New school years always bring new challenges for children, parents and teachers. This school year, though, promises to be much trickier, because we are now debating United States History.
Remember history? That’s the class that isn’t tested at the end of the year by the great national testing monopoly, Pearson. The PARCC tests focus on non-fiction readings, which allows for more use of historical documents on the test, but there’s no real history or context that a student has to master in order to answer the questions.
For decades we’ve focused on language arts and mathematics as the key components of K-12 education, relentlessly testing students in those subjects. And what has your school district likely spent a good deal of money on over the last few years? STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) or STEAM (ibid., but add Arts). Coding classes are now part of the curriculum in many states as required business and personal finance courses. They get lots of press. And, yes, United States History is required in all states, but far too many of them require only one year of it. And with no summary test, save for a final exam at the end of the class, history has lost a good deal of influence in the curriculum.
We are now paying the price.
As this new school year begins, teachers will be asked to address the explosive issues that are daily in the media concerning our history and what it means. How should we treat Confederate statues and monuments? What place do hate groups such as the KKK and the American Nazi Party have in a country with a strong First Amendment? What should we do about immigration and children who were brought here by undocumented parents? And of course, we seem to be debating President Trump’s behavior, tweets and spur-of-the-moment policy declarations on a minute-by-minute basis, not to mention his speculative knowledge of historical events.
This is the environment in which America’s school teachers must operate this academic year. We are the ones who will be the first point of contact for many children who are feeling the anxiety and divisiveness that has taken hold in our society. Remember that as much as any adult is trying to make sense of what’s happening in our society, children experience these events on a magnified scale. They have less of the emotional regulation necessary to confront explosive debates that adults have and they have little context by which to weigh the consequences of what they’re learning. Great teachers recognize these deficits and conduct their classes so as to support students, to teach them civil behavior, to make sure students respect differences, and to calmly appeal to their students’ intelligence, humanity, and sense of justice.
Of course, some would argue that if teachers had done this in the past, then we wouldn’t be at this place in our history where there is so much disagreement and division. This would be a tragic conclusion. Did any of your teachers teach you to hate? To insult your classmates? To steal? To plagiarize? Of course not.
The simple truth is that teachers can only be as effective as the communities in which we teach, and if a community, or the country, is dysfunctional, then that will be reflected in the schools. We see students for only a portion of the day. The media, social and otherwise, takes over from there. Together with parents, teachers can only plant the seeds of knowledge; society and common sense have to do the rest.
That’s why this school year will be more of a challenge than most years, but I have no doubt that America’s school teachers will do their best, keep their emotions in check, teach from the heart and the head, advocate for every one of their students, and proudly represent themselves as doing one of the most important and difficult jobs in this country.
I wish all of my fellow teachers a happy new school year full of joy and wonder. May we learn as much about our students as they learn from us.
This guy is making so much history, I’m almost having whiplash trying to keep up! Today’s moment in history-making may seem like small potatoes to some, but below the surface, Mr. Obama’s decision to call on women reporters only during his last press conference of the year is, in essence, a civil rights moment.
Women, although they do the same jobs as men, still make about 25% less than men do for the same work, and in the White House press corps the male domination remains true. In countless presidential press conferences the big boys pull up their pants, sit back with their legs crossed looking down their nose with a smug look waiting for their inevitable turn to match wits with presidents. And previous presidents knew that calling on these smug lugs was the way to get their messages out.
But here comes Barack Obama. Already sporting a brand new historic moment with his Cuba decision, the president wasn’t done yet. He willfully chose to release his internal civil rights activist and recognized the many contributions of the women of the White House press corps.
Former ABC News correspondent Ann Compton, the first woman to report on the White House full-time for a network and who covered the beat for 40 years, said that never before has a president only taken questions from women during a solo press conference.
Do your thing Mr. Obama, do your thing! Keep the history moments coming!
I am nothing if not a good sport and an optimist by temperament, so when I read this NJ Spotlight article about a website full of great information and resources for teaching the Common Core Curriculum Standards, I took a look. The site, njcore.org, is well-designed, if a bit busy, and you can sign up to post resources.
If you teach Language Arts and Mathematics, there are probably some good resources for the effective teacher, but as a high school history teacher, there was nothing on the site. Nada. Zilch. Not even a pretense that teaching history is in any way important or even part of the curriculum. Perhaps more will be added later, but at this point, the state has no interest in engaging anyone who doesn’t teach the tested subjects. And that’s to be expected because it’s been clear for a couple of years that the NJ Department of Education is focused on testing to the exclusion of a rich, varied, integrative curriculum..
Clearly this is still a work in progress and there’s a distinct possibility that it will grow into a valued resource. It has a good deal of competition from other, more established sites and its success will be determined by how well it meets teachers’ needs. The comments on the NJ Spotlight article are negative so far, with this being the most telling:
- So, I click on the link in the article, then I click on NJMC, I choose Mathematics, then Kindergarten, I click on Unit 1, then I click on SLO 1 Count by ones up to 10.
Then I click on the 3 lesson plans, choose the first one listed called “Subitizing ” (huh???) and Lesson Seed 7.EE.A.2.
It’s a lesson on area using the expression 25(x+10)-13a.
Another lesson says there are 18 cookies in each batch requiring 2 cups of flower. How much flower for 12 dozen?
- Stay tuned.
- For more please go to:
www.facebook.com/WhereDemocracyLives and Twitter @rigrundfest
Recently, I wrote a article on this blog titled ‘Why Blacks Left The Republican Party’ which sparked a discussion between a co-writer here at EzKool.com, Son Of Man and I. I’ve posted it here:
Son Of Man: Yes, the vast majority of black people in the United States have been loyal to the Democratic party since the days of Roosevelt. It has become quite clear that the democratic party is taking the black vote for granted. Black people in the U.S. have not shown the political savvy necessary to extract the possiblities of what America has to offer, politically & economically speaking. In this 2 party system, the black population’s relationship with the Republican party is so cold that its taken for granted that the black vote will be cast for the percieved ‘lesser of two evils’ in the Democratic party. The black vote shouldnt be automatically Democrat or Republican. The black vote if political savvy were in play would be cast for the party who’s candidates addresses the “black agenda” as presented to them by the black community.
Amy: Well—I’d wager to think that the idea of casting your vote for a presidential candidate that pointedly addresses the “black agenda”, especially if he or she is the first Af-Am president of the the US, or any other ethnicity that campaigns on any particular race’s issue is not very savvy. I think a big problem with many Blacks–like Smiley and West for instance who openly dissed Obama cuz they felt he wasn’t campaigning enough on black issues–should have had the savvy to know that white Democrats were not going to pitch in and help elect him if he had done so. And he couldn’t win with the Black vote alone, obviously. Yes, I know that white candidates do it all the time, but our POTUS is not white. And with a country that’s 15% Black, Obama had to be the adult in the room and show that he was going to be the President for All The People–as corny as that sounds. I think he’s hoping that Blacks will understand this and also understand that he knows the history leading up to him, his beautiful Black wife and kids being in the Whitehouse, and that he hasn’t forgotten who and what was responsible for that. Working on a more “universal agenda” can’t help but include Blacks, right?
Please check out this video on Youtube: “Black Intellectuals Pour Hate on Obama’s Speech!“
Son Of Man: Of course running a campaign as a “black candidate” is not only not savvy, its not right. That type of thinking is not fit for the office of the presidency. Utilizing broad, general tactics to resolve issues that are unique will not work. The economic woes for people of color are far worse than the general population and unemployment numbers for people of color are more than double that of the general population. Would the prescription for a common cold be the same as the prescription for walking pnumonia? is there a difference between an economic recession and an economic depression? The unemployment rate for blacks in the country put the black population at depression status. This needs to be addressed specifically while tending the needs of the countries economic woes in general. Your point seems to be that of an abused wife thats so used to being mis-used, mistreated and overlooked that she herself makes excuses for her abuser. The president must be held accountable to do the right thing, not just whats acceptable to whites. He himself said that he wouldnt govern to be re-elected, that he would govern to effect change. Well the Mr.President act on behalf of whats right and let those who need to catch up, catch up. You don’t digress backwards, you move forwards. If having a blackman in office means we have to continue being the dirty little secret, then put Bush back in office and lets get this thing over with.
Amy: If your expecting one Blackman to rectify an entire race’s indignation in this country for over 400 yrs in just 4 short years–a man who’s American nationality is being challenged everyday, adamantly, by his political opposition, a man who stepped into two wars and a major economic recession his first day in office, a man who’s own party shows division against his policies, a nuclear disaster in Japan, major earthquakes in Haiti,the worst oil spill in the Nations history and a pervasive racism that still beats strong in the heart of this country—than I think you might be a bit delusional. I imagine the changes Obama is setting into motion are of a more tumultuous nature. Like a pebble rolling down a hill and picking up mass and size and speed as it rolls along. Jobs, healthcare reform, education…are these not our issues? What do you propose he do differently? The ball is rolling. You wanna see it get bigger–get him into office for another 4 years.
Son Of Man: Your point is well taken. President Obama’s magnificent steady hand in the face of all that he has inherited has been just that, magnificent. I am not delusional at all. I believe that our president has THE most difficult job of all time. Only a fool would discount what another has accomplished of good. Allow me to share some clarity from the smoke screen provided for you by the circus parading as news. This is INsight from outside the box; If America is going to solve her current woes, she MUST consider the specific issues that plague a significant portion of her population. Issues that America herself had no small hand in creating and perpetuating. A chain is only as strong as its weakest link, have you forgotten that its within YOUR lifetime that blacks faced lynch mobs for daring to attend a decent school to be educated? Have you forgotten the counter intelligence programs launched in YOUR lifetime against any black individual or organization that dared to inspire the disinfranchised population? Have you forgotten that the hundreds of years of black chattel slavery made America the richest most powerful country in the world? In the game of politics, its convenient to forget. But in the world outside of the one provided by the ‘powers that be’, know this.… universal law which we are ALL under, does not forget. Guess what. We matter. WE MATTER. We are here. What would I have him do differently you ask? for starters id ask our dear brother president to stop these ludicris wars which are costing tens of billions monthly. Can you imagine what can be done to rebuild and restructure the cities of America in general and the black population in particular? Or dont we matter? The banks certainly mattered when it was time to bail their asses out. How about using the justice dept to investigate why over 50% of the prison population is black males of which the vast majority are incarcerated for drug related offenses when theres not one statistic available that doesnt tell you that white men are the overwhelming majority illegal drug users. How about using some of that military testosterone to stop the atrocities in the Sudan and across Africa? Or dont we matter? Hey, black president must be held accountable by his base, black or not. Busy or not. We matter.
Amy: I will concede this SOM: That just as our Africans ancestors have said, “It takes a village to raise a child”, so will it take “our village” to raise this President to be OUR President as well as the rest of the country’s. Hopefully, with constructive criticism, skillfully applied pressure tempered with solid support and confidence, Black folks can strike the balance. And what America does, the world will follow.
As Ezra Grant, our publisher, says: “Obama said yes WE can, not yes I can!“
Son Of Man: Just constructive criticism to our dear president and the American family… with love, peace and blessings. Son of Man
Don’t worry, SOM and I are still friends lol!
AND COINCIDENTALLY, one of my favorite writer’s of several genres from science fiction to political discourse, Walter Mosley, appeared on GritTv last night covering a similar topic of discussion with it’s host, Laura Flanders.
In his new book, ‘Twelve Steps Towards Political Revelation’, Mosley says that ordinary people must begin to use politicians as the tools that they are–just as corporations do–and demand what we need from them in an organized, conscientious and informed agenda. It will be the People who will make politicians into the heroes we expect them to be…and that includes our President.
If history is to be our guide, then why aren’t we doing what’s already historically proven to work? The refusal by congressional Republicans to raise the taxes of the rich in these hard economic times makes as much sense as pouring water into the ocean. And this refusal goes against all that history has taught us.
According to a report written by Larry Beinhart, “History shows that when spending is cut — in the name of balancing the budget — recessions immediately follow. It makes sense, therefore, to look back at government tax and spending policies during the Depression and what the results were. ” Mr. Beinhart writes in detail some very interesting historical facts:
- 1932 — Hoover raises the top tax rate from to 25 to 63 percent.
- 1933 — Roosevelt comes into office. He begins spending at the same time that new tax hike comes into effect. The Depression bottoms out.
- 1934 — Recovery begins. The GNP rises 7.7 percent, unemployment falls to 21.7 percent.
- 1935 — New government spending on public works and rural electrification. A push to strengthen labor and raise wages. New taxes through the creation of Social Security.
- 1936 — The top tax rate is raised again. This time to 79 percent. GNP grows a record 14.1 percent; unemployment falls even further.
Middle class Americans have carried this country on their backs for far too long. Since Ronald Regan took office in the 80’s and introduced the concept of trickle down economics, the concentration was placed on making the rich pay less in taxes while providing them with unlimited loopholes, in the hopes that when they succeed, the middle class will succeed. That concept has failed and over the last 30 years, the rich continued getting richer while the middle class fell more and more into poverty.
So here we have our lesson in history. At a time when this country went through what is now called The Second Great Depression, all Americans, especially the rich, bore the responsibility, each paying according to his/her means. Today however, the lie of the sucess of a trickle down theory to boost a failing economy is still engraved in our minds, and the congressional Republicans are determined to keep it that way.
Read Mr. Larry Beinhart’s Report here.
Republicans have fooled Americans into thinking they’re all for cutting the deficit. And if you listen to them long enough and fail to do the most minimal of research, you will tend to believe the lies. But here’s a little breakdown from Robert J. Elisberg that shows how concerned Republicans were when the deficit exploded… under Republican Presidents.
During the administrations of Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, the national debt increased a combined 35.6%. It was the largest debt increase in U.S. history. Mr. Reagan alone tripled the national debt from $997 billion to $2.85 trillion.
Yet Republicans didn’t complain, didn’t rise up in anger, didn’t revolt. In fact, what Republicans did do was lionize Ronald Reagan as a patron saint, the near-God of conservatives.
Under George W. Bush, the national debt increased by a combined 27.1%. The U.S. budget went from a $128 billion surplus to a $482 billion deficit. The national debt doubled from $5.7 trillion to $10.7 trillion.
And there was no outcry by Republicans. Republicans didn’t complain, didn’t rise up in anger, didn’t revolt. Even when Vice President Dick Cheney was quoted, “Reagan proved deficits don’t matter.” Republicans didn’t complain.
In Bill Clinton’s administration, the national debt decreased. It went down by a combined 9.7%. Further — he balanced the U.S. budget.
And yet Mr. Clinton didn’t become a hero to conservatives, even the vaunted fiscal ones. The mere mention of his name still today causes body twitches.
Consider, too, that in every full administration since Nixon-Ford in 1973 up through George W. Bush in 2008 — EVERY national debt increase in America has occurred during a Republican administration. And EVERY reduction of national debt has occurred during a Democratic administration.
To this day, Republicans — that party of supposed “fiscal responsibility” — slam the Jimmy Carter presidency for incompetence. Yet the national debt went down 3.3% during the Carter administration.
Yea, there are those who refuses to do the google, and see for themselves. These are the unfortunate souls who still put their belief in the promises of the Republican party that they will “reduce the deficit.” But history is more than a subject taught in school, it also teaches us that those who fail to understand their history, tend to repeat it.
Read the rest of the article here
Republican Congresswoman Michelle Bachmann is a trip! Really, she is!
Mrs. Bachmann spoke over the weekend at an Iowans For Tax Relief event, and either tried to remake history, or give her version of what she thought happened, in regards to how people were treated back in the founding days of this nation.
The Congresswoman, who has presidential ambitions for 2012, said that everyone who came to these shores, whether willfully or through slavery, “were all the same,” when they arrived. She said;
“How unique in all of the world, that one nation that was the resting point from people groups all across the world. It didn’t matter the color of their skin, it didn’t matter their language, it didn’t matter their economic status.
“Once you got here, we were all the same. Isn’t that remarkable?”
Another claim by Mrs Bachmann was that the founding fathers did all they could to end slavery. She claimed, “”we also know that the very founders that wrote those documents worked tirelessly until slavery was no more in the United States.” Bachmann also claimed,
“I think it is high time that we recognize the contribution of our forbearers who worked tirelessly — men like John Quincy Adams, who would not rest until slavery was extinguished in the country.”
Gone from her history book is the fact that many of the founding fathers owned slaves, and yes, history showed that John Quincy Adams became a vocal advocate to end slavery, but he wasn’t a founding father and he also died in 1848 before the Emancipation Proclamation was signed in 1863.
Anderson Cooper however, heard these false claims of Mrs. Bachmann – who probably thought the event wasn’t being recorded and no one would hear the lies she was telling. Mr. Cooper, host of CNN’s Anderson Cooper 360, featured Bachmann’s claims on a segment of his show called “Keeping Them Honest.”
And that he did. Anderson give the lying Bachmann a lesson in American History. He said Bachmann’s comments “are either a deliberate rewriting of our history, or signs that she has a shaky grasp on our history.”
See Anderson Cooper’s Keeping Them Honest segment below:
- Keeping Them Honest: Anderson Cooper Ridicules Bachmann For “Flunking History” (mediaite.com)
- Michele Bachmann Erroneously Gives Our Founders Credit For Ending Slavery (alan.com)
- Bachmann: America’s Founders ‘Worked Tirelessly Until Slavery Was No More’ (mediaite.com)