The more I've been thinking about it, the more I've come to the conclusion that having Federal or even State intervention into school systems and curriculae is just plain wrong. And here's a few reasons why (YMMV and I'm glad to hear alternate thoughts):
1.) No Child Left Behind and standardized testing lead to cheating, lying, and covering up inadequacies in the Atlanta school system. And I would bet money that this district is the tip of the iceberg. This matches the anecdotal information I've received over time regarding 'teaching the test' rather than actually teaching the material necessary to pass a test. Read more here (DC schools) and here and here (a roundup) and here (Canada).
2.) California law makers just passed a law where gay history has to be taught in schools. Now I've got gay friends and black friends and naturalized friends, but I think that this amounts to indoctrination and elevates one group of people over the other. There is already a federal Gay History month, which began in 1994 among whose early supporters were Kevin Jennings, Obama's "Safe School Czar" who as the leader of the Gay Lesbian Straight Education Network, deciminated 'literature' which would, in any other setting, be considered to be kiddy porn.
3.) The Kansas kerfluffle--first evolution was bad and then it wasn't. In the intervening years, students received two very different messages.
4.) Texas textbooks--every ten years the state looks at textbooks and revises them and in many cases, like in Kansas, the changes are based on social mores at the time. Unfortunately because teachers are not taught material either, they can't weed out erroneous information on their own, but that's a post for a different day.
5.) New Math. Enough said, except for the lyrics of this Tom Lehrer song...
6.) ETA: Civics, or more specifically, the failure to teach civics. Read here and here and here.
Ever since the Scopes Monkey trial, where a teacher was brought to court for breaking the law by teaching the Theory of Evolution in Tennessee, states and the federal government still have not caught the clue that they should not be meddling in local school districts and what they teach. Just like the recent decision in Indiana to no longer teach cursive writing (but leaving it optional), there should be VERY loose guidelines and I would say to even bag those.
It is not government's place to control the educational process. School districts will stand or fall on their merits. If they are teaching their students a curriculum that will get them to college and beyond and that's what the parents want, yippee! If they choose to not, then over the course of time, either they will, if that's what the locals want, or they will become ghost systems as people either move, homeschool, or start their own schools that will teach their children what the local populace feels is necessary. If students go into the wide world and find out they've not been given a proper education, they will learn on their own.
When governments become involved in this process, they can't help but include indoctrination into certain mindsets--be they Christian, atheist, gay-friendly, gay-bashing, whatever. And it's the children that ultimately lose, just like those kids in Atlanta.
And when I say government, I also say unions and, by proxy, institutions of higher education who teach the methods of teaching, but do not teach the material so that teachers do not have the knowledge and critical skills necessary to parse information in textbooks.
As I said, YMMV....
2 weeks ago