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Texas Education Standards: One-Week Thread



 
 
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  #21  
Old March 17th, 2010, 1:30 pm
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Re: Texas Education Standards: One-Week Thread

Mundungus - I agree with you there.
Obviously, you can't reduce everything to a 'we don't know'. The rough overview of history - which events happened when and in what sequence - should, however, be something that people can generally agree with.

E.g. the question of when Columbus discovered America, how many ships he had and so forth.
The problem arises once we ask what this meant for native Americans, for Europe, and for the later development of society in various countries in America. That's where it should be made clear that different viewpoints exist, and that diferent viewpoints can be valid.

Or, for example, the founding of the USA.
There shouldn't be too much of a problem, I would think, to identify when it happened, which events led to it, what were the important steps in creating the new state, and who the leading politicians behind the process were.
But then you have to be more subtle again when you try to understand what their intentions were (and I think we ought to admit that even then there may not have been full agreement on these intentions behind the whole process), who had influence on what, and so forth. At that point I'd like to see a good deal of contemporary material (best would be quotations from people who were involved) to represent that range of viewpoints.

The uncontroversial part of this is a fairly straightforward narrative of events - the bit that's not actually proper history, but rather the more ancient form of a chronological list of events. To take a historical perspective (as in: a history of history) on this: these chronological lists (chronicals, annals) have been around for a very long time. In writing we have them since the third Millenium BC, but it is assumed that people memorised lists of events, or names of important people, or genealogies with some events attached (along the lines of: 'in the fifth year of king Suppiluliuma there was a great famine. In the sixth year of king Suppiluliuma we won a war against the Assyrians...'). But that's not history as we know it. That's just a part of it, and of course, having those frameworks is important.

But the controversy is about 'proper history' - historiography as we know it.
To go back to my 'history of history', historiphgraphy begins when you start asking about connections and causes. This is the big step made by Herodotus ('the father of History') in the mid-fifth century BC: his work and that of his younger contemporary Thucydides still define how history is written today.

Once you write 'proper' history like that, trying to link events on your chronological list by causal connections, you rely on interpretation - your own and other people's. And that's where 'objective facts' end. Herodotus himself is famous for often giving two or three different explanations for events he is reporting, usually along the lines of 'the Spartans say this. The Athenians report it differently, like this, and the Persians say something diferent altogether'. He also reports such stories when he doesn't agree with them ("The Coprinthians say this, but I do not agree with them because... what the Athenians say seems more likely, because..."). That's how history ought to be written.

And then Thucydides came along (writing in the last two or three decades of the fifth century BC) and wrote one of the sharpest, most persuasive historical works ever produced. And although he clearly did very thorough research and thought about problems of history very deeply, he presented only the version which he considered the right one.... and ever since too many people have been convinced that there can be one true version of history. We are only very slowly returning to Herodotus' view - and I believe very strongly that this is where we, and our schoolbooks, should be!


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  #22  
Old March 17th, 2010, 1:57 pm
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Re: Texas Education Standards: One-Week Thread

It's a matter of horses for courses.

The average primary school kid is not Thucydides, Herodotus or even Anna Comnena so an events based chronology is the most appropriate introduction.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Simon Schama
We're wired, actually, for chronology...I don't mean everybody has to remember Eggbert the Impossible or Alfred the Incontinent -whoever they are - every single date and every single kind.

But I think it's built into the nature of our appetite for epic memory...we want to know when things start, we want to know how richly they develop and then we want to know how slowly but essentially they come to us.

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As they progress and the basics laid out and know the bones of the story they can start mucking about with context, perspective and interpretation.


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  #23  
Old March 17th, 2010, 2:02 pm
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Re: Texas Education Standards: One-Week Thread

Wab, while chronology is important, you can't just teach that on its own.

It wouldn't be interesting, and we have to give the kids a sense of why all this stuff matters and how things hang together. History, as opposed to pure chronology, is important, and people have to understand it.

Ask people what they think about history at school and merely memorising nakmes and dates isn't exactly their favourite part of it.

It's just not realistic to reduce history teaching to the things we can agree on. And I don't think that this is what Mundungus was suggesting, either.

And while I have been talking about the interpretative side of history (because that's the trickly bit), I am not saying that we have to do away with the chronology.

There has to be a good mix of both. But you really can't do without the causal connections and interpretations. That would be mindnumbingly boring.

Whatever Simon Shama is saying in your quote - what he is doing in his programmes and books is far from pure chronology. It's interpretative narrative as good history should be. Of course, his argument for a chronological framework makes sense in that context. But he isn't calling for the kind of chronicle which would free us from the dilemmas caused by interpretation.






PS: sorry for venturing into the 'history of history' - I wasn't suggesting that kids should learn this, or try to write like this. But I thought it's interesting to consider where our history dilemmas started.


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Last edited by Klio; March 17th, 2010 at 2:05 pm.
  #24  
Old March 17th, 2010, 2:07 pm
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Re: Texas Education Standards: One-Week Thread

I agree. But when you're dealing with young primary school kids they need to get the basic down and that is easiest done with what happened when. Which doesn't need to be dull.

I first encountered history in Year 3 and the first big project was Gallipolli. We got the dates, the main legends like Simpson and we did a diorama.

At that age what would have been dull would have been the whole campaign from Churchill's disastrous plan to launch a sea borne attack on the Dardenelles anf the whole shambles of a campaign.


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  #25  
Old March 17th, 2010, 2:17 pm
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Re: Texas Education Standards: One-Week Thread

My gripe with what Texas is doing is that they're not just adding a conservative POV to the textbooks. They are overwriting a body of knowledge, long accepted, to reflect the conservative POV as the only valid line of thought. Why else would Jefferson and the Enlightenment be cut from the texts?


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  #26  
Old March 17th, 2010, 2:52 pm
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Re: Texas Education Standards: One-Week Thread

Quote:
Originally Posted by Klio View Post
It's just not realistic to reduce history teaching to the things we can agree on. And I don't think that this is what Mundungus was suggesting, either.
No of course not but I am aware that many educated people are remarkably ill informed on the chronology. When I was in primary school (7 - 11) we learned the broad sweep of history from "cave men" (which would have had historians of the stone age in paroxysms of disgust ) to the Victorians. We weren't taught to interpret but we were given the basics (the alphabet of history as it might be) that enabled one to interpret later. Often it was history as 'the lives of famous men' which is so discouraged nowadays but is easy to follow and was a foundation (and famous men included the likes of Pocohontas, Elizabeth Fry, Florence Nightingale and Mother Seacole) Of course the very selection of individuals is in itself giving a particular interpretation of events but it is a start

At that age if we had been told we were to learn about prison conditions in the early nineteenth century (with a side offering of the Bloody Code and the settlement of Australia) it would have been meaningless. But learning about an individual who helped change it was interesting. (At least it's stuck in my mind that Australia was seen as a punishment equivalent to hanging )

So (frantically trying to return to the topic) Texan children of that age could learn about Davy Crocket (But not explore the psychology of why he spent his entire adult life with a dead raccoon on his head)


  #27  
Old March 17th, 2010, 6:32 pm
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Re: Texas Education Standards: One-Week Thread

Quote:
Originally Posted by Wab View Post
I agree. But when you're dealing with young primary school kids they need to get the basic down and that is easiest done with what happened when. Which doesn't need to be dull.

I first encountered history in Year 3 and the first big project was Gallipolli. We got the dates, the main legends like Simpson and we did a diorama.

At that age what would have been dull would have been the whole campaign from Churchill's disastrous plan to launch a sea borne attack on the Dardenelles anf the whole shambles of a campaign.

I totally agree - there is a time and place for everything, and at that stage, what you did with those events sounds just right.

I have once heard about a project at early secondary school level where the history teachers used a school trip the class had done some time before and tried to write the history of that event, as a kind of exercise in what people remembered and how. I thought that was a great and completely non-partisan way of thinking about the way in which memories turn into history.

One could also do such an exercise and tell different groups to turn the event into a newspaper report (serious and tabloid), a history book entry, an epic adventure, a fairy-tale and so forth.

Teaching the principles of history doesn't have to be dull, I think.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mundungus Fletc View Post
No of course not but I am aware that many educated people are remarkably ill informed on the chronology. When I was in primary school (7 - 11) we learned the broad sweep of history from "cave men" (which would have had historians of the stone age in paroxysms of disgust ) to the Victorians. ....
Oh that's totally true, of course. I see enough of that problem with people I teach, since in the UK they stop teaching that broad sweep of history very early on. My own historical education involved spending seven years on trawling through history (stone age to c. 1960s) twice. Once in three years and then again in four years, and with more interpretation attached. I had absolutely no sense that history wasn't all facts till I came to university.

And yes, I learned that pretty much directly from Herodotus, so [perhaps that's why I find it important to go back to the roots when discussing such a subject.


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  #28  
Old March 17th, 2010, 6:43 pm
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Re: Texas Education Standards: One-Week Thread

Personally, I don't have an issue with the basic premise of what the conservative members of the school board are doing. If the textbooks were too easy on liberals through history and too harsh on conservatives, then that should be fixed. However, I think in their zeal to "fix" the bias, they went too far on several occasions, and they're trying to introduce a conservative bias into textbooks - which should be considered as being just as bad.

I also think that it's a mistake for revisions to be undertaken with little or no consultation of experts in the various fields.

I've seen it pointed out elsewhere that Texas voters who oppose these changes only have themselves to blame. Some of the 7-membered "conservative block" ran unopposed or virtually unopposed, and many of the members are quite open with their plans, so it isn't like people shouldn't have noticed.

I've seen it argued that with the current digital textbook presses / etc it's far cheaper than it used to be to produce a "Texas only" edition of textbooks. So, perhaps book buyers in the other 49 states will have more choices, though I do expect that the revisions for Texas books would find their way into some others, through either agreement by local school boards with the texts or laziness / etc on the part of buyers.

One question I haven't seen addressed: Thomas Jefferson was stripped from the "enlightenment thinkers" part. But, he should still be relevant as the 3rd president, so I expect that students would still learn about him there.

One thing I'd like to see is, if students see something on their textbook like "Texas edition" or they ask why they have different books (and some will!), teachers explain the issues and let the students debate about it. Or something like that. I may not be phrasing this the best, but it could foster good debate / better understanding, and furthermore it could let the students make up their own minds, without a conservative or liberal bias making up their minds for them.


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  #29  
Old March 17th, 2010, 6:57 pm
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Re: Texas Education Standards: One-Week Thread

I do think students should learn chronology. It is important to know when things happen so we can learn how they impact things to come. Chronology isn't the only thing they should learn in history. They need to learn the whos, whats, whys, and hows. I had a really bad US history teacher, but one thing he did right was get us to do IDs where we have to answer the quests Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How or Significance.

I do think the textbooks of today have a more liberal leaning to them. I also think that schools teach the same stuff over and over. I took Ga History in 8th grade and in that we learned American history, how America was founded, 13 original colonies, and stuff like that. In 11th grade we take US History and it goes over the same material. It's important in the US to learn US History as I believe it's important in any country to learn about that nation, but if we focus on the same material too much than we don't learn enough, I think. I believe we don't learn enough about our founding fathers. If we don't learn about them we can't learn enough about the founding of our nation. It's important to understand that. We need to know the whos, the whats, and the whys. It helps to learn what America is supposed to be.


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  #30  
Old March 17th, 2010, 8:49 pm
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Re: Texas Education Standards: One-Week Thread

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mundungus Fletc View Post
No of course not but I am aware that many educated people are remarkably ill informed on the chronology. When I was in primary school (7 - 11) we learned the broad sweep of history from "cave men" (which would have had historians of the stone age in paroxysms of disgust ) to the Victorians. We weren't taught to interpret but we were given the basics (the alphabet of history as it might be) that enabled one to interpret later.
But honestly, U.S. history courses, excluding college-level courses, are presented as facts. There is no interpretation allowed. The things presented to students are regarded as fact and there is no room to interpret or challenge what is taught. They are "fact" not opinions. When in actuality much of history, besides names, dates and places, are interpretations.


Quote:
Originally Posted by leah49 View Post

I do think the textbooks of today have a more liberal leaning to them.
Can you give an example of how? Because I would overwhelming disagree. Looking at what history textbooks say about the latter part of the 20th Century shows that they are becoming increasingly conservative. For instance when explaining the current war in Iraq no history textbook out of the major textbook used in classrooms across the United States mentioned anything to do with the United States supplying Iraq with weapons that they used on only on people in Iran, but that Hussein used on his own people, something that Ronald Reagan played a large role in by removing Iraq from a list of known terrorist countries which allowed us to trade weapons with them. The textbooks then go on to say that the invasion of Iraq in 2003 was linked to Al Qaeda and "the war on terrorism." Things that even President Bush later was forced to denounce. I would not call either of those examples a "liberal leaning" history lesson. (The source I used for this information was the book I talked about earlier Lies My Teacher Told Me by James W. Loewen.)

Quote:
Originally Posted by Chris View Post
I've seen it argued that with the current digital textbook presses / etc it's far cheaper than it used to be to produce a "Texas only" edition of textbooks. So, perhaps book buyers in the other 49 states will have more choices, though I do expect that the revisions for Texas books would find their way into some others, through either agreement by local school boards with the texts or laziness / etc on the part of buyers.
I don't know if the "Texas only" editions are produced by one of the big names in history textbooks, but if they are, it is far more likely that these books will show up in other states. The big names in history textbooks wouldn't produce a single version for Texas, as Texas is perhaps their largest buyer as a state, they would instead produce this textbook and then pitch it to other states knowing that they already have a large support base behind it.


  #31  
Old March 17th, 2010, 11:10 pm
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Re: Texas Education Standards: One-Week Thread

1. In general, do you think students should have a specific list of things to learn, or should guidelines be more general?

I'd say that there ought to be expectations of what students should learn at each grade level (and for each course when classes are no longer grade level dependent).

2. In that light, what do you think of Texas' revision of the social studies curriculum?

For Texas, it matters. For the rest of the country, except Alaska, it's irrelevant as the social studies standards the rest of the country will follow will be articulated by the CCSSO.

3. What is your general impression of Texas' Board of Education? Do you agree with their actions over the past few years?

No better or worse than any other board of education.

4. What impact do you think Texas' decisions will have outside of Texas? Are fears of textbooks being rewritten nationally valid?

In the short run there may be some slight revisions, but in the long run social studies and history textbooks will be drafted around the common core standards instead of California or Texas standards.


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  #32  
Old March 18th, 2010, 1:31 am
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Re: Texas Education Standards: One-Week Thread

Quote:
Originally Posted by Klio View Post
And while I have been talking about the interpretative side of history (because that's the trickly bit), I am not saying that we have to do away with the chronology.

There has to be a good mix of both. But you really can't do without the causal connections and interpretations. That would be mindnumbingly boring.
I agree. And I think chronology, on its own, has limited usefulness. It's important to know what happened and when, but what's important about it is the lessons we can take away from those events.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mundungus Fletc View Post
So (frantically trying to return to the topic) Texan children of that age could learn about Davy Crocket (But not explore the psychology of why he spent his entire adult life with a dead raccoon on his head)
I see what you're saying, but I think it can be a difficult balance to achieve. I think, sometimes, in an effort not to overwhelm children or give them a "bad" impression, events are not only pared down to the basics, but are also sanitized. And I don't think that's necessarily a good thing.

Personally, I felt cheated by my elementary-level textbooks because of this. Either I already knew more of the story at the time, or I learned more later and felt I'd been misled.

At lower grade levels, it's to be expected that the information won't be too in depth, but there are also some details that are important.


  #33  
Old March 18th, 2010, 1:13 pm
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Re: Texas Education Standards: One-Week Thread

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Originally Posted by DancingMaenid View Post
I see what you're saying, but I think it can be a difficult balance to achieve. I think, sometimes, in an effort not to overwhelm children or give them a "bad" impression, events are not only pared down to the basics, but are also sanitized. And I don't think that's necessarily a good thing.

Personally, I felt cheated by my elementary-level textbooks because of this. Either I already knew more of the story at the time, or I learned more later and felt I'd been misled.

At lower grade levels, it's to be expected that the information won't be too in depth, but there are also some details that are important.
I have to admit that with two kids in public school right now, I'm appalled with what we don't teach our children and how often the same topics get repeated over and over and over with no more depth and very little structure. I wish there was some sort of organized progression of instruction - starting in 6th or 7th grade focusing on one era, proceeding in a chronological manner and ending with a critical analysis of current events in 12th grade.

Unfortunately that doesn't happen and we have the same meaningless garbage repeated year after year. One of the "history" standards for my third grader is knowing who the first female bank president was in Virginia. What a load of ....!


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  #34  
Old March 18th, 2010, 1:34 pm
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Re: Texas Education Standards: One-Week Thread

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I wish there was some sort of organized progression of instruction - starting in 6th or 7th grade focusing on one era, proceeding in a chronological manner and ending with a critical analysis of current events in 12th grade.
Hrm... My schooling was in two different states. In elementary school (I forget which year) we started with the history of the city (Anaheim) and the history of the county (Orange), then moved to the history of the state (California)... then sometime around 5th grade there was an overview of the general history of the US (the sanitized version, of course). I think we went over ancient history around 6th grade. (That year, for me, was split between California & Iowa.)

I went to jr. high & high school in Iowa, and in jr. high (7th & 8th grade) we went over the Middle Ages & the era of [European] exploration. Freshman year of high school we had Global History, an overview sort of course that was fairly Euro-centric (I think it started somewhere around 16th or 17th century...I think), at the end of which the teacher pulled aside his top 5 or so students & gave us the AP European History book and told us to consider taking the exam (I'm still surprised that I actually managed a 3 out of 5 score with so little preparation). Sophomore year we didn't have any history classes. Junior year was AP United States History, with Howard Zinn as a supplementary text to counter all the previous sanitized versions of history (and we left off somewhere around the Cold War). I think AP American Government was senior year.


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  #35  
Old March 19th, 2010, 7:57 pm
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Re: Texas Education Standards: One-Week Thread

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Originally Posted by Lord Godric View Post


Can you give an example of how?
A lot of what I have to say might turn this into a religious debate and I don't think the mods want us to go there. Take a look at what the history books focus on in the founding of our nation and how they try to portray what values and beliefs our country was founded on and by whom.


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  #36  
Old March 19th, 2010, 8:11 pm
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Re: Texas Education Standards: One-Week Thread

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Originally Posted by leah49 View Post
A lot of what I have to say might turn this into a religious debate and I don't think the mods want us to go there.
That's right we don't.


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Old March 20th, 2010, 6:33 am
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Re: Texas Education Standards: One-Week Thread

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Originally Posted by leah49 View Post
A lot of what I have to say might turn this into a religious debate and I don't think the mods want us to go there. Take a look at what the history books focus on in the founding of our nation and how they try to portray what values and beliefs our country was founded on and by whom.
Well I wouldn't think we need to get into a religious debate when discussing the founding of our country. I don't know which "values and beliefs" you are talking about; but I'm fairly sure every textbook I ever read explains that our country was founded on basic premises like freedom to "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" and that everyone in our country was free to practice different religions, and speak their minds and not fear a tyrannical government forcing them to believe in a certain way. I'm fairly sure all textbooks cover these things (and most of the time over over-stress these things) but maybe these are the "liberal facts" you were talking about, I'm not really sure.


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Old March 22nd, 2010, 7:56 pm
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Re: Texas Education Standards: One-Week Thread

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Originally Posted by monster_mom View Post
I have to admit that with two kids in public school right now, I'm appalled with what we don't teach our children and how often the same topics get repeated over and over and over with no more depth and very little structure. I wish there was some sort of organized progression of instruction - starting in 6th or 7th grade focusing on one era, proceeding in a chronological manner and ending with a critical analysis of current events in 12th grade.
My kids go to private school, so I realize it is a whole different ball game. That being said, I do appreciate the social studies curriculum that the school has set up. They start in K with studying how their own school runs, 1st grade moves to the neighborhood, 2nd the current city (New York City in our case), 3rd grade is Native Americans, 4th grade is immigration (we're fortunate to be near Ellis Island). and so on. So each year builds upon the last and makes the study of our history relevant to the children and rememberable.

I wish all schools could have the resources we do, but I know it's not logistically possible. However, each town, city, state has their own history that can be built upon and integrated into the curriculum.

1. In general, do you think students should have a specific list of things to learn, or should guidelines be more general?
I think there is a balance. For things like math and grammar, there are specific thing that need to be learned. With Social Studies and history, there is more to learn than can be taught, so I support learning a lot about a few subjects allowing children to learn the skills to research other topics later in life.

2. In that light, what do you think of Texas' revision of the social studies curriculum? I feel that children are better thinkers than we give them credit for. If a child is growing up in a religious home and attending religious classes after school and on weekends, then they're going to end up having faith, and having religion as part of their lives. If they learn standard US history, even if it conflicts with their religious beliefs, their minds will probably be able to sort out the differences and ask questions about the differences. I think it is more important for kids to learn that there are many views and opinions out there and they have to hold true to their own views while accepting that others may see things differently.

I also think that to eliminate or hide truths in US history will only lead to mistrust in everything they've been taught later in life.

4. What impact do you think Texas' decisions will have outside of Texas? Are fears of textbooks being rewritten nationally valid? I am very much against re-writing text books. Aside from copyright laws and whatnot, I feel that the book should be kept whole. If a teacher wants to only use portions of the book, that is ok. If the teacher wants to supplement other material, that works too. But the authors work should be kept intact, regardless if it is a textbook or not.


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Old March 22nd, 2010, 11:22 pm
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Re: Texas Education Standards: One-Week Thread

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Originally Posted by HMN View Post
My kids go to private school, so I realize it is a whole different ball game. That being said, I do appreciate the social studies curriculum that the school has set up. They start in K with studying how their own school runs, 1st grade moves to the neighborhood, 2nd the current city (New York City in our case), 3rd grade is Native Americans, 4th grade is immigration (we're fortunate to be near Ellis Island). and so on. So each year builds upon the last and makes the study of our history relevant to the children and rememberable.
I really like that kind of idea. And I think it wouldbe possible to do something lie this without much funding. This sounds like a really good way of making it very clear why this matters to the children.


Quote:
Originally Posted by HMN View Post
2. In that light, what do you think of Texas' revision of the social studies curriculum? I feel that children are better thinkers than we give them credit for. If a child is growing up in a religious home and attending religious classes after school and on weekends, then they're going to end up having faith, and having religion as part of their lives. If they learn standard US history, even if it conflicts with their religious beliefs, their minds will probably be able to sort out the differences and ask questions about the differences. I think it is more important for kids to learn that there are many views and opinions out there and they have to hold true to their own views while accepting that others may see things differently.

I also think that to eliminate or hide truths in US history will only lead to mistrust in everything they've been taught later in life.



I think this is a really crucial point.

I also wonder, too, why people think that the best way of ensuring faith is by eliminating all access to things that contradict that faith.

What's the value of faith if you haven't ever come across any alternatives, and therefore don't actually have a choice? And I agree - if childre grow up in a household with a strong faith then being exposed to other views will only make their faith stronger.


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Old March 23rd, 2010, 2:36 pm
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Re: Texas Education Standards: One-Week Thread

This thread's been good so far . I'll leave it open for today (US time), and close it before I go to bed tonight . I may bring in another 1-week thread soon, if a topic merits - suggestions are always welcome.


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