Thursday, July 14, 2016

Again, What Is and Isn't The Responsibility of the Public School?



It has seemed to me lately that much of America has gone to Hell in a hand basket, thus the news from EdWeek today didn't actually help my state of mind.

Two articles appeared today in my daily inbox notifications; Ethics Education; A National Imperative and Election 2016 Is a Real Civics Lesson for Students (Video). 


Article one says this,
Ethical questions engage students early on and can put them on a path to success. In early stages of learning, ethical questions directly related to students' experiences can spark curiosity and foster the inquisitive nature of young children, setting the stage for honing critical-thinking skills that will be useful throughout life.
It also says this;
A second obstacle is the worry that ethics education will inevitably result in indoctrination, imposing particular values that might not match students' own.
a point the writer hurries to point out as myth,
On the contrary, ethics education teaches students how to think, not what to think.
by simply telling us this can't happen because - for Pete's sake - it won't happen.
Ethics education teaches students the skills to articulate and communicate their own perspectives, comprehend other schools of thought, and practice critical thinking. As we deliberate ethical questions that confront our society, ethics education teaches us methods for understanding and evaluating how we present good—and bad—justifications to each other. 
The article is written by James Wagner, the outgoing president of Emory University and the vice chair of the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues. 

Mr. Wagoner (I'm assuming there's no Ph.D. involved as one is not listed) provides a treatise on "Bioethical Issues" within the post.
Bioethics education, in particular, can prepare students for the road ahead. Each of us will face crucial bioethical decisions in our lives—how to make difficult treatment choices when diagnosed with illness, how best to care for a sick or elderly loved one, or whether to adopt cutting-edge technologies to detect a genetic disorder or treat a neurological disease.
He also goes on to say,
Bioethics education also complements civic education. Such learning can prepare young adults to deliberate and decide together how our national health and science policies should be made and what values these policies should reflect.
First, anything that has the word 'Presidential' in it - at this point in my personal take on history - will make me run screaming the other way.  

From the viewpoint of this Constitutional Christian Conservative (that currently horrifying triple threat) my president has created the most religiously, racially, economically intolerant environment in the sum total of my 35 year voting tenure.  In my view, nothing attached to our President could have even the appearance of fairness, or ethics, or reason - how in the world would my world view allow me to believe this program would NOT possess some kind of indoctrination?

The second article, really isn't much of an article so much as a PBS video explaining the importance of Civics teaching in a year peculiarly plumb with cantankerous candidates for presidential primacy.

No.  I don't trust PBS to instruct students in unbiased Civics, though there is a clear appeal at the end of the video to direct teachers and students to their 'NewsHour Extra' tab for lesson plans, activities, etc.

In fact, as I watched the nearly 7 minute video, I counted more swipes at Trump (full disclosure - neither a Trump nor a Hillary fan - my guy was Cruz) than Hillary and the pan to a 'social studies' textbook that actually points out in a round about way that Christian Conservatives were the progenitors of the KKK (it wasn't, by the way, it was southern Democrats) frustrates me.

There is really no argument that America has become more liberal in its views in even the last 30 years.  Even without voter and public impression surveys to inform us, simple anecdotal evidence would tell us that never before in American history were bakers fined for NOT baking cakes, or public schools forced to have discussions about who uses what bathroom.  In addition, frequent man-on-the-street interviews show how poorly informed Americans are of basic knowledge such as who fought in the American war for Independence or who is the Vice-President of the United States.  

Today, anyone can 'Google' the word 'microaggressions' and get pages of news articles about students on college campuses whining, complaining and screaming their days away about how demeaning and hurtful it is to use pronouns like "she" and "he" and "black" and "white".  This didn't happen in my parents' day and certainly not in the days of the Greatest Generation. 

In a country where the VAST proportion of its students are educated in schools provided by the government through collection of tax dollars, there can also be no argument that these changes are arising from the ground up - that our institutions of learning are teaching children less about reading and writing and arithmetic and more about American 'imperialism', climate change and white guilt.

This may not be a reversible trend - God knows it wasn't for Rome - but pointing out bias and the results of bias in education are still important today.  Parents need to pay attention.  There is - as Paul Harvey used to say - a 'rest of the story' and that can mean a real difference in the way our children are raised and what they grow up to think.  Discernment is important.  Always and in everything - especially the education of our children.