Saturday, January 28, 2012

Bee editor Pia Lopez gets it wrong about schools -again

Associate Editor Pia Lopez wrote an interesting essay, “Can we find common ground on schools?”  on the ideas of Diane Ravitch in the Bee this morning- except for one paragraph where Lopez is substantially wrong.   She says,  “ In the 1980’s she (Ravitch) helped write a history curriculum framework for California that still today is considered among the best in the country.”
Lets see.  She must mean the California History Social Science Framework of 1987 – still in use today- that almost completely ignores Mexican American History.
From my essay , “Why California Students Do not know Chicano/ Mexican American History.  
The 1987 Framework still in use today  expanded African American, Native American, and women’s history coverage but remains totally inadequate in the coverage of Latinos and Asians. The only significant change between the 1985 and the 2005 adopted Framework was the addition of a new cover, a cover letter, and additions of photos such as of Cesar Chavez . Latinos currently make up 48.1 percent of California’s student population and Asians make up 8.1 %. 
The dominant neo conservative view  of history argues that textbooks and a common history should provide the glue that unites our society.(Ravitch's view at the time)  Historical themes and interpretations are selected in books to create unity in a diverse and divided society, a unity from the point of view of the dominant class.  This viewpoint assigns to schools the task of creating a common culture. In reality, television and military service may do more to create a common culture than do schools and books.
Conservatives assign the task of cultural assimilation to schools, with particular emphasis on the history, social science, and literature curricula. Historians advocating consensus write textbooks that downplay the roles of slavery, class, racism, genocide, and imperialism in our history. They focus on ethnicity and assimilation rather than race, on the success of achieving political reform, representative government, and economic opportunity for European American workers and immigrants. They decline to notice the high poverty rate of U.S. children, the crisis of urban schooling, and the continuation of racial divisions in housing and the labor force. In California they decline to notice that Mexicans, Mexican-Americans and Latinos as well as Asians contributed to the development of this society.
         At present California students are about 48% descendents of Mexican and other Latino cultures yet they are not in the textbooks as a consequence of the Ravitch History/Social Science Framework. 
         That is not “still considered among the best in the country,” except perhaps by persons who know little about the issue,  or care little about  Mexican American students, their history and their success in schools.
         See more on the Institute for Democracy and Education web site
Duane Campbell,
Professor Emeritus, Bilingual Multicultural Education.
Author, Choosing Democracy: a practical guide to multicultural education.  2010.  


caroline said...

Actually, Lopez' entire column is full of, um, hot air. Here's the response I posted on the Bee site:

Pia Lopez claims that there are points we all agree on. Sorry, but when a viewpoint is just dead wrong, it's unreasonable and unrealistic to expect well-informed people of good conscience to find it acceptable. Here's the reality check.

A big part of the faddish corporate education reform package that has been hyped (in chorus) by the gullible editorial boards of California essentially guarantees that testing of basic math and reading skills WILL be everything. It guarantees that the curriculum will not be broad-based or balanced and that the arts, PE, science, history and civics will be neglected or all but eliminated. Editorial boards, including the Bee's, are so wedded to the notion that they must hype E-Z miracle “solutions” (at least those promoted by the wealthy and powerful) that they decline to look deeply enough or be thoughtful enough to see the cause and effect.

The corporate education reformers who have the Bee editorial board in thrall increasingly emphasize test scores as the primary way to evaluate teachers. And again, the question of evaluating teachers based on test scores at ALL is fraught with problems – primarily that it punishes the teachers who teach the most challenged kids and rewards teachers who teach the privileged.

Under this same concept, all editorial writers should be rewarded or demoted based on their newspapers' circulation and profits. Oh, beyond your control, you say? Why, yes.

The corporate reform voices largely sneer at the view that “poverty matters” with their “no excuses” soundbite. (Or at least they do until one of their quasi-privatized schools struggles, at which point they're all about how “poverty matters.”) And Bill Gates is specifically calling for larger classes; and many corporate-reform voices chorus that “you can't solve the problem by throwing money at it.” These voices are inherently speaking against extra resources for impoverished students.

Corporate-reform-supporting voices such as the Bee regularly assail teachers' unions, blaming them implicitly or explicitly for low achievement. In reality, the lowest-achieving states are those with the weakest union protections, and the highest-achieving states are those with the strongest unions. So while correlation doesn't equal causation, unionization DOES very strongly correlate with high student achievement. Denying that is clueless or dishonest.

Teach for America churns out a steady stream of hype proclaiming that its beginner temps achieve “superior results” to experienced, committed career teachers, and pro-corporate-reform voices such as the Bee editorial board promote the notion that experienced teachers are deadwood and bright-eyed beginners are preferable.(This is not a principle that you would extend to your surgeon or your airline pilot, or your own profession, of course.)

It's nice that you may be softening your anti-public-education, anti-teacher views upon finally going deeper than just parroting press releases from Students First and Parent Revolution, Pia Lopez; but this new “can't we all just get along” stance is a little disingenuous. If you're admitting you've been wrong, please grow a spine and just admit it.

caroline said...

An interesting follow-up. Pia Lopez responded in detail to my post, and I responded this afternoon to her. My response was strong in tone but civil. The Bee has "flagged" my response for "review."

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