Chicago schools debut Latino studies

Kindergarteners will learn about the Mayan counting system.

Kindergarteners will learn about the Mayan counting system.

Chicago Public Schools will teach an interdisciplinary Latino and Latin American Studies curriculum to all K-10 students, Melissa Sanchez reports for Catalyst Chicago.

“Kindergartners can learn about the Mayan counting system while they’re learning numbers, and fifth-graders can learn about African influences on South American percussion during music class,” she writes.

“The history of Chicago cannot be written without celebrating the contributions of immigrants from Central America, South America and the Caribbean,” CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett said in a district news release.

More than 45 percent of CPS students are Latino.

On The White Rhino, a Chicago English teacher named Ray Salazar called the curriculum well-intentioned but over-simplified.

Chicago already is piloting an African and African American studies curriculum that was released last year.

Teaching history through games

New Jersey history teachers can learn to use games, play and digital tools through a HistoryQuest Fellowship from the Woodrow Wilson FoundationDeveloped with the Institute of Play in New York City, the program helps educators experiment with learning games and assessment tools.

CommonSense Media lists games that teach history.

Teaching History includes a forum titled Games and History: A New Way to Learn or Educational Fluff?

Ubisoft’s Valiant Hearts, an “adventure puzzle game,” uses World War I soldiers’ poetry to teach about the Great War.

Think big — and get rid of history, chem, etc.

Dividing courses by subject matter — history, biology, chemistry, etc. — is old hat, argues Eric Horowitz on Pacific Standard. Except for English and math, all subjects should be taught as “themes that hold some of the keys to succeeding in modern society,” he writes.

The women’s suffrage movement could be part of a class on Evolution, Horowitz suggests. A class on Justice could include To Kill a Mockingbird.

A class called Evidence could touch on all areas of science, but also history, statistics, philosophy, and psychology.

Human Behavior or Relationships could be organized around novels driven by the relationships between characters, but also include content from biology or chemistry, psychology, and lessons on social-emotional skills.

Even straightforward scientific context from chemistry and physics would be better suited to courses organized around ideas like Cause and Effect or Complex Systems.

Specialization can wait till college, Horowitz believes. In high school, students should be taught how to analyze real and hypothetical situations. “What is happening and why? What might have prevented it? What are the likely consequences?”

Could history or science teachers organize and teach thematic, interdisciplinary courses?

They don’t read ‘Evangeline’ any more

In 1908, Minnesota’s recommended reading list for 7th and 8th graders included Longfellow’s Evangeline and the Courtship of Miles Standish, and works by Washington Irving, Nathaniel Hawthorne, James Fenimore Cooper, Charles Dickens, Robert Louis Stevenson and others, writes Annie Holmquist on Better-Ed. Most of the books were 50 to 100 years old.

She found the 2014 reading list for 7th and 8th graders in Edina, one of the state’s best school districts. Other than Tom Sawyer, The Diary of Anne Frank and Fahrenheit 451, the books were written in the last 20 years.



The 1908 list “is full of historical references and settings which stretch from ancient Greece (Tanglewood Tales) to the Middle Ages (Harold, Last of Saxon Kings) to the founding of America (Courtship of Miles Standish),” Holmquist writes. Children are introduced to classic writers.

The 2014 books touch on “current political and cultural themes such as the Taliban (The Breadwinner), cloning, illegal immigrants, the drug war (The House of the Scorpion), and deeply troubled youth (Touching Spirit Bear).”

In addition, the modern books use simple language and familiar vocabulary, she writes. It’s easy reading.

Nothing But the Truth starts:

 Coach Jamison saw me in the hall and said he wanted to make sure I’m trying out for the track team!!!! Said my middle school gym teacher told him I was really good!!!! Then he said that with me on the Harrison High team we have a real shot at being county champs. Fantastic!!!!!! He wouldn’t say that unless he meant it. Have to ask folks about helping me get new shoes. Newspaper route won’t do it all. But Dad was so excited when I told him what Coach said that I’m sure he’ll help.

Evangeline is a more challenging read:

 “This is the forest primeval. The murmuring pines and the hemlocks,
Bearded with moss, and in garments green, indistinct in the twilight,
Stand like Druids of eld, with voices sad and prophetic,
Stand like harpers hoar, with beards that rest on their bosoms.
Loud from its rocky caverns, the deep-voiced neighboring ocean
Speaks, and in accents disconsolate answers the wail of the forest.”

Apparently, it wasn’t too challenging for kids in 1908.

Via The Federalist Papers.

Et tu, Mrs. McCarthy

Julius Caesar’s assassination was “mean,” said one of Bridgit McCarthy’s third graders.

“JC helped get France for them — except it was, you know, Gaul back then,” said another. “Plus, his rules helped the plebeians get more stuff from the laws.” 

But students remembered last week’s lesson. “Well, it did kinda seem like he wanted to be a king—and the Romans said no way to kings.”

McCarthy teaches at New Dimensions, a public charter school in North Carolina that uses the Core Knowledge curriculum. Students learn about world civilizations such as Mesopotamia and Egypt in first grade, ancient Greece in second grade and ancient Rome in third. They enjoy it, she says.

A student was playing a dune-buggy race car computer game in my room during indoor recess. I scoffed at its total lack of educational value. He pouted at me a bit and said, “Dang, that’s what my mom said last night! Et tu, Mrs. McCarthy?”

Children can learn a great deal in the early grades if teachers use “a really rich, cumulative curriculum in which the topics build off of each other,” concludes McCarthy on Core Knowledge Blog.

‘Selma’ is too racy for school superintendent

Nearly 50 years ago, civil rights marchers were attacked by police as they crossed this bridge.

The movie Selma isn’t appropriate for high school students because it contains bad language, says an Alabama superintendent. Hugh Taylor refused to bus history club members and other students to the PG-13 movie.

A web site reports two “F-words” and 26 derogatory terms for African-Americans, Taylor said.

“We’re trying to be good stewards of taxpayers money, and sending them off to something that has immoral, unethical language, that may provoke other things, I don’t feel like that’s appropriate,” he said.

“I understand the movie has a lot of historical value,” Taylor said. “I’m not going to send our DeKalb county kids to a movie that has the F-word in it.”

‘Selma’ distorts the truth about LBJ

Selma is a powerful movie, reviewers write. But it distorts the truth about Lyndon Johnson to create drama, writes Richard Cohen in the Washington Post.

Before I came to dislike the movie “Selma,” I was deeply moved by it. Twice it brought me to tears. A crane shot of Martin Luther King Jr. leading thousands of demonstrators over the Edmund Pettus Bridge was one such moment, and so was the vicious attack on John Lewis — bravely, steadfastly walking into the beating he knew was coming. Today, Lewis is a member of Congress. Forever, he’ll be an American hero.

But the movie smears John to create dramatic tension, writes Cohen.

. . .  “Selma” asserts that King had to persuade and pressure a recalcitrant Johnson to introduce the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The movie also depicts Johnson authorizing FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover to smear King and — as King himself suspected — try to drive him to suicide. It is a profoundly ugly moment.

But a bevy of historians say it never happened. It was Robert F. Kennedy, the former attorney general, who authorized the FBI’s bugging of King’s hotel rooms.

Kennedy, still a “liberal icon,” doesn’t appear in the movie.

Johnson “considered the Voting Rights Act his greatest legislative achievement, he viewed King as an essential partner in getting it enacted — and he didn’t use the FBI to disparage him,” writes Joseph A. Califano Jr., a former aide, in a Post op-ed.

“Johnson was enthusiastic about voting rights” and urged King to “find a place like Selma and lead a major demonstration,” writes Califano. The LBJ-MLK telephone conversation on the subject is available on the LBJ Presidential Library Web site.

Students will watch Selma to understand the civil rights movement. They’ll believe its version of history.

Learning from TV

Fordham’s Netflix Academy is a list of free streaming videos on science, history and literature.

Via Walking with Dinosaurs, “my five-year-old already has a rudimentary understanding of evolution (paving the way for many scientific and theological conversations in the years ahead) and has absorbed key vocabulary, to boot (carnivore, herbivore, omnivore, Cretaceous, Jurassic, etc.), writes Mike Petrilli.

Rise and fall of the Berlin Wall

Today, Germans celebrate the fall of the Berlin Wall 25 years ago.

Nov. 9 also was the day, in 1918, that Kaiser Wilhelm II abdicated, “after four terrible years” of World War I, said Chancellor Angela Merkel. In 1938, Nov. 9 was Kristallnacht, the “night of broken glass,” when Nazi thugs attacked Jewish synagogues, businesses, homes and people, “the start of the killing of millions,” said Merkel.

Do students today learn why the Berlin Wall was built and why it finally came down?

Carnival of Homeschooling

History is the theme of this week’s Carnival of Homeschooling, hosted at Homeschool Post.