Sunday, May 23, 2010

Texas board adopts new social studies curriculum

Texas schoolchildren will be required to learn that the words "separation of church and state" aren’t in the Constitution and evaluate whether the United Nations undermines U.S. sovereignty under new social studies curriculum.

In final votes late Friday, conservatives on the State Board of Education strengthened requirements on teaching the Judeo-Christian influences of the nation’s Founding Fathers and required that the U.S. government be referred to as a "constitutional republic" rather than "democratic."

The board approved the new standards with two 9-5 votes along party lines after months of ideological haggling and debate that drew attention beyond Texas.

The guidelines will be used to teach some 4.8 million students for the next 10 years. They also will be used by textbook publishers who often develop materials for other states based on those approved in Texas, though Texas teachers ave latitude in deciding how to teach the material.

U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan said after the votes Friday that such decisions should be made at the local level and school officials "should keep politics out" of curriculum debates. "Parents should be very wary of politicians designing curriculum," Duncan said in a statement.

But Republican board member David Bradley said the curriculum revision process has always been political but the ruling faction had changed since the last time social studies standards were adopted.

"We took our licks, we got outvoted," he said referring to the debate 10 years earlier. "Now it’s 10-5 in the other direction ... we’re an elected body, this is a political process. Outside that, go find yourself a benevolent dictator."

GOP board member Geraldine Miller was absent during the votes.

The board attempted to make more than 200 amendments this week, reshaping draft standards that had been prepared over the last year and a half by expert groups of teachers and professors.

As new amendments were being presented just moments before the vote, Democrats bristled that the changes had not been vetted. "I will not be part of the vote that’s going to support this kind of history," said Mary Helen Berlanga, a Democrat.

At least one state lawmaker vowed legislative action to "rein in" the board. "I am disturbed that a majority of the board decided their own political agendas were more important than the education of Texas children," said Rep. Mike Villarreal, a San Antonio Democrat.

In one of the most significant curriculum changes, the board diluted the rationale for the separation of church and state in a high school government class, noting that the words were not in the Constitution and requiring students to compare and contrast the judicial language with the First Amendment’s wording.

Students also will be required to study the decline in the U.S. dollar’s value, including the abandonment of the gold standard.

The board rejected language to modernize the classification of historic periods to B.C.E. and C.E. from the traditional B.C. and A.D., and agreed to replace Thomas Jefferson as an example of an influential political philosopher in a world history class. They also required students to evaluate efforts by global organizations such as the United Nations to undermine U.S. sovereignty.

Former board chairman Don McLeroy, one of the board’s most outspoken conservatives, said the Texas history curriculum has been unfairly skewed to the left after years of Democrats controlling the board and he just wants to bring it back into balance.

Educators have blasted the curriculum proposals for politicizing education. Teachers also have said the document is too long and will force students to memorize lists of names rather than learning to critically think.


Toddlers’ bad behaviour is always mothers’ fault?

That is certainly not so. Much bad behaviour is evident from the earliest ages and is clearly genetic. He is however right that a loving home is better for kids than institutional care. There have been some big studies on that.

Mothers already wilting under a barrage of contradictory advice about child-rearing are told that nurseries will damage their children, the naughty step is counter-productive and that toddler misbehaviour is all their fault.

The psychologist and broadcaster Oliver James has stomped on to sensitive terrain with a book that suggests mothers of toddlers should avoid working outside the home. In a work that has already provoked howls of anger, he argues that children should not be left in the care of others for long periods, and lays into the strict disciplining of young children by comparing it to training them “like a dog in a laboratory”.

He writes: “As a parent of a child of this age, you need to realise that if things go pear-shaped it is actually always your fault, in the sense that if you keep a close enough eye on them you can prevent atrocities.”

The author claims that young children “need to be in the presence of a responsive, loving adult at all times”, warning mothers who go out to work that daycare is associated with more boastful, disobedient and aggressive children.

Naughty step methods, according to James, “often result in repetition of the undesired behaviour, rather than successful management. If you are not careful, you are just creating a guaranteed method for your children to wind you up.”

In an attack on the methods of the former maternity nurse Gina Ford, he writes: “There is a great deal of evidence that very strict routines do lead to more insecure, and to more irritable and fussy, babies.”

He argues that while babies that are left to cry may be more likely to sleep through the night, “it is the babies whose needs have been met who become the secure, calm and satisfied children and productive schoolchildren, and adults — and the ones you might say were spoilt and indulged babies.”

How Not to F*** Them Up is a sequel to his 2002 book They F*** You Up, which argued that it is parenting, not genes, that shapes character. Drawing on his own unhappy childhood, James writes in the new work that therapy made him realise:“Yes, of course I was a bad boy, but it wasn’t my f***ing fault! My parents were very muddled and had caused me to be like this.”

Despite his arguments in favour of one-on-one childcare, James argues that he is “not remotely anti working mothers”. He says: “I really don’t want to make life more difficult. I’m really trying to make it easier.”


Australia: DON'T expect students to learn about Australia's most important day in the new national history course

This is ridiculous. It proves that the curriculum has fallen into the hands of far-Left academics who hate all that Australia stands for. The Gallipoli landings are the foundation of Australia's most solemn day of remembrance: ANZAC day.

And in typical Leftist fashion, there is no consecutive history taught: Just disconnected episodes that Marxists like. They dread that students might get some idea of the broad sweep of Australia's history with its long record of positive achievement. We can't have kids being proud of their country, can we?

HISTORIANS say the new national modern history curriculum for schools reads like a Marxist manifesto that ignores popular aspects of our past and neglects Australia's role in world politics and war.

The course, designed for years 11 and 12, is heavily focused on revolutionary struggles, colonial oppression and women's struggle for equality.

It neglects Australia's British roots and institutions and its military history, with no mention of Gallipoli, Tobruk or Kokoda, the experts say.

The draft lists World War I as a potential case study in "investigating modern history". It lists "controversies surrounding ... memorial sites and commemorative events" as an area of study but does not mention Gallipoli or the battle of Fromelle.

In a topic headed "Australia 1880-1945", the draft lists "the formation of organised labour", "White Australia" and "wartime government controls, including conscription, control of the labour force, rationing, censorship and propaganda".

But it does not mention the settlement of Australia or the deeds of the first AIF in World War I.

The draft history course was released this week for public discussion, divided into five units: The nation state and national identity; Recognition and equality; International tensions and conflicts; Revolutions; and, Australia and Asia.

Historian Andrew Garvie said the course agenda should be altered to give a more balanced view of history. "This appears to be a very trendy, right-on curriculum. It looks heavily influenced by a Marxist view of history - there's lots about about revolution and struggles against oppression," Mr Garvie said. "But it lacks an appreciation of Australia's place in the world.

"There seems to be very little about our military history or our links with Britain. Gallipoli and Kokoda appear to be just footnotes to the whole thing."

He said the course also seemed to be organised as a "slice of life" approach to history. "It seems to me students will be given bits of history to study. They may not gain an appreciation of the whole of an era or century," Mr Garvie said.

Education consultant Russell Boyle said the history curriculum was too selective.

"The ancient history curriculum spans the period from pre-history to 500BC, while the period of investigation in the draft modern history curriculum is from the late 18th century through to the end of the 20th century," Mr Boyle said.

"There is much in the period in between that would deepen students' understanding of the events and issues that have shaped humanity and our contemporary world."


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