10 August 2009


I have recently read some reactionary distortions maligning Newton [Massachusetts] Public Schools (NPS) and probably public schools in general. This is part of a strain of thinking that sees public education as corrupted by politics, political correctness, and social engineering. It is a continuance of the arguments that began with the discussion about multicultural education, in the 1980s.

Since it is a public school system, NPS falls under the curriculum guidelines of the State of Massachusetts and follows education standards of the pertinent professional educators' organizations, such as the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics.

It is a distortion to claim that the "number one priority" in the math curriculum in NPS is to actively teach "respect for differences," and other goals that promote anti-racism, anti-discrimination, and the like. Instead, the latter are listed as the first "outcome"--all the other outcomes are math-related. In addition to the overall "goal" of the math curriculum--"for all students to understand mathematical concepts and processes"--there are seven "objectives," all math, plus "content strands," all math.

One blogger claimed that class time apparently is spent teaching students to "see prejudice everywhere" (even in math classes)--another distortion. Because a desired "outcome" lists anti-discriminative behavior does not mean time in a math class, or any class, is spent "teaching" this value.

Incidentally, for the worried reactionaries among you, a study was completed in 2008, in California, that shows that young people actually do exhibit the values of anti-discrimination, etc. These positive behaviors are probably occurring among young people without any class time devoted to these behavior outcomes, because they are values now prevalent in society. NPS is simply acknowledging the desired social reality (not as a teaching objective) in its curriculum. Good for them.

No comments: