E pluribus oops

It’s time to restore the “civic mission” of schools, writes Fordham’s Robert Pondiscio. Reclaiming the “melting pot” metaphor is a first step, he argues. To truly “welcome and celebrate diversity,” we’ll need to  focus children “on what makes us one country and one people.”


He cites social psychologist Jonathan Haidt’s analysis of the clash between “nationalists” and “globalists.”

“Nationalists see patriotism as a virtue,” Haidt writes. “They think their country and its culture are unique and worth preserving.” Globalists see all that as “mere racism.”

He cites Karen Stenner, an Australian political scientist who sees intolerance as a response to “the perception that ‘we’ are coming apart.” Celebrating “our sameness” the best way to build tolerance of differences, she argues.

 “Ultimately, nothing inspires greater tolerance from the intolerant than an abundance of common and unifying beliefs, practices, rituals, institutions, and processes. And regrettably, nothing is more certain to provoke increased expression of their latent predispositions (for authoritarianism) than the likes of ‘multicultural education,’ bilingual policies, and non-assimilation.”

That brings Pondiscio to the schools, which used to tell American children about the melting pot,  E pluribus unum and “Bring me your tired, your poor; your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”

“Gradually, the term fell into disrepute, giving way to metaphors of quilts, mosaics, and kaleidoscopes,” he writes. (“Melting pot” is now considered a microaggression on some campuses.)

Pondiscio dreams of a “civic education renaissance” that would “cultivate in our children a sense of attachment to the nation and its civic ideals.”

In Germany, officials are calling for mandatory classes on Islam in schools in response to an axe attack on train passengers by a 17-year-old Afghan refugee/ISIS “soldier.”

Via The Impotents.

‘I’m sick of purity tests’

Ricki is “sick of political purity tests for people.”

You know, if you hint that maybe, just, you know, maybe, it might be kind of okay if a photographer with strong beliefs to the contrary doesn’t want to take on the job of photographing a same-sex wedding, you suddenly become one to be shunned as a wrong-thinker.

Or, if you mention shopping at Hobby Lobby, because that’s literally the only craft store within 100 miles, you’re told “Oh, they oppress women (because, apparently, they won’t give their workers the Plan B pill for free). You shouldn’t shop there.”

Ricki has known people who’d pass the most progressive purity tests  –“and they were huge (forgive the word but it’s the only one that fits) douchebags. Just awful to other people, selfish, ungenerous, snarky.”

Mozilla forced out its new CEO, Brendan Eich, because he donated $1,000 to a California ballot measure opposing same-sex marriage in 2009.

Disgusting, writes Andrew Sullivan. “If this is the gay rights movement today – hounding our opponents with a fanaticism more like the religious right than anyone else – then count me out.”

In 2009, Eich shared the view of gay marriage that Barack Obama held, instead of the view that Dick Cheney held, writes Instapundit.

Field trips really are educational

Visiting an art museum improved children’s knowledge about art, critical thinking skills, historical empathy and tolerance, concludes a University of Arkansas study. It broadened their minds. Benefits were particularly large for students from rural areas and from high-poverty schools.

Photo © The Walters Art Museum, Susan Tobin
War News from Mexico

Artist: Richard Caton Woodville , 1825 – 1855 

When the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art opened in Arkansas in 2011, many school groups wanted to tour.

Researchers created matched pairs among the applicant groups based on similarity in grade level and other demographic factors, and then randomly assigned school groups to receive a tour that semester or at a later time. Students in selected schools took a tour lasting roughly one hour, during which they viewed and participated in discussions about five different paintings.

Asked to write a short essay on a painting they hadn’t seen before, the field trippers “noticed and described more details.”

 To measure historical empathy, researchers employed a series of statements and asked students to agree or disagree, including, “I have a good understanding of how early Americans thought and felt.”  Tolerance was also measured with statements to which students could express agreement or disagreement, ranging from “People who disagree with my point of view bother me,” to “I think people can have different opinions about the same thing.”

Students who toured on a field trip were more likely than expected to return to the art museum with their family.

More than half of schools throughout the country eliminated planned field trips in 2010–11 according to an American Association of School Administrators survey.

Teaching about 9/11

Teachers are trying to explain 9/11 to students who don’t remember it very well — or at all. A variety of lesson ideas and resources are available, but most teachers are on their own, reports AP.

New York City’s updated Sept. 11 curriculum “includes tips on how to help students cope with learning about the horrors of that day, a study of the art inspired by the terrorist attacks and a history of the building of the 9/11 memorial.”

The Sept. 11 Education Trust also has come out with lesson plans. It was founded by Anthony Gardner, whose 30-year-old brother, died in the World Trade Center.

New Jersey has adopted, but not required, a curriculum developed by families of 9/11 victims, reports the Philadelphia Inquirer.

(Maryellen) Salamone said the loss of her husband “inspired me and I inspired the curriculum, and maybe the curriculum will inspire hundreds and thousands of kids. Then, one death will make a huge difference and I can sleep better at night.”

John Salamone, 37, died in the World Trade Center, leaving his wife and three young children.

“Learning From the Challenges of Our Times: Global Security, Terrorism, and 9/11 in the Classroom” is a free online K-12 curriculum.

Derrick Owings, a Cherry Hill High School West teacher will teach the 9/11 course to his ninth-grade world civilization classes and 11th- and 12th-grade psychology classes.

“We’ll look at the psychology of terrorism,” he said. “What makes a seemingly rational, mentally healthy human being into a terrorist?

“And from a world civilization side,” he said, “we’ll look at the history of human behavior through conflict and turmoil. One man’s terrorist is another man’s patriot.”

Fordham’s Teaching about 9/11 in 2011 highlights “the danger of slighting history and patriotism in the rush to teach children about tolerance and multiculturalism.”

“What one wants to know, however, is whether the rest of the curriculum is there, too: the civics part, the history part, the harsher lessons about how difficult it is to safeguard American values from those who despise them in an increasingly menacing world,” Chester E. Finn Jr. writes in the introduction.

Some teaching materials are excellent, Finn believes, citing the National September 11 Memorial & Museum’s lessons for high school students, which are used in New York City.  “Others, alas, are wimpy, biased, or apologetic and may well do teachers and pupils more harm than good.” Exhibit A: The U.S. Education Departent’s 9/11 Materials for Teachers.

The Education Department’s resource list doesn’t lead off with history, writes Valerie Strauss on Answer Sheet.

The first item is this: “Positive School Climate and 911 — Resources for helping create and maintain a positive school climate and preventing bullying, harassment, and discrimination.

Answer Sheet lists other teaching resources from the National History Education Clearinghouse’s In Remembrance: Teaching September 11.

Smithsonian Institute K-12 lessons

9-11 Commission records on how and why Sept. 11 happened

School Library Journal lessons

National Geographic Remembering 9-11

A year-long diversity workshop

A year-long class on diversity is an elective at affluent, high-performing Jericho Middle School, where most students are white or Asian-American, reports the New York Times.

Fifteen eighth graders at Jericho Middle School were considering a fictional case of stereotyping by hair color the other day, or how a boy came to be prejudiced against people with green hair, or “greenies.” From there, they extrapolated to the stereotypes in their own lives: dumb football players, Asian math whizzes, boring bankers.

Teacher Elisa Weidenbaum Waters hopes to “build acceptance, awareness and appreciation that people may be different than you.”

There are no quizzes or tests in the class, and homework is assigned only occasionally. Instead, there are free-flowing discussions about privilege, discrimination and oppression, and readings, like the recent one about people with green hair from “Prejudiced — How Do People Get That Way?” — a book published by the Anti-Defamation League.

School leaders say students growing up in Jericho need preparation for the diverse world they’ll encounter in college and beyond.

The class easily could turn into “amorphous mush” with little intellectual value, warned Rick Hess, director of education policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute.  Class discussions could be slanted to “favor more popular, progressive views,” Hess added.

You know it’s a bad idea . . . when Crash is on the teacher-training syllabus,” writes Liam Julian on Flypaper.

A year-long diversity workshop sounds like a giant bore, even if students don’t have to do much work. It’s possible to learn a great deal about human differences and similarities by reading literature or studying history. Why not design a humanities class that deals with these issues while also asking students to read challenging books, not just pamphlets, and expand their knowledge of the world?