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15.9.14 1957
The W - Current Events & Politics - Not Breaking News: U.S. Students Need Better Civics Education
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Grimis
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Since: 11.7.02
From: MD

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#1 Posted on | Instant Rating: 7.29
U.S. Students Need Better Civics Education, Experts Say
Wednesday, September 17, 2003
By Peter Brownfeld

WASHINGTON Emphasis on multiculturalism and cultural diversity is getting in the way of proper history and civics educations, particularly the teaching of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and its aftermath, say some education experts who are demanding teachers refocus their classes.

What is wrong with social studies today is a large number of those who determine what is taught ... dont think its important to teach what it means to be an American," said Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., speaking to an audience Tuesday at the American Enterprise Institute.

"They do not believe America is exceptional. They do not believe unity is more important than diversity. There are a lot of people who dont think its important or right for Americans to have a common culture, he said.

Last month, the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation released a book titled, "Where Did Social Studies Go Wrong?," which lambasted the way social studies are taught in America's schools.

The volume criticizes university professors who steer future teachers in too liberal a direction. It attacks weak civics curricula and a misplaced focus on multiculturalism, and expresses particular indignation about the way the Sept. 11 attacks were handled by educators.

At the very time we most need our citizens and future citizens to learn what it means to be American and why America is worth defending ... the part of the school curriculum on which we must rely for help has turned into a hindrance. Its not getting the job done. Its wrongheaded. It may even be making matters worse," reads the book's introduction, written by Chester E. Finn, Jr., president of the Fordham Foundation.

"The keys to Rome are being turned over to the Goths and Huns," Finn wrote.

Teachers associations reject the suggestion that educators have failed at teaching social studies and take exception to accusations that social studies teachers and their mentors in academia are attempting to spread an un-American message.

We do not see ourselves as lunatics, Huns or Goths, said Rick Theisen, former president of the National Council for the Social Studies and a veteran teacher.

Theisen said that while the language of the Fordham report is objectionable and does little to further a dialogue on the improvement of social studies, the teaching of history and civics could be bolstered in a number of ways.

For instance, as a result of the No Child Left Behind Act,which places an emphasis on reading and math and imposes serious consequences on schools that fail to educate students in those subjects, social studies gets short shrift.

If its not tested, its not taught, Theisen said, adding that if NCLB is not modified, it will do more [to harm the teaching] of social studies than virtually any other movement."

Theisen also said publishers can also do more to increase student interest in the topic.

Most textbooks are almost universally bland and uninspiring, he said.

Former Secretary of Education Bill Bennett agreed that teaching civics and history should not be merely an academic exercise.

In light of Sept. 11, its very important for people to know what to love and not to love, whats worth defending and whats not, he said.

Bennett offered several remedies for the problems he saw both in the way social studies is taught and in education generally.

Citing the narrowness of opinions on some campuses, Bennett said schools should emphasize greater intellectual, rather than cultural, diversity.

He also encouraged parents to become more involved in their childrens education and emphasized the importance of school choice.

You really should be able to flee a place that you think is corrupting the childs mind, he said.

Alexander said he is not just complaining about the way social studies is taught. He has also taken action, sponsoring the "American History and Civics Education Act", passed 90-0 by the Senate in June.

The legislation, based on the Governors School program that Alexander established while governor of Tennessee, would establish grants for as many as 12 Presidential Academies for Teachers of American History and Civics and authorizes $25 million to fund them.

The House has not yet scheduled a vote on its version of the bill, introduced last March by Rep. Roger Wicker, R-Miss.




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OlFuzzyBastard
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Since: 28.4.02
From: Pittsburgh, PA

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#2 Posted on | Instant Rating: 6.77
I don't know how it is across the nation, but in the Pittsburgh Public School district, a Civics class is mandatory freshman year. I took it back in '95, and my sister took it last year. (In fact, my asshole Republican teacher was the catalyst of my liberal leanings.)



"The most important thing is for us to find Osama Bin Laden. It is our number one priority and we will not rest until he find him."
-George W. Bush, September 13, 2001

"I don't know where he is. I have no idea and I really don't care. It's not that important. It's not our priority."
George W. Bush, March 13, 2002
vsp
Andouille








Since: 3.1.02
From: Philly

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#3 Posted on | Instant Rating: 0.00
    Originally posted by Grimis
    Former Secretary of Education Bill Bennett agreed that teaching civics and history should not be merely an academic exercise.

    In light of Sept. 11, its very important for people to know what to love and not to love, whats worth defending and whats not, he said.


And it's very important for people to MAKE THEIR OWN EDUCATED DECISIONS as to what about America, its history and its prominent figures are worthy of love, worthy of defense and worthy of respect.

That was true before 9/11. It remains true today. There is no master list of Things That Real Americans Love that can be agreed upon -- and there shouldn't be.

There are plenty of reasons to be proud of America and Americans. But if two people disagree as to what they are or how they should be viewed, that doesn't mean that at least one of them is wrong. That freedom to diverge from contemporary standards and prevailing opinions is _in and of itself_ one of the admirable things about America. (IMHO, of course.)







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CRZ
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Since: 9.12.01
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#4 Posted on | Instant Rating: 8.65
    Originally posted by vsp
    And it's very important for people to MAKE THEIR OWN EDUCATED DECISIONS as to what about America, its history and its prominent figures are worthy of love, worthy of defense and worthy of respect.

    That was true before 9/11. It remains true today. There is no master list of Things That Real Americans Love that can be agreed upon -- and there shouldn't be.

    There are plenty of reasons to be proud of America and Americans. But if two people disagree as to what they are or how they should be viewed, that doesn't mean that at least one of them is wrong. That freedom to diverge from contemporary standards and prevailing opinions is _in and of itself_ one of the admirable things about America. (IMHO, of course.)




I think part of the problem ref'd by this thread is a concern that kids can't make educated decisions... if they aren't being educated.

I also happen to believe there ARE concepts that should be thought of as Things That Real Americans Love, but I will follow Bill Bennett's wise example and not tick them off (and tick YOU off) here. ;-)



CRZ
vsp
Andouille








Since: 3.1.02
From: Philly

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#5 Posted on | Instant Rating: 0.00
    Originally posted by CRZ
    I think part of the problem ref'd by this thread is a concern that kids can't make educated decisions... if they aren't being educated.

    I also happen to believe there ARE concepts that should be thought of as Things That Real Americans Love, but I will follow Bill Bennett's wise example and not tick them off (and tick YOU off) here. ;-)


Yes, education is needed; I'm not suggesting that Civics classes should be scrapped altogether, by any means.

But, c'mon -- that was Bill Bennett being quoted, the Virtue Czar. I think we both know that what Bennett wants in Civics classes isn't an objective look at America and its government, but a cheerleading session that indoctrinates Good Ol' Fashioned American Values into students.

Bennett and Alexander aren't bitching that kids aren't being educated in Civics; they're bitching that kids aren't being educated _PROPERLY_. That is, they're teaching "un-American" and "corrupting" concepts like multiculturalism and cultural diversity and relativism instead of Bennett's own preferred spin. They're not being taught to love the "right" things. Well, who the hell made Bennett or Alexander the arbiter of how "proper" history and civics should be taught?

Here's an illuminating quote:
    Originally posted by Grimis

    Former Secretary of Education Bill Bennett agreed that teaching civics and history should not be merely an academic exercise.


Um... yes, it SHOULD, if it's in a school. Is presenting facts (objectively as facts) inappropriate, but presenting a pro-America-right-or-wrong spin on those facts acceptable?

People like Bennett and Alexander have a major problem with the notion that America isn't always "exceptional." That's an opinion, just like the opinions of the "Blame America First" crowd that they oppose. The truth is somewhere in the middle; America and its government do both truly great things and truly nasty things. If Civics classes are objective enough to present BOTH of those perspectives, evenly enough that neither the far left nor the far right will be happy, they'll be doing a good job.

(edited by vsp on 17.9.03 0843)

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Downtown Bookie
Morcilla








Since: 7.4.02
From: The Inner City, Now Living In The Country

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#6 Posted on | Instant Rating: 7.36
    Originally posted by the article above
    For instance, as a result of the No Child Left Behind Act, which places an emphasis on reading and math and imposes serious consequences on schools that fail to educate students in those subjects, social studies gets short shrift.

    If its not tested, its not taught, Theisen said, adding that if NCLB is not modified, it will do more [to harm the teaching] of social studies than virtually any other movement."



Funny, I would've thought that teaching students how to read would facilitate, not harm, the study of other subjects, including social studies. Of course, teaching students to read would also allow said students to seek out information on their own and form their own opinions on important issues, which may be the real reason why "veteran teachers" such as Mr. Theisen find it so objectionable.



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ges7184
Lap cheong








Since: 7.1.02
From: Birmingham, AL

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#7 Posted on | Instant Rating: 4.28
    Originally posted by Downtown Bookie
      Originally posted by the article above
      For instance, as a result of the No Child Left Behind Act, which places an emphasis on reading and math and imposes serious consequences on schools that fail to educate students in those subjects, social studies gets short shrift.

      If its not tested, its not taught, Theisen said, adding that if NCLB is not modified, it will do more [to harm the teaching] of social studies than virtually any other movement."



    Funny, I would've thought that teaching students how to read would facilitate, not harm, the study of other subjects, including social studies. Of course, teaching students to read would also allow said students to seek out information on their own and form their own opinions on important issues, which may be the real reason why "veteran teachers" such as Mr. Theisen find it so objectionable.


No, he's arguing that social studies is not being taught at all, therefore it can't be facilitated by the reading lessons. They would only teach math, reading, stuff that will show up on standardized tests, and skip everything else (since deficiencies in those areas will not get the school punished). Whether or not that actually happens, I don't know.

I would tend to think that civics portion of social studies is not properly taught. At least it wasn't at my school over 10 years ago, and I doubt it has gotten much better. And by properly taught, I'm not talking about political bias, I'm talking about throughness. It's a subject barely touched, and I think it's been shown to be the case in many schools.

As far as the balance, I've heard complaining that from the "far right", but not any from the "far left". Should we then assume that education is not doing a good job then? Or are there examples of complaints from the "far left"?



Everything that is wrong in this world can be blamed on Freddie Prinze Jr.
Downtown Bookie
Morcilla








Since: 7.4.02
From: The Inner City, Now Living In The Country

Since last post: 96 days
Last activity: 13 days
#8 Posted on | Instant Rating: 7.36
    Originally posted by ges7184
      Originally posted by Downtown Bookie
        Originally posted by the article above
        For instance, as a result of the No Child Left Behind Act, which places an emphasis on reading and math and imposes serious consequences on schools that fail to educate students in those subjects, social studies gets short shrift.

        If its not tested, its not taught, Theisen said, adding that if NCLB is not modified, it will do more [to harm the teaching] of social studies than virtually any other movement."



      Funny, I would've thought that teaching students how to read would facilitate, not harm, the study of other subjects, including social studies. Of course, teaching students to read would also allow said students to seek out information on their own and form their own opinions on important issues, which may be the real reason why "veteran teachers" such as Mr. Theisen find it so objectionable.


    No, he's arguing that social studies is not being taught at all, therefore it can't be facilitated by the reading lessons. They would only teach math, reading, stuff that will show up on standardized tests, and skip everything else (since deficiencies in those areas will not get the school punished).


Sorry, but I just can't buy that. Maybe I'm just being obstinate (and if so, please forgive me) but I still can't see how you can teach reading "only". If you are teaching someone to read, you must by definition be teaching that someone to read something, be it a magazine article, a music review, a political speech, a collection of sonnets and poems, a newspaper editorial, the U.S. Constitution, a best-selling novel, an automobile's owner's manual, a recap of a televised wrestling program, etc., etc. Learning to read does not, indeed can not, happen in a vacuum. Therefore I simply cannot believe Mr. Theisen's point that emphasizing reading skills will harm the teaching of social studies, or any other subject, unless by "teaching" Mr. Theisen means his ability to feed unread youngsters his personal points of view without the students being able to seek out other sources of information in order to formulate their own opinions. More importantly, the comprehension skills that the students will learn will enable them to continue to increase their knowledge throughout their lives, in any and all areas that they may choose, including social studies.



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Overmind
Linguica








Since: 17.10.02
From: Orlando, FL

Since last post: 3239 days
Last activity: 2340 days
#9 Posted on
    Originally posted by Downtown Bookie
    something, be it a magazine article, a music review, a political speech, a collection of sonnets and poems, a newspaper editorial, the U.S. Constitution, a best-selling novel, an automobile's owner's manual, a recap of a televised wrestling program, etc., etc. Learning to read does not, indeed can not, happen in a vacuum. Therefore I simply cannot believe Mr. Theisen's point that emphasizing reading skills will harm the teaching of social studies, or any other subject, unless by "teaching" Mr. Theisen means his ability to feed unread youngsters his personal points of view without the students being able to seek out other sources of information in order to formulate their own opinions. More importantly, the comprehension skills that the students will learn will enable them to continue to increase their knowledge throughout their lives, in any and all areas that they may choose, including social studies.


Unfortunately, as schools come under more and more pressure to get students to pass these tests, it becomes more of teaching them how to pass the reading portion of a standardized test than actually teaching them how to read.

(edited by Overmind on 18.9.03 1858)


To ensure that this post on topic, I include the following:

Boy, that HHH sure does suck.
Corajudo
Frankfurter








Since: 7.11.02
From: Dallas, TX

Since last post: 69 days
Last activity: 13 days
#10 Posted on | Instant Rating: 5.51
Unfortunately, as schools come under more and more pressure to get students to pass these tests, it becomes more of teaching them how to pass the reading portion of a standardized test than actually teaching them how to read.


Because the reading portion of standardized tests measures (or tries to measure) reading comprehension? So, if students develop reading comprehension skills as a result of the standardized test then they won't be able to read? I'm not sure I'd make the argument that teaching someone reading comprehension skills somehow precludes teaching someone how to read.

And, I'm not a big fan of the current standardized tests we have (mostly because I'm vehemently opposed to ANY multiple choice test), but I do think that a standardized test can be a valid way to measure students' performance. And, more importantly, it can be a valid way to ensure that the basic reading, writing and math skills are being taught in primary and secondary education (and also avoid what Downtown Bookie, along with some other posters, have mentioned).
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