Thursday, June 22, 2006

My Views on Education

Norm! asked some very thought-provoking questions in his comment this morning. I'm going to attempt to state my views as coherently as possible.


Also, as an educator, what are you thoughts about gay/straight student clubs? In encouraging students to treat each other with respect and dignity, isn't it important for schools to allow student groups for minorities whether they be sexual, racial, or religious?

Student clubs are an important part of the high school years for many teens. The point of clubs is to give many different kids another avenue to "belong"; to feel they are contributing to something and are valued within a group. As long as we allow even one special interest club to form at school then we have to be very broad in terms of what other sorts of clubs we allow. That's part of the nature of public school. A public school is a microcosm of the society at large. As long as the activities of the club are not interfering with the learning environment (which is up to the administrator's discretion) then it should be allowed. The more controversial a student club is, in my opinion, the greater lengths that club should go to in order to prove it's a beneficial part of the school culture. For instance, if a Fellowship of Christian Athletes club formed in a school of high Jewish population, it would be disruptive for them to put up signs condemning Jews. Not to mention that it would also be very unChrist-like and defeat the purpose of having the club in the first place. In my opinion, special interest clubs should be able to post information about the times and places of their meetings, and then, just meet. All done.
So yeah, I think a gay/straight alliance club could be a very healthy thing and certainly a wonderful avenue to get some communication going after school hours. If I were an administrator and started having all sorts of issues between different student clubs that were interfering with the staff's ability to teach, I'd say "shut them all down." The most important thing that goes on at school is the learning environment. If done correctly, special interest groups at school can enhance that environment for kids by giving them a group and a place to belong. This, in turn, makes all the difference for some, particularly those on the "fringes" who can easily fall through the cracks if they are not connected in some way. *whew* that was long! sorry!


As for curriculum, how do you differentiate between teaching about a topic versus advocating a particular topic. I have heard some on the Right argue that simply mentioning homosexuality or diversity training is using schools to advocate for the gay agenda. And I have heard some on the Left argue that teaching the Bible or basic morality is the same as proselytizing. What are some of your views?

You know, there are probably those on the far Right(maybe not even so "far") who think I'm advocating homosexuality on this blog, would you agree? I've heard there is some sort of effort being made (and possibly a done deal) to include the topic of homosexuality in text books. I don't agree with that, and not necessarily because I think it's advocating it or not, but mostly because I think it's unnecessary based on the things I mentioned in my post yesterday. Diversity training does not need to include "facts" or theories about how one becomes gay. We don't actually know the answers to that. What we can teach, is that we treat one another as fellow humans. I won't repeat what I said yesterday. That's a human agenda, not a gay one. Basic morality can be taught without ever mentioning the Bible. There's an underlying moral code, a sense of wrong and right, which, in my opinion proves the existence of God. Certain moral codes are "innate". Using the Bible as a cultural or literature reference shouldn't be a problem any more than using Chinese proverbs or Greek mythology. I don't agree with using the Bible as a science textbook for the same reasons I don't think we need to teach the origins of homosexuality in a textbook. There are some pretty giant leaps of faith that must be taken in both those instances and you still don't really come up with any clear cut answers.

There are so many things that are appropriate and difficult enough to teach in public school to the diverse population of kids we get. It just bugs me to no end to have people who've never spent any time in a school deciding what we need to teach. Our plate is full right now. The last few generations and the ones coming up are needy and it is becoming more and more difficult to teach even the most basic of skills to these kids. Why we insist on convoluting our curriculums with things that we can't be sure of I don't know.

It is the responsibility of parents and churches to teach spiritual truths to children. Public school gets blamed for so many ills in society when all that public school can do is reflect society as a whole. It's a public institution funded by tax dollars in a democracy. The problems we have in school don't originate in the schools, they originate in the homes and families of the kids that are sent to school. Now I'm on another soap box! Better jump off right quick.

Thanks Norm! for stimulating my thinking about all this.

grace

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6 comments:

Norm! said...

"...As long as we allow even one special interest club to form at school then we have to be very broad in terms of what other sorts of clubs we allow. That's part of the nature of public school. A public school is a microcosm of the society at large. ..."

I completely agree with you -- especially the idea that a public school is a microcosm. I believe public schools have been the most important factor in unifying generations of Americans. In what other settings can such a widely diverse generation people learn to live with each other on a daily basis? There has been certainly no other place I've experienced that was more diverse than public K-12 school. This is why it is so important for students to be able to form groups that allow them to explore their own identity and learn other perspectives.

"...In my opinion, special interest clubs should be able to post information about the times and places of their meetings, and then, just meet. "

I agree. Extracurricular activities should always come second to education.

"If I were an administrator and started having all sorts of issues between different student clubs that were interfering with the staff's ability to teach, I'd say "shut them all down." "

I also agree; however, I remember the most disruptive extracurricular activity in school were sport events. So, I doubt any administrator would last very long if they shut down high school sports.

"You know, there are probably those on the far Right(maybe not even so "far") who think I'm advocating homosexuality on this blog, would you agree?"

I'm sure you can find plenty on the Left who can counter how your blog does NOT advocate homosexuality. :-)

"...I've heard there is some sort of effort being made (and possibly a done deal) to include the topic of homosexuality in text books. I don't agree with that, and not necessarily because I think it's advocating it or not, but mostly because I think it's unnecessary based on the things I mentioned in my post yesterday..."

If I understand your post yesterday, your main objection to teaching about homosexuality is for mostly pragmatic reasons -- there's not enough time and there are more important basics to emphasize. However, isn't homosexuality and abortion the 'hottest' social topics right now? It seems silly for schools to ignore an interesting and controversial topics.

(BTW, I can't imagine a Texas school board would approve a book that included homosexuality. I thought textbook publishers were especially careful to pander to the Texas school boards.)

"...Diversity training does not need to include "facts" or theories about how one becomes gay. We don't actually know the answers to that. ..."

Isn't "gay" still used as a derogative term by many students?Couldn't diversity training at least state that no one chooses to have same-sex attractions and that the major medical disciplines no longer consider homosexuality to be an illness? I would think this message would be especially important for gay/questioning students.

"...Our plate is full right now. The last few generations and the ones coming up are needy and it is becoming more and more difficult to teach even the most basic of skills to these kids. Why we insist on convoluting our curriculums with things that we can't be sure of I don't know."

I completely agree. I hate to admit it, but basic English and math have been the most essential skills I use on a daily basis.


Well, it's late and I should turn-in. Thank you so much for pondering my questions. I really enjoyed hearing your thoughts.

David Roberts said...

"...Diversity training does not need to include "facts" or theories about how one becomes gay. We don't actually know the answers to that. ..."

Why don't we just tell them that then? The truth is usually the best thing. Just explain that we don't know for sure, but here is what we do know. Harking back to my own days in school, these kinds of discussions as part of real curricula would have done so much to ease the fear that gripped me day to day. I grew up in the 1970's and even then we have very little exposure in school to matters of faith. We all filtered what we heard through the beliefs of our families.

I just don't see this as a problem unless either side uses it as a soap box to go far beyond just educating. Kids are pretty smart when you are honest with them. The idea that anything is sin really doesn't belong in a secular school. Besides, how would you know that your particular religious views were being taught? School should be as neutral as possible on faith, while reinforcing basic moral behavior which transcends most faiths anyway.

You can have your soap box back :-)

David Roberts

grace said...

Norm!: I have my own beefs with public school sports...and I have to attend TONS of these things because of my kids (who i love watching)...but...I will say, that on the whole, the sporting events are one area that does tend to unify and not disrupt in the sense we were speaking of before. For instance, we attended a party at our gay friends house the other night to watch the Mavs debacle...and we were ALL unified in our support (turned to disgust) of the Mavs. I'll say more. Got important errands to run this morning.


David: Good to hear from you! Talk more later!

love,
grace

grace said...

"However, isn't homosexuality and abortion the 'hottest' social topics right now? It seems silly for schools to ignore an interesting and controversial topics."

Norm,
Yes, and I can say with quite alot of certainty that if I were teaching a high school English class and we were doing persuasive writing or speaking, someone would choose such a topic. Which is fine. There's nothing wrong with teaching students to research and report their findings in a civil manner. That's very different from including such items in textbooks.

The textbook controversy I was referring to was one I was reading about that's going on somewhere up North. I could start an entirely seperate blog based on education issues including the "marketing" of textbooks and the "pandering" (or outright lying) done to try and sell materials to Texas schools. It's pathetic. I'm not talking about controversial issues either...it's all about our accountability system and the big business being made out of trying to guarantee "success" in our schools here. Yet another soapbox. ;)

Again, I appreciate your graciousness and have enjoyed discussing all this with you!

love,
grace

Shannon said...

I would see no reason for most textbooks to include anything about homosexuality, even biology textbooks and I would see no reason for you as an art teacher to bring it up in your classroom. But it could definately be something that would be relevant and important in a health or sex ed class. I spent most of my schooling in Christian schools, but three years of it were in non Christian private schools. I don't remember homosexuality coming up at all and I can't think of any reason for it to have come up in those schools. However, the health and sex ed classes that I did take were at the Christian schools and it might not have been a bad idea for it to have been mentioned.

I get the impression that you are talking about K-12 education here and not public colleges, am I right? I'm at a private Christian college and I took a Psych class called Human Sexuality. I'm not a Psych major. I took the class because I felt like there were things that I should have learned earlier that I had no idea about. That class covered just about everything imaginable and it was a very good class. The textbook did have one chapter out of about 20 on sexual orientation. It did talk about many studies on what causes it. I would guess that that's not something you would object to in a college, public or private, setting? Like I said, though, I took the class because I felt like my knowledge was lacking. I think that I should have learned a lot of that stuff earlier, but I never had the opportunity. I would have been nice if I had been able to learn some of those things while I was in high school. I know there are a lot of things that need to be taught, but some elective, more in depth health class that covered some of those things would have been something I would have appreciated.

grace said...

Shannon,

Yes, I'm talking about public school k-12. I'm switching from art to 7th grade English/Language arts next year, btw. :)

grace