Friday, June 14, 2024

How Public Schools Became Ideological Boot Camps | The Free Press

A pair of teachers at New Jersey’s Fort Lee High School recently taught students that Hamas is a peaceful “resistance movement” and Israel is committing genocide. Teachers at California’s Berkeley Unified School District are “indoctrinating students with antisemitic tropes and biased, one-sided anti-Israel propaganda disguised as education,” according to a complaint by the Anti-Defamation League. Meanwhile, students recently chanted “from the river to the sea” at college campus “tentifadas—but when pressed could identify neither. 

Why does this keep happening? And how can public schools at once be hotbeds of radicalism and “woke” indoctrination, yet produce students who are so poorly informed about the radical causes they ostensibly espouse?

The answer has a lot to do with one of American education’s dirty little secrets: on any given school day in nearly every public school in the country, curriculum materials are put in front of children that have no official oversight or approval. It’s true that schools might have a state- or district-adopted curriculum, but that doesn’t mean it’s getting taught. Nearly no category of public employee has the degree of autonomy of the average public school teacher—even the least experienced ones. Teachers routinely create or cobble together their own lesson plans on the widely accepted theory that they know better than textbook publishers what books kids will enjoy reading and which topics might spark lively class discussions.

Not your child’s school or teacher? Wanna bet? A 2017 RAND Corporation survey found that 99 percent of elementary teachers and 96 percent of secondary schools use “materials I developed and/or selected myself” in teaching English language arts. The numbers are virtually the same in math. But putting teachers in charge of creating their own lesson plans or scouring the internet for curriculum materials creates an irresistible opportunity for every imaginable interest group that perceives—not incorrectly—that overworked teachers and a captive young audience equal a rich target for selling products and pushing ideologies.

This ungoverned mess is how the majority of high-profile curriculum controversies happen.


Robert Pondiscio

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"curriculum materials are put in front of children that have no official oversight or approval." I dare say that's how I was taught. We certainly never heard about anyone sticking rigorously to a curriculum. Of course the fact that we would eventually sit nationwide exams would mean in practice that the syllabus would be prescribed in a broad brush way. But I never saw any sign that teaching was micro-managed in a western variety of Stalinism.

Posted by: dearieme | Jun 14, 2024 2:45:41 PM

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