In a thoughtful blog post, Robert Pondiscio ruminates on how to apply insights about social psychology to American education in a season of social unrest.
He refers to the work of Jonathan Haidt, who is popularizing research that shows emphasizing social differences in media, education, and popular culture creates social instability, especially as a society diversifies in such aspects as race, interests, politics, lifestyles, and religion. A taste:
While common sense would suggest that exposure to difference–discussion and celebration of diversity–should be critical to understanding and empathy, this humane and intuitive impulse might be precisely the wrong one. ‘All the available evidence indicates that exposure to difference, talking about difference, and applauding difference–the hallmarks of liberal democracy–are the surest ways to aggravate those who are innately intolerant,’ Haidt quotes Stenner, ‘and to guarantee the increased expression of their predispositions in manifestly intolerant attitudes and behaviors.’
‘Paradoxically, then, it would seem that we can best limit intolerance of difference by parading, talking about, and applauding our sameness,’ Stenner observes. ‘Ultimately, nothing inspires greater tolerance from the intolerant than an abundance of common and unifying beliefs, practices, rituals, institutions, and processes. And regrettably, nothing is more certain to provoke increased expression of their latent predispositions than the likes of “multicultural education,” bilingual policies, and non-assimilation.’
Many, if not most, Americans are deeply unsettled about where our nation is and seems to be headed. Yet most of us still agree on the essentials of what makes America itself: freedom of religion and speech; a number-one priority of government being the defense of its citizens’ lives; telling children the truth about their heritage, both good and bad. Most Americans agree on what kids should learn in school: American history, basic math, good literature, the ability to think and reason through different ideas.
Despite all this unity, our public education system, if one is to analyze by the precious snowflakes it helps parents send to universities, is at the very least not helping emphasize this unity of direction and at the worst severing it deliberately. Making a major contribution to this state of affairs are teacher training institutions, where surveys find the majority of professors consider their mission as social justice rather than effectively transmitting a coherent cultural heritage to the next generation in conjunction with the wishes of parents, neighborhoods, and society at large.
They get away with it because they don’t suffer for their bad ideas; their students, and students’ students, do. One step towards helping Americans reach towards one another, then, would be disbanding the monopolies of disconnected, ineffective, and politically divisive teachers’ colleges. There are many other ways to work towards a more unified society, but this would be a key place for education-minded folks to start.
SOURCE: American Interest, Flypaper
IN THIS ISSUE:
- Common Core and Curriculum Watch
- INDIANA: The state’s voucher program enrollment increased 12 percent to 32,000 students last year, about 3 percent of Indiana’s K–12 population.
- GEORGIA: How state and local officials worked together to hold parents accountable for getting their kids to show up at school.
- OHIO: Jonathan Butcher says less-than-positive results in a new study of Ohio’s voucher program are neither surprising nor a reason to doubt the benefits of vouchers. And the state supreme court has ruled local school districts must provide students’ names and addresses to a state school choice organization, since it’s public information.
- OKLAHOMA: The state’s charter school board is taking steps towards closing a low-performing online charter school.
- WISCONSIN: Under threats of legal action and after years of delaying, a Milwaukee council has voted to sell a long-vacant school building to a private choice school.
- MASSACHUSETTS: Gov. Charlie Baker supports a ballot initiative to lift the state cap on charter schools.
- TEXAS: Charter schools have begun angling to compete with traditional public schools for access to state and local funds for school buildings.
Common Core and Curriculum Watch
- EUROPEAN HISTORY: The Advanced Placement teacher who first raised his voice to critique the anti-American and low-quality rewrite of College Board’s U.S. history course says its European history rewrite does not include the same faults. A scholar who says it does responds.
- KENTUCKY: Contrary to popular reports, since implementing Common Core earlier than nearly all other states, math achievement among white and poor eighth graders is significantly down.
- CALIFORNIA: Second-graders will learn about families with gay and transgender parents and fourth graders will learn about the first openly gay man elected to public office in California under new LGBT history curriculum requirements.
- DEMOCRATS: New WikiLeaks-released emails show Democratic National Committee staff calling Common Core a “third rail” and deciding to deflect attention from it as a campaign issue.
- NEW YORK: The state is revising its curriculum mandates after years of opposition to Common Core–except the “replacement” is going to look mostly like Common Core.
- MONTANA: The state is proposing new curriculum mandates for science, and state officials insist they have “local roots”–except they’re basically the same as a set of national, Common Core-linked science mandates.
- MATH: Only one of five new high-school textbooks reviewed actually does what Common Core wants, says a review funded by the Gates Foundation, which sponsored Common Core.
- NEW MEXICO: Former Gov. Bill Richardson accuses Common Core opponents of being motivated by racism in opposing “high academic standards for all students.” h/t Neal McCluskey
- MICHIGAN: Two bills to repeal and replace Common Core are on hold in the state legislature.
- HILLARY CLINTON: The Democrats’ candidate for president tells the nation’s second-biggest union she will be their “partner in the White House.”
- POLITICAL PLATFORMS: Jane Robbins analyzes the new Republican Party platform on education policies, finding positive and negative aspects. The Democratic education platform supports school choice only in the form of particularly structured charter schools. Democratic vice presidential nominee Tim Kaine signed agreements to bring Common Core into Virginia when he was governor.
- DATA: Because the federal government has extended subsidized lunches to families who can afford to pay for school lunch, education researchers will no longer be able to use lunch eligibility as a proxy for poverty, leaving us with poorer information about needy children.
- ESSA: Read here a summary of intrusive proposed federal regulations related to the Every Student Succeeds Act.
- EARLY CHILDHOOD: A child’s experiences from his earliest days outside the womb are critical for his education–yet a new survey finds many parents assume children don’t start learning or being emotionally affected until at least toddlerhood.
- STUDENT DEBT: Contrary to many media reports and politicians’ assertions, most people who graduate with a bachelor’s degree have less than $20,000 in debt, and seven in 10 had less than $30,000 in debt, finds a new data analysis.
- ACT: Foreign students and former test proctors allege ACT’s international exams are rife with institutionalized cheating that exploits students and misrepresents their academic qualifications.
- SCHOOL BUILDINGS: Attending school in run-down buildings is correlated with high absenteeism and low academic performance, finds a new study.
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