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PDilemma
10-01-2011, 04:29 PM
So do you think that it's a situation being created by bad curriculum choices within the district? Changes in priorities with an easier base line? Parent and group pressure? Government program incentives for grades and test scores?
Student attitude? What?
I get it's getting bad. I taught first grade for years and am now looking at my grandson's options.. I voted private school. But for how long and why?

I can't speak for everywhere. Because as I already pointed out, things are very different from state to state.

The problem of parent and group pressure is the one that I think exists everywhere. In the current political climate where teachers are demonized, parents think they must monitor everything we do. The loudest ones also believe their kids should never be exposed to a new idea, a different religion or culture, or anything mom and dad disagree with. And history is full of ideas and other religions and cultures that mom and dad disagree with.

Social studies curriculum standards here were made by a committee of politicians and random citizens. Not a single historian or social studies educator was part of the group. The standards are politically biased to the conservative side to the point that the Populist movement is not included in William Jennings Bryan's home state. Politics is playing a huge role in history education right now. Someone else already pointed out the Texas text book issue. American history and government courses are the real battleground as the very conservative side favors history taught as a patriotic exercise that doesn't ask questions or espouse multiple interpretations.

Testing mania is also part of the problem. In most places math and reading are heavily tested with results released to the local media and used to some degree to determine funding. Other subjects are being pushed aside to focus on those and the scores. This has decimated the arts in the lower grades and social studies is the next victim in some districts (as I pointed out). Science will remain safe, I'm sure.

Aceon6
10-01-2011, 04:32 PM
Thanks PD and Matry for the inside scoop. IMO, part of the problem is what we adults learned. My "history", taught at the height of the Cold War, was about why America and it's allies were good, and why the USSR and its allies were bad. In college, I took comparative religion, and it sparked a "redo" of independent reading on history.

Today's parent's history was taught as the former Soviet dominated countries were crumbling. Again, it was "why Communism is/was bad." My niece, now 34, is now very interested in the history of the Middle East and is doing a "redo" again focusing on the interconnections between religion and availability of natural resources.

The safe stuff is the "what" and that's what's taught.

PDilemma
10-01-2011, 04:40 PM
Thanks PD and Matry for the inside scoop. IMO, part of the problem is what we adults learned. My "history", taught at the height of the Cold War, was about why America and it's allies were good, and why the USSR and its allies were bad. In college, I took comparative religion, and it sparked a "redo" of independent reading on history.

Today's parent's history was taught as the former Soviet dominated countries were crumbling. Again, it was "why Communism is/was bad." My niece, now 34, is now very interested in the history of the Middle East and is doing a "redo" again focusing on the interconnections between religion and availability of natural resources.

The safe stuff is the "what" and that's what's taught.

I had parents explain to me that the kids didn't need to learn history because if they needed to know a date or name, they could google it.

The notion that history is just a collection of names and dates is a huge part of the problem. Even within schools, the notion that the history classroom is a place to learn analysis, problem-solving, reason, debate, etc...is highly doubted. I have a relative who considers himself an intellectual and informed me that a master's in history is "bogus" because "you just collect some dates". And my sister-in-law still doesn't understand why my graduate history courses require me to read when "it's just dates". Even as an undergrad, I had to read and write more for history courses than English lit. But not enough people even inside education see social studies as a place to hone those skills.

Vagabond
10-01-2011, 04:40 PM
Karl Marx once worked for George W. Bush

Hence the use of the word "red" in the term "red states." ;)

jlai
10-01-2011, 04:59 PM
I have a nephew who keeps telling me history and geography are easy. (I thought to myself "You mean they made the subjects easy...")

PDilemma
10-01-2011, 05:03 PM
I have a nephew who keeps telling me history and geography are easy. (I thought to myself "You mean they made the subjects easy...")

Or someone made them make it easy. The world history teacher I wrote about, fwiw, was not a coach, either. She just believed that teaching so the kids get an easy grade was what she was supposed to do.

There are some bad social studies teachers. But there are a lot of good ones who gave up and made it easy, too. And a lot of good ones that are taking hell every day for trying to do it right. And a few like me who quit all together because it was not physically and emotionally healthy to fight for it anymore.

Hannahclear
10-01-2011, 06:58 PM
I'm a history teacher and I love what I do.

My own approach is that even if a kid is more of a math/science type, they should still get quite a bit from me as a teacher. I lean towards skills. I want to teach them to read, write and think critically. If I can do that, then I've moved them ahead, even if they don't care a whit for the Ottoman Empire.

I do think things are changing. The methods courses that I've taken emphasize this a lot. Though I agree with Matry that history teachers need content training at the college level. You aren't going to be able to think of cool activities if you can't get through the content they do need (very big general picture IMO) and are stumbling over the facts yourself.

And any history teacher who follows the book (meaning only lectures on text content) should ask themselves why the students need a book in that case, or alternatively, why they need a teacher to recite the book.

PrincessLeppard
10-01-2011, 06:59 PM
. I voted private school. But for how long and why?

I believe PD taught in a private school. ;)

All schools are different. At mine, all of the Social Studies teachers are coaches, but two of them are also good teachers. The others show a lot of movies. Oh, and basketball, during the NCAA tournament. :rolleyes:

I teach a lot of history when I introduce Animal Farm (and then my definition of communism and the ROTC instructors' definition of communism come into conflict :P), Children of the River (Cambodia under Pol Pot) and the Odyssey. I try to time the novels so they are taught at the same time the geography teacher is covering those areas, but it doesn't always work.

And you know, it might not be that the teachers aren't covering the material. It just might be that the kids aren't paying attention. :shuffle:

PDilemma
10-01-2011, 07:05 PM
I believe PD taught in a private school. ;)


And you know, it might not be that the teachers aren't covering the material. It just might be that the kids aren't paying attention. :shuffle:

I did. But we were required by the equivalent of district officials in public education to follow the same standards required of local public schools. We also often used texts from textbook loan from the local public district. So one reason we couldn't get new social studies texts was that the public district wasn't getting new ones which meant we couldn't request them via textbook loan.

And the second issue is definitely true.

Prancer
10-01-2011, 07:42 PM
And you know, it might not be that the teachers aren't covering the material. It just might be that the kids aren't paying attention. :shuffle:

My son loves history. On the last standardized social studies test he took, he scored in the top 1% of the state. He knows more than I do about most history, and far more than I do about World Wars I and II, anything related to Russian history, and economics.

He takes the same classes as his peers. The difference is that he is engaged and interested, and so pays attention. He does read on his own and has watched a lot of the History Channel, but still--he has learned most of what he knows in school.

He used to want to be a history teacher, but doesn't any more because he says he couldn't stand trying to teach all those indifferent teenagers who couldn't care less what happened in the past or how the world has come to be what it is.

And as I said before, I sometimes bring up things in my classes that I KNOW are part of the standard state history curriculum and my students all swear they've never heard any of it before. I have a little history trivia treasure hunt I do as an exercise in finding information on the internet; I stick with American history, as I know that is what most of the students are most familiar with. And I still get :eek: from students who think the things I have them find are new and shocking. This also happens when I teach lit--you cannot understand literature without having a good grasp of history. It's like some of them have never heard even the most basic stuff before.

At the same time, I get some students who DO know a lot. Same curriculum, same basic education, but a few of them know it and most of them don't.

People tend to assume that if students don't know something, it means it wasn't taught. Not so at all.

PDilemma
10-01-2011, 07:56 PM
People tend to assume that if students don't know something, it means it wasn't taught. Not so at all.

That is because there is a growing notion of education as a passive activity. All of the focus on the teacher being the determining factor in student success has fed that idea.

At the same time, sometimes it really hasn't been taught. My students would have not the slightest clue about the French Revolution when we read A Tale of Two Cities in senior honors English. But the world history teacher (principal when she left: 'We're losing one of the greatest teachers I've ever known!") had them focus on making models of guillotines and the Arc de Triomphe during that unit, then give a multiple choice test which included the vital information that Napoleon was short. If I brought it up to her in a department meeting, she would say "I covered it'. "Covering" is not teaching.

vesperholly
10-01-2011, 08:05 PM
I'm more converned about the lack of global focus in the US curriculum in general (I'm sure different states differ but mostly I don't think there's an emphasis in studying about the world, foreign languages and so on--at least compared to other countries. Though I must admit that powerful countries in the past had been just as "egocentric" in their outlook--China back several hundred years ago, Japan in the 80s, etc. ).

New York state, at least when I went to high school 94-98, had two years of "Global Studies" for 9/10th grades with a Regents exam at the end of 10th, American history for 11th grade, then seniors had a split year of PIG (participation in government) or AP government to earn college credits, and economics (I think). There was also AP European history as an elective. I had a terrible Global 2 teacher, but a wonderful US history teacher.

To earn a Regents diploma, which any credible C-and-higher student did, you needed to take at least 3 years in a foreign language and pass the exam. All students took mandatory foreign language (Spanish or French) from 5th to 8th grade. When we got to high school, there was Spanish, French, German, Japanese and Latin.

Regents have changed since I graduated, and electives like Japanese vary widely by school district and of course by state. I'm glad that my family ended up in a state with such high educational standards and very lucky that I went to a school ranked 75th in the state. But you're painting in broad strokes when the answer is really quite diverse.

jlai
10-01-2011, 08:46 PM
What you said is more than what my state has but IMHO it's still not wonderful global education--I think a good global education should aim at students being bilingual to the point of reading foreign literary masterpieces, studying political systems in other countries in government classes, multi-year coverage of world history covering other countries, etc. It shouldn't be just "global studies" as a one or two-year unit. It should be global studies embedded in every course and curriculum, in the "think global" manner. To me that's the ideal.

Granted, many big powerful nations (present or past) did not or do not offer that kind of education. It's not just about the United States. That said, many students from China, Russia and other nations come to the States for college and they learn multi-culturalism that hard way. Now if more US students will go abroad for part of their college...

eta: Frankly I think Americans are victims of its geography (only having 2 nations as neighbors in the same continent) and the fact thtat they are speaking the world's most dominant language.


New York state, at least when I went to high school 94-98, had two years of "Global Studies" for 9/10th grades with a Regents exam at the end of 10th, American history for 11th grade, then seniors had a split year of PIG (participation in government) or AP government to earn college credits, and economics (I think). There was also AP European history as an elective. I had a terrible Global 2 teacher, but a wonderful US history teacher.

To earn a Regents diploma, which any credible C-and-higher student did, you needed to take at least 3 years in a foreign language and pass the exam. All students took mandatory foreign language (Spanish or French) from 5th to 8th grade. When we got to high school, there was Spanish, French, German, Japanese and Latin.

Regents have changed since I graduated, and electives like Japanese vary widely by school district and of course by state. I'm glad that my family ended up in a state with such high educational standards and very lucky that I went to a school ranked 75th in the state. But you're painting in broad strokes when the answer is really quite diverse.

overedge
10-01-2011, 09:11 PM
In 2008, I had government students follow the elections. Teaching them how the electoral college worked using the election as it unfolded worked brilliantly when we followed a website called 270toWin which was forecasting the election based on polling in the states. One memorable Monday, the state of Minnesota changed from neutral (too close to call) to blue (Obama leading), that change on the projected map gave Obama his first real projected lead. I spent the next two days with irate parents yelling at me that I had no right "to give Obama the presidency". I badly wanted to say that I was unaware I had that much power. Many teachers react to this idiocy by simply avoiding the topic. I had already been screamed at by many parents (supported by the dumbass principal) for showing Obama's convention speech to the students before McCain's. We started school in mid-August. I showed the speeches the day after they were given. You may recall that in 2008, the Democratic convention was first. Sadly, I had to point this out to the principal who was unaware of that fact. If I were still teaching, I would give serious consideration to not teaching directly about the 2012 election in any class.


((PDilemma)) I find this profoundly depressing.

numbers123
10-01-2011, 09:23 PM
I will get flamed by the teachers (particularly History and those who teach geography and social studies) but I have a different point of view.

Japanfan: Is it really important to know the three largest cities in Canada? or the United States, or Mexico, or England?

I think what it more important is that population of cities/countries fluctuates and why. Why the US has a moire urban population and that diversity of the population is changing the way we do business or politics in the US.

I think that it is more important to know that the unsanitary conditions caused bubonic plague and how we dealt with those conditions is more important than the actual dates.

I think it is more important to know the reasons why Nazi Germany came to being and why World War 2 happened then actual dates.

I think that it is more important to know how the world changed because of the ability to mass produce printed word than the actual date of the printing press.

You get the idea. That the why and how and what is more important than the when