In which I get all political on you. Apologies in advance to my regular readers who are patiently waiting for mindfulness and cupcakes. Also, you owe it to yourself to go read Garage Author's post on this subject. Because she writes like a champion boxer. KO.
My son is going to public school at the end of August, so I find myself paying even more attention than usual to discussions of education policy (which is saying something, considering that I'm the daughter of two teachers, and spent my entire career in higher education). Back at the end of July, the Texas GOP released its Education platform. Usually this doesn't cause much of a stir, but they made this objectionable little comment that got everyone up in arms, and provided some useful fodder for Steven Colbert:
Knowledge-Based Education – We oppose the teaching of Higher Order Thinking Skills (HOTS) (values clarification), critical thinking skills and similar programs that are simply a relabeling of Outcome-Based Education (OBE) (mastery learning) which focus on behavior modification and have the purpose of challenging the student’s fixed beliefs and undermining parental authority.Now, I do sort of understand the resistance to Outcome-Based Education. OBE generally promotes curricula and assessment based on constructivism, which holds that people create meaning of the world through a series of individual constructs, or filters we choose in order to make sense of our reality. While I consider myself more of a constructivist than not, and in principle this sounds like an excellent idea (and is the reason that we're beginning to see things like portfolio assessment of student work in addition to grades), in practice, it becomes a political morass. How do you decide what the outcomes should be without getting all wishy-washy? Where I used to work, that discussion resulted in a complicated core curriculum during the university's last revision of undergraduate education, which made no one happy. I can't even imagine the discussion on a state level, especially when the state is the size of Texas.
But really? Challenging a student's "fixed beliefs" is a bad thing? Should a child's lifelong beliefs be completely formed by elementary school?
A party spokesman later said ""[The chairman of the Education Subcommittee] indicated that it was an oversight of the committee, that the plank should not have included 'critical thinking skills' after 'values clarification, [...] And it was not the intent of the subcommittee to present a plank that would have indicated that the RPT in any way opposed the development of critical thinking skills."
Still, the fact that those words got written in the first place (which means they must have been spoken by someone, and read by many others before that document was released) is disturbing to me. Isn't that what public education is about? About encountering difference, about questioning your beliefs, about questioning what you've simply been told, about promoting democracy? I'm reminded of the article that jjiraffe linked to the other day, about Mike McQueary, an assistant coach at Penn State who reported child sex abuse but is not being blamed for not doing enough. At the end, the author writes, "[w]e need to find ways to teach Good Soldiers and Team Players to question authority while still respecting it. In fact, we need to go one step further and teach them that questioning authority is the best way to show respect for it. And any authority that challenges that notion isn’t worthy of respect." As I wrote to jjiraffe, I'm not sure how we do that, exactly, but that kind of questioning is necessary if we're going to raise the next generation of heroes and whistleblowers, instead of people who stand by and watch terrible things happen.
The platform also opposes, among other things, early childhood education, sex education, and multicultural education, but supports “school subjects with emphasis on the Judeo-Christian principles upon which America was founded.”
Um ... excuse me? Wasn't it values clarification that motivated the colonists to travel here and stick it out against some pretty incredible odds in the first place? And with growing populations of non-Judeo-Christian people who are influencing the future of the country, wouldn't it be important to discuss non-Judeo-Christian ideas?
You can read the entire policy here, if you're interested. But I'm sorry, Texas GOP--as my son starts first grade this year, there is one thing I'm hoping he'll continue to learn: to think for himself. And if he figures out that I've been wrong all along about something important, and can show me why in a way that is civil and respectful, more power to him.
Here's a great addition to a lunchbox for back to school, or to slip into your own bag, so that during that mid-afternoon dip in energy you can recharge your own power of critical thinking. They're sort of like Luna bars, only more customizable and less expensive. The basic formula from Brown Eyed Baker goes like this:
1. Rolled Grains (2 1/2 c.): Oats, Rye flakes, Barley flakes, etc.
2. Nuts, Seeds & Spices (1 c.) : Almonds, Walnuts, Pecans, Pistachios, Sunflower Seeds, Pumpkin Seeds, Cinnamon, Ginger, etc.
3. Sticky Sweetener (1/2 c., can use a bit more if you prefer): Honey, Agave Nectar, Molasses, Maple Syrup
4. Dried Fruits (1 c.): Raisins, Apricots, Dates, Figs, Prunes, Cranberries, Pineapple, etc.
5. Binder (1 c.): Pureed Dried Fruit, Apple Butter, Peanut Butter, Almond Butter, Unsweetened applesauce, etc.
Here's my variation on the theme.
What did you think of the document? And how do you like your granola bars: chewy or crispy?
Luna Bar Style Tropical Granola Bars
1 c. apple butter
1/2 c. raw local honey
1 t. ground cinnamon
3/4 t. vanilla
2 1/2 cups rolled oats
3/4 c. chopped almonds
2 T. raw pumpkin seeds
2 T. sunflower seeds (roasted, unsalted)
1 c. chopped dried apricot
2 to 3 T. unsweetened shredded coconut
Preheat oven to 325F. Line an 8×8-inch baking pan with parchment paper. In a large bowl, whisk together the honey, apple butter, cinnamon and vanilla extract. Stir in the oats, making sure that everything is mixed in well and that the oats are all moistened. Mix in the almonds, seeds, and dried fruit. Turn the mixture out onto the parchment and press into the pan, distributing it evenly and packing it tightly. Bake for 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool in the freezer until the bars are firm, at least 1 hour. Remove from the pan and cut into bars. Store in an airtight container for up to 1 week. You can even cut them into fun shapes with cookie cutters!