Pressure on Texas Board of Education to fix damage to social studies standards

February 18, 2011

Probably not enough pressure to get the board to act, but the Dallas Morning News turned a cannon on the Texas State Board of Education this morning, asking that they fix the damage done to social studies last year.

The paper’s editorial board keyed off of the Fordham Institute’s grading of state standards — Texas failed, with at D.

Here’s the editorial in its entirety — there’s more at the Dallas Morning News website and I encourage you to go read it there:

Editorial: Report offers new reason to rewrite standards

Just in case you think it’s only us warning about Texas’ new social studies standards, check out the awful grade that the respected Thomas B. Fordham Institute gave those benchmarks in a report released Wednesday.

A big, fat “D” is what Texas got for the history, economics, geography and cultural standards the State Board of Education approved last year for Texas’ elementary and secondary school students.

Some of that awful mark was for the way the standards are organized. Fordham researchers likened their confusing structure to a jigsaw puzzle. But much of the national organization’s critique was about how politicized the State Board of Education has made those standards.

We were particularly struck by Fordham’s conclusion that the hard-right faction on the board, which dominated the writing of the standards, made the same mistake left-wing academics have made in approaching such subjects as history and economics. The Fordham study puts it this way:

“While such social studies doctrine is usually associated with the relativist and diversity-obsessed educational left, the hard right-dominated Texas Board of Education made no effort to replace traditional social studies dogma with substantive historical content. Instead, it seems to have grafted on its own conservative talking points.”

Oh, it gets worse. Back to the report: “The strange fusion of conventional left-wing education theory and right-wing politics undermines content from the start.”

For the record, Fordham is not a left-wing outpost of American thought. Its leader is Chester Finn, a former Reagan administration official and one of education’s most recognized voices. At the least, his organization’s critique is not a predictable one.

The institute echoes the complaint this newspaper has had since the 15-member Texas board rewrote the state’s social studies standards. Its hard-right faction at the time insisted on inserting its slant on those important subjects, such as suggesting Joe McCarthy wasn’t so bad, that international treaties are a problem and that the separation of church and state is misguided.

The warped view is why the revised board must go back and rewrite the standards this spring. And that should be possible.

Voters were so frustrated with the board’s work last year that they elected more moderate Republican members. Moderates now have enough of the upper hand to fix these standards before schools start planning for next year and before publishers start drafting new history and social studies textbooks.

Some on the new board may believe that rewriting the social studies standards will be too difficult. But surely Texas students deserve better than a “D” when it comes to what the state wants them to learn in some of the most critical subjects.


Texas fails among its peers

How big states fared on the Fordham Foundation report on social studies standards nationwide:

California: A-

New York: A-

Florida: C

Texas: D

National average: D

Dying man’s daily journal: So, you think you’ve got it tough?

February 18, 2011

Dallas ISD began cutbacks on spending weeks ago, when it became rather clear that the Texas Lege would come after education with lots of knives and cleavers.  The layoff of 700 teachers two years ago was tough; we face a loss of 3,000 teachers by next fall.  Morale and spirit among the teachers bottoms out, with just a couple of weeks to the first test in the battery of the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (TAKS).

Good timing, Lege!

In a district that has more than 400 buildings, getting stuff to work at all can be a challenge.  The blower for the classroom I’m in has not worked right in two years.  On a very hot day in the classroom last fall, on a not-very hot day, I got the attention of our school’s administrators.

Follow-up is less than satisfying, shall we say.  There was the guy from downtown who told me that the blowers weren’t supposed to blow.  I noted to him that building standards for schools require a complete turnover of air more than once a week.  There was the guy who warned me that any air coming out would not be cool — this while the classroom across the hall dipped to 55º F  in a similar, but opposite “out of control” situation (Six Sigma need not apply in education.).

We had a couple of comfortable days in the last two weeks, but they were extremely cold days outside.  We also had five days out for ice storms and snow.

This week my classroom has been an even 80º F when I arrive, between 7:00 and 8:30.  Then the blowers kick in with warmer air.  The classroom climbs to more than 85º in the afternoon with the windows wide open.  Even windows didn’t help much today, when it was 78º outside.

Piffles.  This guy, at Dying man’s daily journal,  has a brain tumor and congestive heart failure. He was given a terminal prognosis four years ago.

Today he’s blogging about keeping a positive attitude.

Yeah, we all need to do that.  Is that more woo than we need?  Is it acceptable woo?

When I was a child, my first Cub Scout Den Mother had a framed quote on her wall:  “I had no shoes, and complained — until I met a man who had no feet.”

Barefoot is cooler, you know?

(Drop by Dying Man’s Journal, leave a comment — it helps him keep a positive attitude.)

Dunning-Kruger effect — in a cartoon?

February 18, 2011

A cartoon from Jon Wilkins at the Santa Fe Institute, no less.

Dunning Kruger Effect, cartoon by Jon F. Wilkins

Dunning-Kruger Effect by jonfwilkins

(Yeah, I know — it’s not big.  Click the image, go see a bigger version at Wilkins’s site.)

Wilkins added:

Kruger, J., & Dunning, D. (1999). Unskilled and unaware of it: How difficulties in recognizing one’s own incompetence lead to inflated self-assessments. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 77 (6), 1121-1134 DOI: 10.1037/0022-3514.77.6.1121

Earlier and other flotsam in Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub:

  1. “Quote of the moment:  Bertrand Russell on the Dunning-Kruger Effect, 64 years prescient”
  2. Dunning Kruger Effect explained, with links

Tip of the old scrub brush to Jason G. Goldman at The Thoughtful Animal.

Quote of the moment: Thomas Jefferson’s admonishment to Rick Perry, Scott Walker, and the Tea Party, and their War on Education

February 18, 2011

Thomas Jefferson's view of education, from a mural at the Library of Congress

Thomas Jefferson’s view of Education illustrated in this mural by Ezra Winter — Thomas Jefferson’s view of Education is illustrated in this mural by Ezra Winter in the South Reading Room on the top floor of the Adams Building of the Library of Congress. Other murals dedicated to Jefferson decorate all of the reading room’s walls.

Above all things I hope the education of the common people will be attended to; convinced that on their good sense we may rely with the most security for the preservation of a due degree of liberty.

Thomas Jefferson, letter from Paris to James Madison, December 20,1787, stating Jefferson’s objections to the proposed U.S. Constitution

This quotation comes from a letter more popular among Tea Partiers and other troglodytes for Jefferson’s harsh words against “energetic government,” which he feared might result from the Constitution.  In the letter Jefferson said that he’d go with the will of the people if the document was ratified (it was).  In the end, Jefferson said, just be sure to educate “the common people,” and things would work out to protect liberty.

Wise words much ignored and abused in state capitals and the U.S. Capitol these days.

I’ll wager that among the millions who did not study this letter are Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, and Texas Gov. Rick Perry.  An uneducated populace is easier to cow, easier to control, and easier to enslave.

For a larger view of the mural, click on the thumbnail image.

Jefferson education views, mural at Libary of Congress, Adams Building

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