Probably we should all be past being shocked at what goes on in the public schools, but I confess that an email I got today from Devin Foley of Better Ed shocked me. It quoted descriptions, written by Twin Cities area high school teachers, of how their schools teach literature classes. This one comes from Edina High School, which was once known as an excellent institution:
Acceptance and inter-cultural understanding can be fostered through the use of powerful texts, discussion, analysis, and exploration in the classroom. An English curriculum grounded in social justice rests on a belief based in equity—that each person should have access to resources regardless of race, gender, ability, age, socio-economic status, or sexual orientation.
“Access to resources”? What does that mean?
Additionally, a social justice framework is grounded in a belief that children are the foundation of our future, and that schools, therefore, can (and should) play a significant role in shaping an equitable landscape of that future. Social justice teaching asks students to think critically about texts–to question whose voices are heard in a text and whose are silenced, who’s being overly served and who’s being under-served, how power affects the text, and how we know what we know–and to think critically about their power and role in effecting meaningful change in both personal, local, and immediate contexts, as well as in global contexts. Additionally, English classes are charged with a preparing students to be critical creators, consumers, and participators in a media infused, global 21st century that is already well underway.
Literature as liberal BS. If I had a kid in that school, I would pull him or her out tomorrow. This one is from a teacher at Woodbury High School:
At Woodbury High School, the [literature] course is primarily structured chronologically. Social, economic, cultural and political frameworks of the readings are sometimes explored explicitly through eight critical lenses: feminist, deconstruction, new criticism, new historical/biographical, reader response, post-colonial, psychological and Marxist theory. Students apply critical literary elements such as figurative language, symbolism, and motif to find author’s intent.
This is mis-education, worse than not attending school at all. Any child of normal intelligence would gain more from staying up late at night and reading books with a flashlight under the covers than from being subjected to such cant. For many students, such palpable bullshit is likely to ruin literature forever.
Even in the better public schools, liberal dogma pops up from time to time. When my youngest daughter was, as I recall, in fourth grade, she was given an assignment to relate how she, personally, would combat global warming. She wrote that she would never live in a house bigger than John Edwards’ or fly on more private airplanes than Al Gore. But not all kids have the resources to see through such nonsense. It is only by constant parental vigilance that public schools can be prevented from going off the rails.
UPDATE: A reader adds:
It’s hopeless. Can you imagine what urban public schools are like? Crush the public schools…defund them…vouchers for everyone. It’s so god-awful I’d even take progressive vouchers over the status quo.
When I hear the word “access” I release the safety catch on my Browning. And I am awaiting the day when the last feminist-deconstructionist-queer theory-Marxist-post colonialist high school teacher is strangled with the guts of the last AFT-NEA Department of Education bureaucrat…