Mary Kay 2, Columbus 1

by Robert Pondiscio
January 14th, 2010

The Texas State Board of Education is taking testimony in advance of voting on new social studies curriculum standards.  “But, as usual in votes before the conservative-led board, the wide-reaching guidelines are full of potential ideological flashpoints,” the Wall Street Journal notes.

Early quibbles over how much prominence to give civil rights leaders such as Cesar Chavez and Thurgood Marshall, and the inclusion of Christmas seem to have been smoothed over. Board Chairman Gail Lowe said at the start of the hearing that Chavez and Christmas will not be removed from the standards….In early testimony, the board was urged to include more examples of influential Mexican Americans in the nation’s history and to further acknowledge Sikhism as a major world religion.

Jonathan Saenz, a lobbyist for the conservative Free Market Foundation came to the hearings seeking greater acknowledgement  of the “strong Christian faith” of Martin Luther King and other historical figures in the standards.  “He’ll also ask the board to reconsider mentioning makeup entrepreneur Mary Kay Ash of Addison, Texas, more often than Christopher Columbus in the curriculum standard,” the Journal notes. “At present Ms. Ash is mentioned twice; Columbus once.”

(H/T: Matthew Levey)

Texas Does the Math

by Robert Pondiscio
January 14th, 2010

“Everybody can use money. But if you look at a one-time infusion of $80 per child and then having to change your laws permanently, we’re better off doing what we’re doing,” says Texas Rep. Rob Eissler, who chairs the state’s Public Education Committee.  Texas has announced it will not compete for a “Race to the Top” grant, concluding it could give Washington too much say in deciding what the state’s students should learn.

Cogs, Compliance and Comformity

by Robert Pondiscio
January 14th, 2010

short blog post on classroom management has ignited a fascinating and at times contentious debate on our expectations for children to behave in certain ways in classrooms.  Scott McLeod’s Dangerously Irrelevant blog typically concerns itself with technology implementation in schools.  But overhearing a preschool teacher tell her class “Good job!  I like the way you all are staying in line. You’re so good at this!” prompted McLeod to respond with two simple sentences:

The socialization to be a cog in the machine begins early. Woe be it if you don’t stay in line.

This is the most common positive reinforcement trick in the classroom teacher’s bag of trick (I’ve even joked it’s the basis of Race to the Top).  McLeod’s quip implies it’s mindless compliance, but teachers see it differently.  “I don’t see the woe in this, just courtesy, common sense, and safety,” writes one.  Walking quietly in line in preschool shows consideration for the other classes, notes another. “You could say that the teacher should explain WHY being quiet is good in the hallways, but trust me – she did, about 20 times already.”  A third teacher writes,

I can only assume, Scott, that next time you go to the movies or the grocery store, you’ll stand randomly by a check stand and hope someday it will be your turn. A queue is not necessarily a means to transform us into lemmings.

And this:

Sometimes it’s about safety. We drive in lines, not clumps. Conformity for the sake of someone else wielding their power is a problem. Conformity for the sake of everyone’s well being is a good thing.

Most of the commenters on the blog, presumably educators, see nothing sinister at work.  But a few see conformity and coercion in the teacher’s praise for her young charges’ ability to stand quietly in line.  ”If we only occassionally asked for mindless compliance from children, but most of the time encouraged them to be active participants in their learning, I would be lot more satisfied,” writes one.

I’m with the common sense crowd.  Lack of self-control and consideration for others was the biggest impediment to learning in my classroom and in my school.  On a scale of one to ten, it was a thirteen.   A little self-discipline and self-control goes a long way.  And besides, isn’t lining up and walking silently a form of group work and cooperative learning?