on confronting new and disruptive ideas,” she writes. “Students must accept personal responsibility for their own choices and behavior, and university administrators must stop behaving like substitute parents and hovering therapists.”

Why my Catholic schools are opting in to testing

As superintendent of Partnership Schools, a network of six urban Catholic schools in Harlem and the South Bronx, Kathleen Porter-Magee is opting in to state testing.  Results are used to “benchmark . . .  our students’ academic growth, and to ensure we are keeping expectations high,” she writes on The 74.

At St. Mark the Evangelist in Harlem, students take New York state tests, but don't do test prep.

At St. Mark the Evangelist in Harlem, a Partnership school, students take New York state tests, but don’t do test prep.

Union-backed organizations are trying to persuade parents to reject testing, she writes. One letter claims that “excessive standardized testing is consuming a child’s academic year” and that it “forces [teachers] to ‘teach to test’ and takes the joy out of learning”

New York state’s English and math tests take up less than one percent of the school year, writes Porter-Magee.

The test doesn’t “force” anything, she adds. “Decisions to scrap core content instruction in favor of test prep are leadership decisions, not policy decisions.”

“Independent measures” are needed to “ensure all students are being held to the same bar regardless of race or socioeconomic status,” writes Porter-Magee.

Recently, a Johns Hopkins University study found that “when evaluating a black student, white teachers expect significantly less academic success than black teachers,” and that “this is especially true for black boys.”

Moreover, “for black students, particularly black boys, having a non-black teacher in a 10th grade subject made them much less likely to pursue that subject by enrolling in similar classes. This suggests biased expectations by teachers have long-term effects on student outcomes.”

Relying only on “teacher-created tests and teacher-conferred grades” risks “systematizing the kind of unconscious bias that holds our most vulnerable children back,” she concludes. Standardized testing is “the best tool we have to expose” inequality.

Kids copy: ‘There is no god but Allah’

In Virginia, a World Geography teacher told students to practice Arabic calligraphy by copying script that said: “There is no god but Allah. Muhammad is the messenger of Allah.”

The Muslim statement of faith “was not translated for students, said the district in a statement. The copying assignment was meant to teach the “artistic complexity” of written Arabic.

I think copying Arabic is a waste of time — kids can tell it’s artsy by looking — but if it’s worth doing, there’s no need to use a religious statement. (Why not “Death to America!”? Just kidding.)

The teacher showed students a Koran, but didn’t provide a Bible because she believed they’d all read or seen one, parents said on The Schilling Show.

Female students were also encouraged to wear a hijab, parents said. School officials said girls were invited to try on a scarf as “part of an interactive lesson about the Islamic concept of modest dress.”

The district closed its schools today because of the outcry. Which is nuts.

In rural Tennessee, where nearly everyone is Christian and few have met a Muslim, parents and school board members are worried about Islamic indoctrination writes Emma Green in The Atlantic.

Seventh graders in the state study world geography and history, including a unit on “the Islamic world” up to 1500.

Beth Burgos, a school board member in Williamson County, questioned why textbook ignore jihad and portray Islam as a fundamentally peaceful religion.

In White County, Citizens Against Islamic Indoctrination advertised a meeting with an anti-tolerance graphic.

It’s not just Tennessee, writes Green. Last spring, parents complained when a history teacher in Union Grove, Wisconsin, assigned her students to write from the perspective of an American Muslim, giving examples of “what you do daily for your religion and any struggles you face.”

“This assignment is problematic because it required the students to adopt and adhere to Islamic religious activity and viewpoints,” argued the American Center for Law and Justice in a letter to the principal.