There is mounting evidence that curriculum and teaching with a social justice focus can benefit students long-term. For instance, from research on a high school social justice course:

Black alumni of the class, many years after graduating, uniformly credited the social-justice course for provoking a process of self-exploration that altered their sense of justice and influenced their self-identity.

Makes total sense to me. Common sense, actually. Yet, emphasis on things like “self-exploration” and “sense of justice” would likely tip off a debate on the goals of education. Education reform adherents explicitly emphasize the role of schooling as preparation for “college and careers,” or workforce participation. Excessive attention to measurable skills will inevitably lead to a de-emphasis of other potential outcomes, namely the soft skills that elude objective measurement.

I feel like a broken record here, do I really have to keep repeating this? Do we have to keep repeating this?

You rob Peter to pay Paul.

I’m not sure senses of justice and equity could be measured, and even if you could narrow them down to a metric, would you not be taking something away from them? Nevertheless, if the hard, measurable skills are necessary, then anyone writing curriculum for the hard stuff should take note. If students are learning to read or practicing reading strategies, for example, then they might as well be reading and reviewing materials that promote or encourage social justice outcomes. Why spend a month or two reading about, I don’t know, generic community “helpers” when you can examine the real and actual makeup of the current community in which students reside? Explore some tough questions about why certain businesses or resources do and don’t exist, and what is or isn’t available elsewhere?

Makes sense to me.

 

I was intrigued by this recent NYT article, To Help Students Learn, Engage the Emotions.

It makes intuitive sense. Of learning in general:

This rule holds true even across subjects and disciplines, Dr. Immordino-Yang writes in her book, “Emotions, Learning, and the Brain.” “Even in academic subjects that are traditionally considered unemotional, such as physics, engineering or math, deep understanding depends on making emotional connections between concepts.”

Teachers fancy themselves as building intrinsic motivation in their students, getting them excited about being “learners” who strive to one day “go to college.” But when you get to observe what is actually being taught, one wonders how an adult could get motivated to learn in such an environment, let alone a child who does not yet possess deeply rooted intrinsic motivations to make their education count.

Given the pressures to succeed in math and reading, largely based on standardized assessments, many students, especially those in schools with lower test scores, are given passages to read and questions to answer. Reading is a detached exercise with no connective tissue binding the texts together. Knowledge doesn’t build. Reading is merely a checklist of skills whereby content can simply be swapped in and out.

I’ve seen worksheets go home that ask students to read some flimsy passage about horses and then asks them to write about what it would be like to have a pony. Pretty compelling stuff. Spelling words that have no context or relevance. It’s all so lazy.

Even architects of common core themselves demand that emotion, reaction, and opinion be taken out of reading, because no one really cares about what you think. It’s about a “close” examination of the text, its features, and meaning, taking every word as gospel truth and questioning nothing. What a boring, lazy, and spiteful experience we are creating for our students.

Ironically, we are asked to encourage reading “fluency,” or the cadence and delivery of text as we read aloud. But at the same time, we strip any possibility of emotional reactions or connections to reading.

So, which is it?

 

 

In recent weeks, I’ve seen a surge in Common Core opposition that is focused on the micro-examination of individual classroom assignments. Let me be clear at the outset: I oppose the Common Core State Standards. We’re clear on that, correct? All right. I’ve observed some interactions on a Facebook page called “Inappropriate Common Core Lessons.” the […]

Know your meme. CCSSO abandoning “efforts” to write social studies standards to instead focus on ELA/Math implementation, and to thwart opposition to CCSS, according to Education Weak [link excluded purposely, find it yourself if you want, or trust us]. CCSSO Executive Director Chris Minnich told me that the chiefs group wants and needs to focus […]