Friday, August 28, 2009

Why I need to be a teacher

So for every public school course that you teach in the social sciences (history, econ, etc), you will be provided with 120 or so bullet points of things that MUST be taught to the students during that year, these are the things that will be tested to determine whether or not the school will receive funding from NCLB (No Child Left Behind).

The problem is, these 120 bullet points are...often the wrong bullet points. We don't teach Andrew Jackson, but we spend a week on Harding and Coolidge, we don't talk about Jefferson's presidency, but we spend 3 weeks discussing the individual battles on the western front of the 2nd world war.

This is a real problem.

The standards are set up as their own narrative, they provide a "whig" view of history (the history moves inexorably to a better place), they tell their story, and that story is how American came to be the greatest country in the history of the world.

When they do include negatives (and indeed they do), they use things that are so profoundly negative - slavery, japanese internment- that there is no longer any discussion or controversy.

The entire state-ordained curriculum is designed to remove question marks from history, to remove ideas, to remove discussion, and to replace it was explanation.

My job is to, as much as possible, but all those things back into history class...without losing my job.

I think that history holds a unique place among the high school subjects in that it is, of the specialized subjects, the one most applicable to the lives of the students.

I want everyone to know everything, but in the end, it doesn't really matter who knows calc and who never read Jane Austen, but people MUST know their first amendment rights, and to know those, they MUST understand why we have those rights and how we have had to struggle when authority has tried to strip us of them.

The goal of the history teacher is to take this subject, which, with its facts and minutiae, can seem the most esoteric, the least applicable, and convince them that the opposite is true.

To put question marks on every one of those motherfucking bullet points.

1 comment:

Candypants said...

i thought that was gr8t ben; i sent it to my family. sorry.