Saturday, August 20, 2011

What Gets Included In California's Curriculum

You might remember that just over a month ago I wrote about why I don't like California's new law requiring educators to discuss the contributions of gay people to our society:
...I don't believe in teaching about the "contributions" of people from different groups, which is a cute way of stating the actual goal. If someone did something noteworthy, let's teach about that. But if what they did is noteworthy only because they're gay, or black, or female, or Mormon, or whatever, especially if being gay, black, female, or Mormon isn't related to what they accomplished--well, isn't teaching that way more than just a little paternalistic?

Can you name the first black astronaut? Was the fact that he was black important to his being an astronaut? Why do I need to know about the first gay astronaut? Why are color or sexuality important when learning about astronauts? This is my point.
It's funny how stuff gets into California's curriculum:
Under pressure from the American Chemistry Council, a lobbying group for the plastics industry, schools officials in California edited a new environmental curriculum to include positive messages about plastic shopping bags, interviews and documents show...

Touted as the first public-private partnership of its kind, the trade group's edit of California's school curriculum illustrates a growing concern for special-interest influence over public education. It also shows how school officials abandoned some of their responsibility to write curriculum, handing the heavy lifting over to a paid consultant...

The chemistry council declined to comment in detail about its work on California's environmental curriculum. But its views were made known to the state during a period of public review and comment on the curriculum.

"The ACC takes exception to the overall tone, instructional approach, and the lack of solutions offered – most especially the lack of mention of the overall solution of plastic recycling," wrote Alyson Thomas, senior account executive with Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide, a lobbying firm retained by the trade group.

"We believe education works best when students are exposed to all viewpoints, alternatives and attitudes, particularly when addressing socially complex issues" such as plastic bags, she continued.

One commenter said it best:
Bottom line is, if giving both sides to the story were common practice in the textbook industry, this article wouldn't have been considered news.
Thus endeth the lesson.

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